I won’t grow up/I don’t want to wear a tie/And a serious expression/In the middle of July./And if it means I must prepare/To shoulder burdens with a worried air,/I’ll never grow up/never grow up, never grow up/Not me/Not I/Not me!/So there! ~ Peter Pan
If you’re as ancient as I am, you’ll probably remember this: In my day, you were basically expected to be married and/or self-supporting when you finished college. Scout’s honor.
My husband–even more ancient than myself, if you can imagine–had parents who told him, “You can either pay rent and board somewhere else, or live at home and pay it to us.”
It was a tough world back then.
But those times are long, long gone.
Everything has gotten so expensive these days–college tuitions, rents, insurance–that our children now have an extremely prolonged and extended adolescence, as parents (who have the means) continue to support their children well into their twenties–and sometimes thirties and beyond.
A July 2011 article at money.msn.com entitled “Are your kids putting your retirement at risk?” offers the following astonishing statistics:
“Fifty-nine percent of parents financially support their adult children (ages 18 to 39) who aren’t in college, according to a new study by the National Endowment for Financial Education. Nearly half (48%) help their adult kids with living expenses, 41% with transportation costs, and 29% with spending money. When asked why they do it, 43% of parents said it was because they were “legitimately concerned” with their child’s financial well-being, and 37% said “it was because they didn’t want their children to struggle financially like they once did.”
And in an amazing follow-up point, the article notes that “26% of parents have had to take on more debt” because of this support they offer their children.
The parents provide the eternal safety net in many families I work with. In certain cases where children (adults?) simply haven’t earned the privileges that the family is willing to indulge them in. But parents continue to support or supplement even when a child has a job and is ready to move out.
Parents want their children in a safer neighborhood, so they make up the difference in the rent. Or–and how many times have you seen this?–they never take them off the family car and health insurance. And then there’s the use of the credit card for gas, of course. And for “emergencies.”
As an exercise for these children, I like for them to see how close they are to really “making it.” How many bills are actually footed by their parents, and taken enough for granted that the child thinks he’s surviving on his own?
If parents pay for the “extras,” the adult child doesn’t even know what self-supporting looks like. And if this has gone on for years, and the 29 year old “child” is happy with it and hasn’t pushed to try to be more financially independent, maybe a second job, or a job that will cover all your expenses–well, we know who’s to blame.
It’s. . .
And, parents, you’ve got some serious work to do to right this situation, but you can do it, and it will be better not just for your pocketbook, but for your child’s own sense of self.