7 Reasons I Sometimes Give My Adult Kids Money

Many parents of adult children – and those who have opinions about them – are convinced that, by helping out your kids financially, you are somehow damaging them in myriad ways. From killing their motivation to succeed (it’s too easy to depend on Mom and Dad) to turning them into spoiled brats (living in the basement and eating your food), it seems that the general consensus is “If I could survive on beans while sleeping in a sleeping bag on a floor when I first started out, so can these millennials.” That may be true – but is it necessary?

As I write this, my children are both out of college and working, and we still help them out – though not a lot – financially. There is nothing lazy or unmotivated about either of them. We are not supporting them – we don’t pay their rent, or pay for their groceries, or give them a monthly allowance – but we do help them out here and there.

The fact is, many parents are helping their adult children, and not just the 20-somethings who are getting started in life.

From Money Magazine – “How to Avoid Paying for Your Kids Forever”:

A 2013 Pew Research Center report shows [even more] startling figures: Among adults ages 40 to 59 with at least one grown child, 73% said they’d helped support an adult son or daughter in the prior year. Half of those middle-aged parents said they were their grown child’s primary means of support—in some cases because their offspring were still in school but also, more than a third said, for reasons other than education. In another study, Pew found that nearly a quarter of 25- to 34-year-olds are now living with parents or grandparents, up from 11% in 1980. “It’s not at the margins,” says Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Wave, a consultant on the aging population. “It’s kind of everybody.”

From Smartaboutmoney.org, among parents helping their adult children financially:

  •  50 percent are providing a place to live
  • 48 percent are helping with living expenses
  • 41 percent are helping with transportation
  • 35 percent are helping with health insurance
  • 29 percent are providing spending money
  • 28 percent are helping with medical expenses
  • 19 percent are providing emergency money
  • 16 percent are assisting with loan repayment
  • 10 percent are helping pay down credit card debt

Our reasons for helping our adult kids include these:

  1. They work hard at their jobs and love what they do. Our son has recently relocated back to our city, which we are thrilled about, and he’s working hard at his new job.  Our daughter found her dream job right out of college and 4 years later is still working at the same company and has been promoted. She works an average of 50-60 hours a week. They are both the antithesis of the myth of the millennial slacker.
  2. Our daughter lives in Los Angeles. Our son does too. There are very few places in the world more expensive than LA, and for our daughter’s career, this is the best place to be. She doesn’t need our help anymore, but we sometimes can’t resist. Our son is adjusting to much higher rent and general living expenses, but we’re so glad to have him nearby again that we don’t mind giving him a little help.
  3. It’s cheaper to keep them on our cell phone plan than for them to get their own. The extra $100 a month we pay for both of their phones isn’t going to break us, and it’s a pain to switch plans. At least, I think it is.
  4. I enjoy shopping for clothes with my daughter.  When she was born 25 years ago I started buying her clothes and I haven’t stopped since. Am I indulging her? A little. But it makes me happy.
  5. They aren’t whiners. Sometimes it’s tough on them to live on the money they earn – just like it is for most people. Big expenses – car repairs, taxes, etc. – are up to them. When they come to us for help it’s usually for a good reason. If it’s not, we say no.
  6. Family time is invaluable. We enjoy being with our kids as much now – if not more – as when they were children.  By treating our children, we are treating ourselves to time with them.
  7. They don’t live at home with us. And that is the biggest reason of all for us to slip them a few bucks here and there. We enjoy being empty nesters, almost as much as we enjoy our kids. And we want to keep enjoying our kids, who are now adults. Having them at home would not work for any of us, and we all know it.

A version of this post appeared previously on Purple Clover.

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  • Since I don’t have kids it’s always hard for me to step into a discussion like this–so I won’t say much, except this: For me, it was incredibly meaningful to know my parents were there as a backstop if I needed them. At the same time, I wouldn’t have traded the way I built my own life without their $$ help for anything. It was an experience that gave me strengths that I didn’t even realize at the time. I knew if I needed help, they were there but I was responsible for building my own life and resources.. If I were to have had kids, I think I would have given them experiences, rather than money, and would have let them be the self-made adults that would be very confident adults, able to handle whatever life throws their way.
    On the other hand, I look at Riley and think, well….maybe I wouldn’t do that at all. ;p-)))

    • Sharon Greenthal

      It’s so important for young adults to feel the sense of self-confidence and empowerment that comes from earning a living and surviving on what they make – but there’s no point, in my opinion, for them to struggle to be able to live if they have help available. It’s afine line, for sure.

  • Joanie

    There is a Yiddish word called “nachas” .. simply translated it’s a special kind of pride and joy.. one that often comes from children or grandchildren. Never really got it until I had my two boys, now a junior and senior in college.
    My in laws gave us the down payment for our house when we moved when our second son was born.
    Did we need it? No, my husband is a physician and I have a successful consulting practice. It gave them nachas to do so. When our first son was born they told us college would be taken care for our children..
    they had saved all their lives to do so… again it gave them nachas… We will do the same some time for our children.. it doesn’t make them weaker… it makes us stronger…

    • Sharon Greenthal

      Yes, nachas – a favorite of my grandmother! As my husband has said to me many times, it’s as much about making us happy to do it as it is making them happy to receive it.

  • I love this! When my sister’s and I were all on our own my parents would sometimes help us out in the way you describe helping your kids. We all worked crazy hours but my sister and lived in NYC and every so often that little slip of extra money really made the difference, as did the occasional shopping trip. I totally plan on doing the same with my kids when they move out.

  • The world out there is very judgmental–and very sure it knows that tough love is better than a helping hand. But I’ve found–as you have–that a lot of the decision depends on the child. A sense of entitlement is a turn off but a loving child who doesn’t expect help and is moving ahead positively with their life –why not? It gives us so much pleasure–which, for me, would be reason 8.

  • I really like this, Sharon. I remember how nice it was to get a little boost from one of our parents back when money was tight and there were four kids under one roof. And I feel blessed now to be able to slide a little cash or a gift card to our kids, who are working, going to school or both. I hope that they can do the same for their future adult children. I may not feel this way if they were irresponsible, but luckily we don’t have that concern. Thanks for tackling a tough subject!

  • Honestly, you hit the nail on the head. If they are responsible adults, you surely aren’t damaging them with help. My parents and in-laws helped us, and it didn’t make sloths out of us, we’re just paying it forward. From time to time I do roll my eyes at friends who can’t seem to see how much they infantilize their grown children by making life just too easy or by not letting them pay for consequences in their lives but overall, I think your somewhat simple measure — are they responsible adults — is a good one. Plus, and I’m guilty of this myself, we are so quick to judge each other’s parenting style, even after the kids have grown!

  • Yes…our daughter is still on our car insurance and cell phone, our son just removed his phone from our cell, and he gets his car and health insurance through us. Randy’s illness kind of delayed our kids in life.

  • I totally agree with you, and I do the same, I have amazing children and love to do for them. There was one problem that I have solved….what others think. I don’t care. I am driving this car and no one knows what is really going on in our lives. When folks weighed in (and they only offered the one time) I Shut the discussion down right away. I trust my friends, I expect them to trust me.

  • Our children are all grown, living on their own or married, and working hard to advance in their chosen careers. The reality is that today’s college graduates are often coming out of school saddled with huge debts but less earning power than their parents relative to their debt. The struggle is real and it makes both my husband and me happy to be able to say, “Let us help you with that.” Our kids have responded with gratitude and grace. They appreciate what we’ve done or we wouldn’t continue to do it.

    And yes, it’s also nice to know that by helping them, our nest will continue to be a wonderful place for them to visit without having to live here!

  • We keep both of our daughters on our cell phone plan, one is 28 and one is 22. The 28 year old is married, so maybe that’s silly, but she’s in grad school and it’s a business expense for us. The 22 yr. old is just out of college, in an unpaid internship, working with new refugees, so we pay her car and health insurance and for the first 6 months we are helping her with rent (she also has a second job as a waitress)…we call it our bridge project. And when they come home to visit (they both live out of state), we pay for the air fare. And yes, I buy them clothes, candles, food, jackets, books and jewelry every chance I get. By the way, my mom still does the same for me, and I am 58 (though she did let me pay for my own bras last year)! Both of my daughters work really hard, stay connected to us and to their grandparents, and neither lives large. Our parents have always been super generous with us, and I hope I can continue to be so with our daughters and their families.

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