Adult children's finances can be parents' business
I'll be the first to admit that I'm a hovering parent, especially when it comes to the money my children get and spend.
Of course, my offspring are still young. My oldest is 14. But I am constantly giving her advice about the right way to handle her money. Once after a lengthy discussion, with much eye-rolling from her, I said: "It's my full-time job to make sure you are a good steward of your money." To this she replied: "Can you make it your part-time job?" I thought about this exchange after receiving a rather long and frustrated note during a recent online discussion. The chat participant wondered at what point should parents back out of the financial business of their children.
It's a good question, and one that I'm sure is coming up frequently in an economy where more young adults are moving back home to lick financial wounds inflicted by a lost job, divorce, credit card debts or student loans.
When does concern over your adult child's money woes cross the line into oppressive hovering?
Let's look at the situation from the woman who wrote to me.
"My parents and I are at an impasse," she said. "After graduating college, I had minor credit card debt. I asked to move into my parents' home after living on my own for a while to get rid of the debt, and to get other finances in order. I wanted to do a reset and start off right before it got out of hand."
I don't have a problem with adults returning home to try and get their financial lives in order. But going back home didn't immediately solve this woman's underlying problem.
"My debt got bigger," she wrote. "My parents found out about my debt and have been yelling at me about it. The problem is my parents are still ordering me around about my money. I do not ask for parental loans at all. I have a rainy-day fund. I'm finally doing everything right, and they are still yelling at me. As a parent, I thought you might be able to enlighten me on why my parents feel they can tell a 30-year-old woman how to spend her money."
I'm sorry to tell her, but the moment she moved back home, she opened the door to her financial life and her parents moved right in. In many respects, her parents do have a right to know, especially if she isn't paying rent or buying food for the household or helping with utilities.
The woman said her parents didn't know how much she had in her savings and checking accounts. They didn't know her current debt amount. They didn't know that she had finally changed and stopped using credit and is now paying only with cash.
"At this point I can't even buy a cheeseburger without being yelled at," she said. "I'm starting to resent any money conversations. Is there a reason why this should be their business?"
It's not appropriate and it is seldom effective to yell at a grown person. But maybe her parents are yelling because they feel guilty that they didn't teach her how to manage her money when she was younger. Perhaps it's because they care or are worried that she may never get back out there on her own. Maybe they are frustrated because they haven't seen any financial progress. How would they know if she had changed if she doesn't show them the proof?