How Long Should You Be Financially Responsible for Your Child?

by TTMK on June 24, 2015 · 5 comments

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?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

jim June 25, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Please don’t cut your kids off financially – even after they’ve graduated from college (assuming, of course, that they are responsible, hard working kids). They’ll be sooooooooooooooo much better off and eternally grateful. We’ve had 2 “re-nest” and never had them pay for food or rent while they were getting on their feet. It’s been a blessing to all of us. They really were launched debt-free (broke, but debt-free) and it taught them to be generous souls. It also gave us a great deal of peace of mind knowing that they could make it and wouldn’t be wondering where their next meal would be coming from or living with the anxiety that if some ER came up they’d be screwed with no way to deal with it, short of “crawling” back to mommy and daddy. Our financial assistance has never crippled them – not in their work ethic, empathy, compassion, generosity etc. It only made them feel secure. Wife and I struggled for years paying off our school loans while saving for our kids’ education. We did it, but it’s not something we want our kids to have to struggle through. And they have not turned into ingrates. On the contrary, they have turned into incredibly grateful and generous kids/adults.


joe September 28, 2015 at 3:55 am

I’m sorry but that’s ridiculous. This is the problem with society today. If your grown up children get into debt to darn bad for them. Let them suffer through and pull themselves up and out of it. You do them no favors by allowing them not to face the consequences of their own behavior. What you are doing is enabling them to be financially irresponsible and teaching them to rely on other’s instead of themselves. You say they are so grateful? I’m sure they are lol they didn’t have to be grown ups, pay bills or be decent citizens. They got a free ride of course they are grateful. Pathetic truly pathetic I’m sorry but it’s true. Your children are failures and on top of it you are helping them then brag about how great your deadbeat offspring are. To add insult to injury then you ask REAL PARENTS to coddle their kids so they can be a burden on society like yours. Wake up your delusional.


Melissa June 26, 2015 at 8:20 am

Excellent points, Jim. I’m beginning to understand and appreciate this way of thinking. I think it ultimately depends on the children’s behavior. If they behave responsibly financially and just need a hand, I’d be glad to help them so they can be more financially independent as they get further into adulthood.


Gary @ Super Saving Tips June 28, 2015 at 4:44 pm

I think it’s very important to teach your children from a young age how to be responsible. But things happen sometimes that responsibility cannot prevent, and at those times, we need to help our children. However, when they begin to act irresponsibly, we’re not doing them any favors by allowing it to continue with our support. As for adult children paying rent, a relative of mine had a great compromise: she charged her adult children a low monthly rent, and put that into savings for them to help them out when they launched. In the best situation, the children would be saving on their own as well, and this money would just give them a security blanket/emergency fund.


joe September 28, 2015 at 3:38 am

If you are supporting your children past eighteen years of age you are a fool and undoubtedly raised one. This sound’s harsh but reality is what it is. You chose to go to college and bury yourself in debt instead of getting a job to support yourself. That was your first mistake and your’s alone. Then you moved back home and not only placed a burden on the tax payers for your foolishness but your poor parent as well. This was your fault and your parent who should have made you face the consequences of your life choices. Forced you to be self sufficient not a burden. Next you continued your foolishness by going back to college and racking up more debts still no job. This was not your parents fault you chose to repeat the same cycle of stupidity. Reckless and selfish behavior. Why any parent would allow this is beyond me. As for NPR well public radio says it all. Liberal, feel good talk for the socially inept. Nothing has changed in 50 year’s aside from more excuses from people who refuse to realize how the world really works. Your parent’s had it easy by the sounds of it and instead of taking advantage of a gift from their parent’s and bettering their financial position they chose to breed. Not that it would have mattered because clearly you squandered what opportunities they made available to you to advance in life. If a good parent or parents keep you safe, fed, cloths on your back and make certain you get a basic education for 18 year’s then their job is done and well I might add. If you have been given such a great start and YOU fail that’s YOUR problem not your’s or anyone else’s parent’s. Your parent should have made you suffer your own consequences in the beginning maybe you wouldn’t have been so unsuccessful.


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