When Can You Get Your Kids Off Your Dime?

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children and moneyAs a parent, when can you get your kids off your dime?

Your kids are getting older. Now, I’m talking about young adult children, at least age 16 to say 24. Not your twelve-year-old, and not the 40-year-old video gamer living in your basement! That’s a whole other article!

Maybe they are in college or about to graduate. They may even be showing signs of becoming more responsible with money. (Or maybe not.)

So how long should you support your children financially?

What I’m discovering is that there are many different approaches and opinions. Frankly, my opinion changes all the time. I have a son that is in college now. I want to give him the freedom that I didn’t have to concentrate on school. At the same time, he also needs to understand all the financial responsibilities that will be coming his way.

Here are my decisions about financially weaning my son off my dime, right or wrong. It is a work in progress and I’m learning as I go.

High School 
First, I do not and have never paid for my child’s spending money after high school. I don’t think any parent should foot the bill for dating, gas for their cars, or a quick stop for fast food after work. My son always had a job to pay for these incidentals. I really believe that each child should be transitioned to this as high school starts and they turn 16. That’s when they can get that first job on the weekends. They’ll be proud of having their own money and it will give you a great reason to teach some money lessons.

During College
Second, I have paid for car insurance, cell phone and clothing during college. Primarily because I wanted him to not worry about these larger expenses. He probably could have paid for it looking back, but he has some crazy long hours with his major and has to be flexible to work on projects. So those bills would require more than just working on the weekends. So I pay them. It has given him some peace of mind and allowed him to stay focused. I also pay for his health insurance too.

I also pay for books and tuition. Kids this age can get loans, but I had some savings and paid it anyway. In my time as an advisor, I’ve seen parents do things differently. Some will pay for all of it, some pay for four years. I’m in the four-year camp. With two other children, and a personal retirement dream some day, I feel like this is more than fair. Just because you are a parent doesn’t make you an indentured servant for your children’s education! Frankly, if you are robbing Peter (your retirement) to pay Paul (your child’s education), you are making a big mistake. They can borrow money for college, you can’t borrow money for your retirement.

After College
Once my son graduates, I’ll completely turn over all of his expenses to him. That includes cell phones, clothing, car and health insurance. Of course I’ll leverage anyway I can to help him get some good deals for these services. Once he finds a permanent job, then he can have benefits like retirement and health insurance. There is no reason, in my opinion, to be helping with anything financial once your children have that first serious job. It is critical that they start to live within their means. Subsidizing a bigger lifestyle with your funding will only create spending problems for the adult child later.

Many adult children are moving back in with their parents these days. I’ve got mixed feelings about this. If it is truly for something big, like saving that money for a down payment on a home, then I’m ok with it. If it’s just to be Freddy Freeloader then I’m not. In any case, I believe that they should pitch in on some expenses. Ultimately, it’s your call.

It’s not easy to figure this out, and opinions will vary. In fact, it may be different for each of your children. After all, when kids are born they don’t come with instruction manuals! If you liked my article, subscribe here for FREE! I’ll send you an email every Friday with all my articles for the week.