Parents, Adult Children and Financial Independence

“Age considers; youth ventures.” – Rabindranath Tagore

I recently met a young, feminist blogger named Erin Allard, an 18-year-old college student who contacted me about joining Queercents as a contributing writer. When she first phoned, the Caller ID indicated that her mobile number was registered in the name of a man.

I thought, “Wow; she’s young… so young in fact that her father still has her on the family plan with his service provider.” This got me wondering what bloggers have to say about parents and financial dependency. Here are a few opinions on the topic. Needless to say, family dynamics make for thought-provoking blog entries especially when they intersect with the essentials on money.

At An English Major’s Money, you’ll find a post written by a 23-year-old college grad trying to make it on her own in New York City. She writes,

So, one of my financial-emotional sore spots is that my parents give me money. When this practice is discussed in the personal finance blogosphere, it is generally in the most scathing of terms. One particularly revealing snippet of rhetorical subtext: ‘financial outpatient care’ is a common borrowing from canonical personal finance text The Millionaire Next Door, which assures readers that adult children who accept money from their parents grow up weak, waffling, and ultimately unsuccessful--it compares accepting money to illness. The implicit message of this phrase is that those who do not accept money are healthy--walking out of childhood on their own strong two legs--whereas those who do accept money are sickly, being pushed along in a wheelchair to the hospital gates by a coddling nurse-mother.

Another recent college graduate that blogs at Stingy Students offers a different view:

Personally, I don’t feel entitled to enjoy my parents’ success considering I haven’t done anything to deserve it except for being fortunate enough to be born to them. However, if I am ever in a financial emergency, would I take it? Of course, I plan on buying a house in the near future, but do I have the 20% down payment to avoid PMI? No, but I can borrow it from my parents. I think that is truly the crux of the argument: those of us with financial support have a safety net where we can take more risk, whereas those without have limited opportunity.

Canadian Dream (a twenty-something, who happens to be male) had a post that said:

The other thing my parents did for me that really hit home was during my second year of university they stopped paying the bills. They had decided to buy a cottage instead of funding the remainder of my education. So they co-signed some loans and I was now living off debt to pay my school. I hated it, but it taught me to pay attention to my spending. Needless to say I reduced my spending at school by 10% the next year and I started paying down the debt with every dollar I could after leaving school.

These young adults and their experiences beg the question: How do we raise financially literate children? And what are the lessons we can communicate while they are young so they grow into self-sufficient adults?

Eileen and Jon Gallo are the authors of The Financially Intelligent Parent: 8 Steps to Raising Successful, Generous, Responsible Children. At their web site they list The 8 Money Behaviors of Financially Intelligent Parents:

1. Encourage a work ethic
2. Get your own money stories straight
3. Facilitate financial reflection
4. Become a charitable family
5. Teach financial literacy
6. Awareness of the values you model
7. Moderate extreme money tendencies
8. Talking about the tough topics

They also offer a quick quiz that helps you understand if you are a Financially Intelligent Parent.

You may not have given much thought to the issues raised by this questionnaire. Financially intelligent parenting isn’t an inherent skill. Our own parents’ money issues combined with societal attitudes have shaped our money beliefs and behaviors, and they have not always been shaped in ways that benefit our children.

Take the quiz… even if you’re not a parent, you’ll likely learn something about yourself and the filter of money.

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