Sense & Centsibility Blog

Still Helping Your Adult Children?

Our blog on parents helping grown children continues to be our number one read blog four years in a row! There is a reason for this: it is a pervasive and disturbing issue for families. I know I see it almost daily in my office to some degree or another. I'm a parent of an adult child, so I understand the compulsion to help.

Reasons We Help Our Adult Children

Parent and adult childMany of my clients are parents going into credit card debt, mortgaging their homes, or sacrificing their own needs to help out adult children. The kind of assistance given that I’ve seen:

  • Finance a business venture
  • Pay for college
  • Pay for health insurance
  • Help support grandchildren
  • Pay for living expenses (rent, phone, car, auto insurance, etc.)
  • Pay for leisure activities (travel, tobacco use, sports…)

Teach and Launch

We need to remember, though, that our job is to show our little birds the ropes of getting food, being safe, and building their own nest. Sometimes we even have to kick them out of the nest for their own good.

Still, it can be hard to say "no" or not jump in and help. And, if you choose to not help, you can feel like a jerk. When my daughter graduated from college and was living at home, I charged her rent. My friends and sisters were aghast that I would do that. I didn’t need the money, after all. I felt a lot of guilt.

But, I stuck to my guns because I also see plenty of adult children in my office who are being helped by parents. They come in with their own growing financial issues, despite having help from parents. What I often see are young adults with the newest iPhones, several streaming subscriptions, or new car loans. They took on these unnecessary expenses because they were being subsidized by parents. They didn’t get a chance to stretch their personal budgeting wings.

Importance of "Tough Love"

When the subsidy ends by parental choice, or more sadly, because the parents suffered some serious misfortune like job loss, divorce or death, it can create huge problems for the adult child. If a parent dies, adult children can experience homelessness because they were never pushed out of the nest. They no longer have a place to live, nor the skills to find one.

That’s an extreme example of a real situation, of course, but it certainly motivated me to make sure my child understood what it takes to survive which, in our species, includes paying for housing. It is harder for young people today, too. While incomes have remained stagnant the past 20 years or so, rental costs have gone up an estimated 70%! This makes it even more critical they have the skills to survive.

Changing the status quo, especially when it comes to our children, can be very difficult for us and for them. Read the most read blog and this one, too, on breaking the cycle to help you with the conversations. Not handing out money but lending money to adult children? Read this.

As a point of encouragement, I still remember my daughter telling me not long after college she felt more like an adult than her friends because she was paying her own way. That was a huge relief for me! And worth every minute of guilt.

If you or your adult child needs a little more personal finance guidance, LSS Financial Counseling offers free budget, debt and credit counseling. For more info, call LSS at 888.577.2227 or visit our website at Or GET STARTED ONLINE.

Author Mary Ellen Kaluza is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.