The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai
My mom came from a large family, and at 18, the kids were pretty much on their own. My grandpa did help my parents a great deal by buying a rental home and letting her and my dad rent it and eventually buy it from him, but they didn’t get any special cuts because they were family.
I was the first in my family to go to college, and, unfortunately, I was the first in my family to acquire student loan debt. I graduated with a B.A. almost 20 years ago, and I had a nice diploma and $20,000 in student loan debt.
I moved back home for 2.5 years until I went on to graduate school (and acquired more debt). During those 2.5 years at home, I lived a pretty meager existence. I worked in an office at a fairly low paying job, I paid my mom rent and paid for my own groceries, and I paid down my student loans as much as I could with the little money I had left.
Some of my friends thought having to pay rent to my mom was crazy, but I defended her staunchly. After all, she was asking for a much smaller amount of money than I would have had to pay had I been living on my own.
I so strongly believed in the idea of charging rent that I planned to do it with my own kids.
Now, I’m not so sure.
Recently, I was listening to a young adults and money segment on NPR. One expert, Michelle Singletary of The Washington Post compellingly argued that finances today aren’t as simple as they were for our parents forty or fifty years ago.
Singletary argues, “it’s okay to help these young adults until they are able to fully launch. The old wisdom that once they get 18, let’s kick them to the curb, and they need to learn all this stuff, well, you know, that’s not going to help them launch in a safe way. So if they have a lot of student loan debt, and it’s possible, they should come back home, not pay rent and channel almost all of their income to getting rid of that debt” (NPR).
I don’t agree with Singletary if you have a child who moves back home, doesn’t pay rent, and lives it up by going to restaurants, parties, and buying designer clothes.
But, that’s not what Singletary is talking about. She’s talking about a young adult who is responsible and willing to funnel most of her money to her debt.
As Dave Ramsey says, that can change your family tree. And those changes can last for generations!
I just finished paying off my student loans from my B.A. and M.A. (they had been consolidated). Now, we’re working on paying off my husband’s student loans. I can’t help but wonder what life would have been like if I had not paid rent and made more headway on those loans during my 2.5 year break.
And I can’t help but wonder if it’s my job as a parent to make sure that my children go in as little debt as possible for college and that I help them get out of student loan debt as quickly as possible so they can go on with their lives.
My Question for You
When do you think financially responsibility for your children ends? If your adult child moves back home, will you charge them rent, or would you prefer to use that time as Michelle Singletary suggests, to help them launch into an independent financial life?