When You & Your Spouse Don’t Agree about Supporting Grown Children

by TTMK on September 15, 2014 · 2 comments

The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai

Debbie and John have one child, Jessica, who is 28. Jessica has a degree in art, and she’s working as a secretary. She makes a relatively small salary and has trouble making ends meet. Debbie happily gives Jessica $75 every week for groceries as well as another $100 a month for utilities. All told, Debbie and John give Jessica $350 a month.

John doesn’t feel quite as generous as Debbie. He thinks if they stopped giving Jessica money, she would be more motivated. He would like to see Jessica go back to college for a trade that will earn her more money or take on a second job. He also would like to see Jessica try to sell some of her artwork, but Jessica refuses. While she’s a very talented artist, she worried others won’t like her artwork.

In today’s economy, more and more parents are shelling out money to their grown children. If both parents are fine doing so, that’s their choice. But what if one parent wants to give money and the other doesn’t?

Wean slowly. Debbie has been funding Jessica for several years now. Abruptly cutting off the cash flow wouldn’t be fair. Instead, if John and Debbie agree, they should sit down with Jessica and let her know when they will be cutting her off. For instance, in three months they will stop giving her $100 a month for utilities. In six months, they’ll reduce her grocery allowance in half. In twelve months, they’ll quit funding her entirely.

Find a way to compromise. John wants to see Jessica become self-sufficient. Perhaps he would agree to continue the funding IF Jessica enrolls part-time in a trade program. Then in a few years, after she’s completed her degree, she’ll have the ability to support herself entirely, which is what John would like. Meanwhile, Debbie can continue to assist Jessica as she gets her degree.

Offer the grown child incentive. Another idea is to offer to match your grown child as she learns to make better financial choices. For instance, if Jessica learns to budget her money better and doesn’t need $40 of the usual grocery money that she gets, her parents will match her savings, temporarily. They’ll give her the $40 she would have used but also an additional $40 for being conservative with the money.

While you are temporarily paying her more than you did before, you are encouraging her to learn to budget and save. Give her a timeline for the match, say six to twelve month. At the end of that time, you’ll no longer be paying her, and she should have new habits that will help her to be self-sufficient. She’ll also have a nice savings account.

My Question for You

If you have grown children, did you support them? If so, how did you cut them off? If you’re in your twenties, did or do your parents support you? If so, when do you plan to become financially independent?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

maria@moneyprinciple September 28, 2014 at 1:47 pm

The answer is yes to both your questions: we have grown up children and we did support them financially. This has taken different forms including paying off their consumer debt (it wan’t too much) and having one of them to write for my blog so I could pay him (he is a really good writer as well but…). Funilly, they are my step-children and I’ve been much more generous than my husband. We have said that we are not doing it any more – I have started very much doubting whether this is good for them, anyway. Also, I’m not sure how I feel about the weaning thing you suggest – I’d rather arrange it so that after a certain date (giving them enough time to organise their lives differently) the tab closes.


TTMK October 3, 2014 at 9:45 pm

It’s great to read about a financially generous step-mother. While some are, there are plenty of others that wouldn’t be. Good for you.


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