When Do You Cut The Cord on Your Adult Children?

When Do You Cut The Cord on Your Adult Children

As a parent of three young children, I want to do all I can to provide for them. That’s as simple as providing food and shelter to more long-lasting needs. In every case, we want to do all we can for our kids, which includes sacrificing our own needs or wants as parents. There comes a point, however, when you need to let your children fly solo.

A recent study from a professor at North Carolina State University reveals 40 percent of adult children (those aged 25-32) still receive some kind of financial assistance from parents. While not really surprising, given the recent economic climate, it begs the question of when to cut the cord on your adult children. This is an issue far larger than a single blog post, but consider some of the following as you think about when your adult children need to be on their own.

You Need to Start Earlier Than You Think

I’m a big proponent of teaching children about money at home. It’s one of the most loving things you can do for a child. Putting off financial responsibility for your adult children will have the opposite effect. It can make them more reliant on you, not less. In short, it does not set them up for future success.

You may think it’s unloving to start once they move back home (assuming they do) or when they first start out, but that’s the exact time you should start – if you’ve not done so already. It can be as simple as charging them rent to live at home, or some other financial contribution. If they’re on their own, you can give them a deadline for when they’ll be financially on their own. Wisdom is needed, of course, but you need to start as soon as possible to help them become independent.

You Need to Be Selfish

As a parent, it feels contradictory to be selfish. It’s not. I would argue it’s very much needed for the long-term financial health of you and your child. Just as with the saving for retirement vs. saving for college debate, it’s not an easy choice but one you need to make.

Think of it this way. Your desire to help your adult child is noble. However, are you putting yourself at risk to depend on them later in life because you were not prudent in previous years? I want to help our children, but the last thing I want is to be a burden on them later in life. Thus, selfishness is needed, to a certain extent. It sounds harsh. It isn’t. It’s prudent while also causing them to find ways to develop the kind of life they want and need.

You Can Have Balance

While I believe you need to have a healthy level of selfishness when adult children are concerned, balance is necessary. The last thing you want is to embitter your child. You can help them prepare for their adult lives in many ways that aren’t strictly financial in nature.

Some of those ways can include dealing with student loans, helping them reduce bills and keeping more money in their budget. It can also include helping them out financially when they have need. As an adult child who benefitted from that several times, sometimes this is the best option. Again, use wisdom and seek a healthy balance for both you and your child.

Cutting the cord on an adult child is rarely an easy decision. There are many factors at play. The key is to find ways to set them up for long-term success.

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  • Timely and wise advice. Have an 18yr old on that threshold. Thanks for the article.

  • Kathy from CT

    Easier said than done. My children ( sons. 22, 23, 26) were all told from a very early age (1) you pay for your share of insurance and gas when you get your license, we will have a car for you all to share; (2) we will provide basic necessities; however, if you want a special type of shampoo, food, etc., the you must pay for it; (3) no rent while in school, up to undergraduate degree, but it does start 30 days after schooling ends, regardless of whether you have a job or not; (4) rent does not include food or meals (unless specifically invited), it is as if you are out on your own; (5) we are focusing on retirement & paying off the house so we can be financially independent from you in our old age; (6) our help with your college will be a roof over your head, food in your belly, gas to/from local college (or the equivalent in money if you go away), and books; (7) you will NOT take out student loans for college and I will help you figure out how to avoid them; (8) I keep very detailed records, so don’t think you will get away with not paying any of these expectations — it is noted in our wills of the existence of this documentation; (9) managing your money is different than not spending, and I will help you figure out a budget and realize why you need to constantly be on top of it; (10) life changes, as will your needs, and I will always welcome discussions about budgeting, long-term goals, short-term goals, investments, etc. and the need to re-evaluate every year at the very least; (11) we will never expect from you financially what we ourselves don’t practice.

    That said, it was HARD to stick to all this. Still is, now that middle son moved back home after a failed relationship. We were told we were mean, greedy, and over the top — by other parents, mind you, and some family members (our siblings). And I know our sons weren’t happy about it thru the years. HOWEVER, each of our 3 sons have thanked us within the past year of sticking to it all & teaching them financial responsibility. Our siblings and their children? Well, let’s just say they are all still struggling with cutting the financial cord.

    • 90david

      you are as evil as it gets you need to learn what a family is if its not too late i think it is

      • Kathy from CT

        Excuse me?

        • 90david

          there needs to be no excuse me its easy to under stand treat your kids well its the right thing to me if they need help do it you may need help some day help is a two way street

          • Kathy from CT

            You are very amusing in your own pretentious way.