Financial independence is a hallmark of maturity, which is why money is often the stage on which parents and grown children act out the drama of separation. When, why and how much we help our kids financially depends on what we can afford and whether we think our help will lead to a happier life for them. But there are other questions to ask before we gift or lend them money.
.Will it further their dependence on us?
.Is there another solution besides an outright gift or loan?
.Is this request a special circumstance or just the latest one?
Q. Our daughter wants to go to college across the country, but we don’t think she’s mature enough and want her closer to home. She could go to the local university, but she insists on getting her own apartment, even though all she’ll be able to afford is a studio in a terrible part of town. Is there a solution we can both live with?
A. You’ve put conditions on her education that make it hard for her to separate from you. Either allow her to choose her own college and make up the difference in cost with loans, grants and scholarships or let her live locally in her own apartment even if it’s not up to your standards.
Q. Our son wants to quit a good job and go into business for himself. He has no entrepreneurial experience and has never had a head for business. He wants us to invest money in his venture but refuses to take our advice, too. Should we give him the money?
A. First, evaluate your own risk as well as his. If you invest, be clear about your legal rights and obligations. If you don’t, consider offering other kinds of assistance – office space, introductions to your banker, or other business contacts that might be helpful. And if he fails, don’t say ‘I told you so.’
Q. Our son is in a bind and has asked us to loan him a thousand dollars but won’t tell us what it’s for. This is more money than we usually loan and more than we can easily afford. What should we do?
A. If this is typical behavior, it’s time to decide how much longer you’re going to bail him out. If it isn’t, don’t insist on knowing what the money is for; offer to cosign a personal loan instead of tying up your funds, which will also help him establish his own credit-worthiness.
Have a question about how, when or why to help your adult children financially? Click here to Ask the Postparenting Coach.