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8 Steps to Helping Your Adult Children Financially (Without Enabling Them)

  • Megan Pacheco Chief Learning Officer, Lead Like Jesus
  • 2013 7 Jul
  • COMMENTS
8 Steps to Helping Your Adult Children Financially (Without Enabling Them)

After you said your goodbyes, dropped the kids off at college and shed a few tears, you had actually adapted quite well to the “empty nest” and all its benefits. You had high hopes that the investment in a good education and in a carefully chosen degree would send your “fledglings” soaring into the world of adult responsibilities with a new level of independence—but now they’re back.

According to the Pew Research Center, three out of 10 parents are reporting that their grown children ages 25-34 are coming home. They are called the “boomerang generation” or “generation stuck.”

Just a decade ago, coming back to live in your parents’ house carried with it a certain stigma, but not any longer according to Christina Newberry, author of The Hands-On Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home. 

Due to a lagging economy and stale job market, many young adults have found themselves with a good education, accompanied by large student loans, low to no job prospects and the need to count on their parents for help.  

This is definitely a less than ideal scenario, but if that’s your reality, how can you help your grown children get through this difficult period without creating a financial drain on your household and without fostering a dependent attitude (i.e., “enabling” them)? Here are a few suggestions on how to make the best of the circumstances while still preserving relational and financial balance.

1. Have a written agreement between you/your spouse and your adult child. This may seem over the top, but depending on the maturity of your child, it may be necessary. The written agreement should include any financial obligations as well as housekeeping duties that your son or daughter should satisfy while in your home.

2. Ask them to contribute financially. If your son or daughter is working a low-paying job, ask them to pay rent and expenses that are appropriate for the income they are earning. Don’t allow freeloading on food—they should contribute to the “household pantry.”

3. Help them learn solid financial habits. Teach them the simple 10-10-80 money rule: Whatever income they earn, teach your student to save 10%, designate 10% towards a charitable cause of their choice, and to live on the remaining 80%. This simple money rule will cultivate in them the habit of regular saving (which is one of the secrets to long term financial success), to be generous (those who give tend to lead much happier, content lives) and to live within their means.

4. Help them understand budgeting basics. Sit down with your adult child and help him or her put together a financial plan (budget). There are great FREE online apps, such as Mvelopes.com, to make this process easy and fun. Mobile friendly apps with frequent reminders and warnings will help her stay on top of every penny spent or over-spent! Having a plan is just the beginning.  In order for the plan to work you need to measure the plan against the real results.

5. Help them learn from your financial mistakes: This may not be very comfortable, but granting your adult child an honest look into your finances can teach them much more than you think. If you’ve made mistakes like taking on too much consumer debt, buying more home than you could afford, or allowed spending to get out of control, than you can use those mistakes as great lessons. Take your son or daughter out for dinner and have a great heart to heart conversation. Show them how those mistakes have impacted you in the past or may still be impacting you today.

6. Set deadlines. It’s important both for you and your child to have a clear progress strategy. If they know they have to move out after a certain amount of time, they’ll be that much more proactive in their job hunt. If no deadlines are set and there is little accountability, you may find yourself with Junior on your couch, eating your potato chips and watching your cable TV…indefinitely!

7. Relationship FIRST. According to Pew research, 25 percent of the returning young adults reported that the change has had a negative impact on the relationship between them and their parents. So, even though having a child return home may not be an ideal situation, having your children back at home may give you the opportunity to reengage with them. Cook together, talk over coffee, play board games as a family—treat this season as another opportunity to strengthen the relationship.

8. Be their best cheerleader. Having to come home and struggle to land a solid job can be very tough and, at times, even embarrassing. Encourage and pray for your child daily. It’s not your job to “fix” everything for them, but having your moral, emotional and spiritual support will mean the world to them.

And lastly, remember Psalm 127:3-5, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD…”

Megan is one of the new additions to the Finicity (provider of Mvelopes and Money4Life Coaching) team. She comes with over 13 years of experience in the Biblical Finances area. Her content has been published by Money Matters, Do Well and Lifeway's More than Living. She is a mom of two young boys, and lives with her husband David in the Atlanta area.

Publication date: July 29, 2013