Strike a Fiscal Balance With Your Grown Children
- 2011 1 Feb
It is difficult for parents to balance giving financial help to their adult children with allowing them independence, even if independence means hardship. I do not have all the answers. I struggle because I'm a mother and my mom's heart wants to protect my children from every possible bump in the Road of Life.
My head, on the other hand, says that is absurd. Giving my boys all I can to make their lives perfect would deprive them of the joy of making it on their own, that feeling of accomplishment that comes when we figure out how to get through life's difficult situations.
I know of a family that has a lot of money. In their lifetimes, they could not possibly spend it all. Consequently, out of love and generosity, the parents have provided everything for their children, who are now adults with kids of their own.
These parents, now grandparents, have offered unbelievable support for their brood. They've purchased all of the homes and cars. They pay all the expenses and bills every month. They give their grown children more than enough money to live, and live well.
These adult children have never had jobs. They do nothing. They are takers because everything has always been taken care of for them. These parents have deprived their children of the gift of independence. They've turned them into greedy monsters for whom more will never be enough.
So where is the balance? Is it wrong for families to help one another, especially during these difficult economic times? Of course not. But we need to set sensible boundaries:
Do not go into debt to help. Whether it's for a college education, cosigning a son or daughter's legal obligation or helping with the purchase of a home, if you have to go into debt to come up with the funds, watch out. That's a red flag that you're setting up yourself and your offspring for a future financial disaster. How can you give money to others that is not yours to give? Going into debt to help another is not a loving thing to do.
Do not do too much to help. This is the most difficult for me to pen, because I am the queen of doing too much. My motive is one of generosity and love. But that help becomes inappropriate when it stifles financial maturity or precludes the need for my sons to become self-reliant. How much is too much? I cannot make that determination for you. Your resources should be your first consideration, and, then, you must consider each situation carefully.
There's a lesson to be learned from the way steel is made strong. It must be "stressed" sufficiently to become tempered. The same goes for the human spirit. The stresses of life make us stronger and prepare us for the future. Shielding our adult children from financial stress is not always the most loving thing to do. In the end, it might do more harm than good.
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January 8, 2010
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