Helping Adult Children Find Their Independence
Parents know upfront that children are a long-term investment. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the tab for raising a child in a middle-class household through age 17 is around $184,000. Then, there’s the expense of college for many, even graduate school.
Researchers report a growing trend of adult children taking longer to become independent and move out of their parents’ home. Others are out only because their parents are heavily subsidizing their living expenses. The reasons for these trends are varied, but many mental health professionals and financial consultants warn overly supportive parents that they may be thwarting their child’s ability to become an independent, responsible adult. Various experts offer these suggestions:
- If they move back home, charge them rent and set a move out date, as well as a plan for what they will do to pursue their desired career and how they will earn money in the meantime. “Their job is to take steps to move into adulthood,” says Cambridge’s Dr. Apter. “Their job isn’t to hang out and see what happens. If you’ve had a young, healthy adult at home after college for over three years, you have to ask, ‘Is this in everybody’s best interest?’ ”
- Make you children pay part of graduate school, so postponing work has a financial price. “If parents have the money and they want to help, they should structure it as a partnership,” advises Eileen Gallo, psychotherapist and co-author of The Financially Intelligent Parent. “That can empower the child.”
- If you’re helping with rent on an apartment, establish a schedule for phasing out this financial assistance gradually. You might also offer to match any house down payment, if you can afford to, thus encouraging them to save. Don’t, however, give money you can’t afford.