Should You Financially Support Your Adult Children?

You want to help your adult kids succeed, which can mean providing them with financial assistance when they really need it. But money matters — especially among family members — can be complicated. Here are some ways to make sure you’re helping your kids rather than enabling bad financial habits.

Encourage Open Communication

It’s important to consider the full picture of your child’s financial situation. Take into account not only the issue at hand but also his or her money management history. Ask yourself whether this financial difficulty is a pattern or a one-time situation.

“There must be full and honest communication. Problems arise when communication breaks down,” says Harlan Luke Landes, personal finance writer, speaker, and author of the personal finance blog, Consumerism Commentary. “Don’t loan the money if you feel your child is hiding something.”

Consider Your Own Financial Situation First

Your adult child should understand that you have financial responsibilities of your own that come first. “If you are planning for your retirement, taking care of an elderly parent financially, or looking to fulfill other personal financial goals, those things should come first,” Landes says. “If lending money will cause a financial strain for you, the answer should always be no.”

Set Terms Before You Give Your Child Money

Decide whether you want to make the money a loan or give it to your child as a gift. “Loans can create expectations and ruin family relationships,” says Landes. “Don’t give your kids money unless you are OK with not being paid back.”

If you do decide to offer your child a loan, set clear guidelines, so both sides know what to expect. This might entail drawing up a formal agreement or putting your child on a payment plan.

You also might consider managing your child’s financial obligations. “For example, pay the bill directly to the billing company as opposed to giving money to your child to pay it,” Landes says.

It’s OK to Say No

Find out how your child has tried to resolve the financial situation before coming to you. “Have they explored other options or opportunities to make the money? Have they taken on more hours at work? Cut back on expenses?” says Landes.

If your child hasn’t exhausted all the options, asking for money is a pattern, or you don’t have the flexibility in your budget, perhaps the answer should be no. Giving in to repeat requests for money may not help your child at all. “Parents have to pull the plug at some point,” Landes says. Saying no may motivate them and lead to self-reflection, he says.

Help Your Children Plan for Financial Security

Even if you don’t support your adult children financially, encourage them to research and find resources that can help them organize their budget. Whether they choose to use a money management website or a financial advisor, they need to figure out what options will work best for them.

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