With the cost of living, real estate and education steadily rising, it’s arguable that today’s young adults face steep financial challenges. But does that mean they should depend on their retirement-aged parents for help? In light of reports that suggest today’s retirees are among the richest in history, Ted Rechstshaffen, a Toronto-area financial planner, suggests it makes sense for cash-strapped adults to continue to depend on their financially secure parents.
“Maybe this little handout isn’t something that needs to stop when they’re 16 and get their first part time job,” he says, writing in the Financial Post.
But while we’re wired to assist our children in any way we can, there has to be a limit — something those approaching retirement ignore at their peril.
That’s the blunt message from psychotherapist Linda Herman, author of Parents to the End: How Baby Boomers Can Parent for Peace of Mind, Foster Responsibility in Their Adult Children, and Keep Their Hard-Earned Money.
Too many people seem to increase their spending in order to maintain a standard of living they ‘believe’ they should have – regardless of whether they can afford it, she maintains. “If our adult children are looking to us increasingly for support, if they’re relying on us to pay for their new living room furniture and pick up their cellphone bills, that dependency may have as much to do with the signals we’re sending as parents as with a lack of work ethic,” she says.
Rather than accept the role of unpaid concierge or primary lender, Herman urges parents to start considering their own needs a bit more, going so far as to arm them with a Bill of Rights for Parents of Adult Children.
Here are some of the highlights:
The Right To Decide What To Do With Your Own Money
Help your children financially if you choose, Herman says, but remember that doing so is a gift — not an obligation.
Parents don’t owe their adult children the lifestyle to which they may have become accustomed. Nor do they owe them money for traffic violations, fines, cars, furniture, or even necessities.
Allow them to experience delayed gratification, a sign of maturity, she advises.
If you’re providing financial support to your adult children, speak honestly and set realistic expectations. Be clear about both your willingness and ability to contribute funds for specific financial goals — like school trips or sports fees for grandchildren — rather than simply providing a subsidy.
The Right To A Successful Retirement
Some parents feel compelled to defer plans for their retirement because their adult children have been struggling financially or emotionally.
But you have a right to reap the benefits of a lifetime of work. No child is automatically owed a bailout, Herman maintains. Remember: there’s no reason to believe that an adult child lacking a work ethic will suddenly change with just one more loan, she says.
The Right To Have Reasonable Expectations
What constitutes a reasonable expectation for an adult child? Some basic behaviour can and should be universally expected.
Young adults living at home should be working or going to school, or both. They should contribute actively to the maintenance of the household, she adds.
If they’re working full-time, they should take sole responsibility for their personal expenses, including their cellphone bill and car insurance payments.
The Right To Peace Of Mind
Most empty nesters expect that, at some point, living without their children will result in increased freedom and peace of mind. But some parents discover their lives actually become increasingly strained when children leave home.
There is no peace for a boomer parent whose adult child is struggling with issues such as substance abuse, spousal mistreatment, health or financial problems, or criminal activity.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, “claim your peace,” Herman advises. That means giving yourself permission to enjoy yourself at your job, have fun with friends, continue your hobbies and take time to exercise.