“Eighteen and Out” – Good Parenting or Bad Parenting?

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A young reader writes in:

I’m a high school senior and I’m going to college next fall. When I go to college, I want to be completely independent, paying my own bills. My parents insist that this is financial suicide and that they should support me through college. What do you think is the right way to go?

Shortly after my eighteenth birthday, I left my parents’ house and went to college. When I left, there was a pretty implicit understanding that I would not be moving back in with them in the future. Sure, while I was a student, I could spend between-semester breaks living there and I could live there in short spurts after college if necessary to facilitate moving on to somewhere else, but my parents’ home was no longer my own. It was up to me to find my own way in the world.

This flies squarely in the face of many parenting trends today in which children often live with their parents throughout college and afterwards, sometimes for many years. The reasons are many, usually revolving around the child’s inability to earn a sufficient income to be financially independent.

Even when children reach a point of “independence,” meaning they don’t live at home, many parents still provide some sort of regular financial support, just to help the children make ends meet.

My belief is that I learned much more valuable lessons by having to make it in the real world than I ever would have back under my parents’ roof. Yes, even if that means a very low standard of living during one’s twenties if necessary.

I’m not saying that parents shouldn’t help if a child completely loses everything. However, there’s a big difference between a helping hand and long term support of a lifestyle.

Short term help in a problematic situation is great – it’s the type of thing that strong relationships are made of. The ability to rely on someone else for a short while when life has knocked your feet out from under you is a tremendous boon and I absolutely do not begrudge parents for helping out in those situations.

The problem comes when that help progresses into expectation and reliance. Any situation in which an individual is unable to be independent and is reliant on someone else is dangerous to both parties. It hurts the parent by taking money away from their future plans, ensuring that they’ll be in the workplace longer and will have fewer assets to rely on late in life. It hurts the child by denying them the skills they need to survive in a world that will eventually not include the parents. Plus, it extends the inevitable ending of support to a later date when it’s quite likely to be much more uncomfortable for both parties.

Yes, financial support of one’s children in adulthood makes life “easier” for them in the short term, but it makes life harder for them in the long term. Such support stunts the budgeting and money management skills that they’ll need to survive when they actually do become independent. It also encourages the establishment of a pattern of spending that exceeds their real income.

The real danger, though, is how it impacts you. The money given to your children when they should be independent is money that’s not going to support your retirement. You’ll have to work longer – and if you’re unable to, you’re much more likely to become a late-life burden to your children than you would be if you invested in your retirement now.

I’ve witnessed this phenomenon with my own eyes. My grandmother gave tons of support to her children, even in their adulthood, and during her final years, she barely had enough money to keep the power on and wound up having to fully support one of her children. If she had completely cut the cord when the children entered adulthood, she would have been able to enjoy a financially comfortable retirement – instead, her final years were fraught with financial and personal worry.

My conclusion, if you haven’t figured it out, is that delaying your children’s independence for longer than necessary is detrimental to both parties and should be avoided. If you’re still relying on your parents – or if you’re a parent still providing support to a child that should otherwise be standing on their own two feet – now’s the time to break that cycle. It’s the only way both of you can thrive and grow freely.

To the young lady who wrote in initially, tell your parents to take that support money and put it towards their retirement by bumping up their 401(k) contributions by 2 or 3% a year. Suggest to them that this retirement savings is actually a benefit to you because it reduces the chances that they’ll be a financial burden to you later in life while also giving you the opportunity now to figure out how the world works.

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92 thoughts on ““Eighteen and Out” – Good Parenting or Bad Parenting?

  1. Wow, this is quite the post considering that the question of whether the young reader even has the income to be independent is never asked.

  2. The best thing parents can do for their kids financially speaking is to instill in them credit and finance lessons–teaching them how to stay out of dept and be financially responsible.

  3. Great post, Trent. I think it’s particularly interesting when there are inequities amongst children. In other words, the classic scenario where one child is independent from an early age and the other relies on the parents for quite some time. Once the parents are retired and potentially having financial difficulties of their own, which of those two children do you think will be dealing with the parents’ financial burdens? I’m guessing the first.

  4. I agree that having help is great. My parents financially supported me throughout college and I moved back home for a year so I could work and save before moving out on my own. I am fortunate but was taught well by my parents and the help paid off once I moved out on my own. I don’t think there is anything wrong with help when needed but supporting a lifestyle is a different story. I know a bunch of people out of college whose parents basically support their financial lives and because of it control their decisions and prevent them from growing up. Which is ironic because these kids want to become more independent and grow up, but it’s impossible when your parents are financially supporting you and making all your life decisions because of it.

  5. Simply deciding the age of 18 is the time to move out seems a bit arbitrary, but I definitely favor sooner rather than later. In my own experience, I moved out promptly at 18 and I certainly learned a lot. And made many, many mistakes.

    Hopefully the parents have done the work to *prepare* their teenager well for making the move. If they haven’t, it will likely get messy at some point.

  6. I teach at a university and I see this more than you might think. It’s an admirable thing to want your own independence, but it also shows a misunderstanding of the economics of higher education. If a person wants independence they need to build relationships. That means getting good grades, engaging with faculty and doing summer internships (paid or unpaid). In a 10 year time scale there is no question that this will make far more money.
    If a person still wants to be independent, keep track of expenses and pay the parents back. Do this with a real job, not a student part-time one. Wasting time in a minimum wage job is one of the wort decisions students make.

  7. Good points, but you’re overlooking the fact that it is not always possible to be financially independent in college. Often, tuition + rent + food = more than a college student can earn. Not because the student is living high and buying a lot of unnecessary stuff, but because those costs have gone way up relative to wages.

    15 years ago, I had a great private grant/loan for half my college tuition, but I didn’t qualify for aid. My rent was $300/month, low for the area. I lived frugally. I had a job. I still had to ask my parents to help me out with money every couple of months. My mom complained–she had gone to the same university and earned her way through 30 years before. I was able to show her that rent and tuition were simply much higher for me than they had been for her, relatively speaking. (My parents probably looked back on this time with nostalgia when my younger brother went to the same university–after more fee hikes and no more rent control.)

    My brother and I have both been financially independent of our parents since then (indeed my brother has savings that would make your eyes pop) but it was simply not possible for us to completely pay for college and living costs. My parents invested in our education so that we could be independent in the near future. Thanks mom and dad!

  8. Several years ago, on an internet forum I belonged to, one of the other members (who at the time was a college freshman or sophomore) decided that he wanted to drop out of college and “be independent.” Lots of people praised him up and down for what a “mature decision” he was making. But it turned out that he didn’t have a job lined up, didn’t have a plan for getting a job, and had no idea what kind of lifestyle he’d be able to afford on the salaries of the jobs he was trying to get.

    I get sort of the same vibe from this young reader. It’s admirable that she wants to pay her own bills while in college, but has she thought through what that means? Will those bills include tuition as well as living expenses? What kind of income will she have? Does she plan on working during the semester, and if so, for how many hours, and doing what? Does she envision that she’ll be able to pay for everything as she goes, or does she plan on taking out loans to supplement her income? If she’s going to take out loans, will she earn enough when she graduates to be able to pay them back easily? Unless/until she’s thought all these things through, I think it’s very foolish to turn down a parent’s offer for financial assistance during college.

    Also, we don’t know anything about the reader’s parents’ financial situation. Perhaps they’re already saving more than adequately for retirement. To assume that they’re not is presumptuous.

  9. I find your advice to this young lady incredibly shortsighted. There is a big difference between financially supporting a college student and financially supporting a working adult. Working the hours needed to support herself may well prevent her from having enough time to adequately study or from taking advantage of opportunities such as unpaid internships.

    That said, I think there can be compromise. She may work it out with her parents that she cover entertainment expenses, clothing, and gas, while her parents cover insurance and housing. They may even taper off the support over the 4 years, instead of cutting it off at once. She could even save up any money she earned to defray the costs of study abroad.

    Now, if they wanted to continue supporting her AFTER college, that’s a different story.

  10. I find your advice to this young lady incredibly shortsighted. There is a big difference between financially supporting a college student and financially supporting a working adult. Working the hours needed to support herself may well prevent her from having enough time to adequately study or from taking advantage of opportunities such as unpaid internships.

    That said, I think there can be compromise. She may work it out with her parents that she cover entertainment expenses, clothing, and gas, while her parents cover insurance and housing. They may even taper off the support over the 4 years, instead of cutting it off at once. She could even save up any money she earned to defray the costs of study abroad, to help establish herself once she does graduate, etc.

    Now, if they wanted to continue supporting her AFTER college, that’s a different story.

  11. My parents were always there for me during college. I lived on my own and worked hard to pay my own mortgage (at age 19) and take care of all the financial responsibilities that come with being a grown-up. My parents were loving and generous and footed the bill for my tuition and books, guaranteeing I left college with no academic debt. It was hard to pay the bills and I often lived on what I call a very slim budget. But I gained so much knowledge, patience and self respect. On the other hand, my spouse was taken care of completely by the parents. Every whim was answered with a handful of cash and every miscalculation in the budget was corrected with a check. Now middle-aged, my spouse still cannot budget, will not take responsibility for financial mistakes and the parents riding in like the calvary is a given. I’m with the writer. Stand on your own two feet. That experience is priceless but will make you feel like a million bucks.

  12. I believe in taking the moderate road. We have a child in college and 3 more entering in the next 4 years. All understand the the sole purpose to our extended support is so that they may graduate without debt, and support will be withdrawn should they not maintain good grades. We also have offered each child the option of living at home for a specific set-time after college (2 years) for the purpose of saving OR travel. Each has summer jobs, manages their own money well…it’s about training up your kids, offering defined-support, and making clear expectations. All or nothing are extreme paths. Good idea for a post.

  13. It’s not independent to take on a lot of debt – it’s just dependent on a different, more expensive source.

    The balance between raising a kid who really *wants* to be independent and works hard to achieve it, vs. making sure they have a safety net that will allow them to take big risks that might have great results if they pan out, is hard to hit. It sounds like this person’s parents managed it.

    It seems like in America we have this idea that students should be finding the cash to pay for things somewhere, anywhere, even at the expense of being able to really focus on their studies. I was really struck in the UK at how the students there expected not just their parents but their whole society to support their studies – by making textbooks affordable, transit discounts, cheap dorms, cheap tuition. I think we should emulate that instead of burdening one more generation with heavy student loans and the idea that your studies are all about making the cash to pay off the loans and put you into a job (where you will be trapped by debt and needing health insurance) regardless of your talents or passions.

  14. I think parent’s helping their kids too much has also had the unintended consequence of lower starting salaries.

  15. I too moved out at 18 and never went back. My mom was a single parent, and even still the majority of the aid I qualified for was non-subsidised loans. I got a job, worked 40 hours a week, and managed to graduate in 3 years. Not because I am some brainiac, I actually studied really hard for B’s and C’s. But I had a system in place, where I went to class in the mornings, worked in the afternoons and spent one of my 2 days off each week entirely at the library doing the entire week’s reading and projects. Even still I graduated with about $15K in loans and even more credit card debts. My meager college savings account my parents had for me was gone early on, and I made it all work. Sure it was rough, but I am in my 30s now, with a solid head on my shoulders, and a decent grasp of reality. Many of my friends are not. I have plenty of friends who are in their 20s and even in their 30s who still live at home, as in never left at all. Yes, it would have been nice to not have all that debt, or not have to work through college, but I think I am better off for it. I would not want to be one of the 30-somethings living at home because I never figured out how to make it myself.

  16. The best gift my parents gave me was the ability to graduate from undergraduate and graduate school with no debt. I worked hard for scholarships so they wouldn’t have to pay as much, supported myself during the summers with jobs, and tried to save what I could. But dangermom is right – the costs of living and tuition have gone up so much that it is nearly impossible to put yourself through school like our parents could.

    My advice to the young student is to take the help offered by her parents, but to show them honor and respect by not abusing it – spend wisely, don’t blow it on booze and wild nights and internet shopping sprees, do what you can to ease their burden (work, but not so much that you compromise your grades), and apply for as many scholarships as you can.

    It is perfectly possible to be an independant, mature, responsible individual while being helped by loved ones. While being totally independant isn’t a guarentee of developing the forementioned qualities.

    I think that part of the reason I never went off the financial rails in university is because I was acutely aware of the trust my parents put in me and that my financial decisions didn’t just impact myself – they impacted my family.

  17. I lived similarly to how dangermom(#5) did in college. Rent was $300, I had a job, and had a little help from my parents every once in a while. My ‘spending’ fund came down to about $50-100 a month, which mainly was for groceries.

    In my opinion, being frugal during you college years is actually a lot of fun. Being frugal during college led me to many fun ‘misadventures’.

  18. My parents gave me a place to live/eat when college was out of session. Summer breaks and Holidays. But I paid my way otherwise. Mom co-signed my student loans, but I worked to make my way thru college. I only ever asked for money once to pay my car insurance bill early on. Everything else was mine completely. I sure as hell didn’t make alot but I lived on what I had. Never opened a credit card till AFTER college, and only for making purchases online (before debit cards were useful). I’m alot further along in life than many peers. It’s tough…but the lessons you learn and the growing you do comes from those life lessons.

  19. Sink or swim? Bad idea. What will you do if/when the failure happens?

    For instance, my coworker’s daughter moved in with a boyfriend when she turned 18. Coworker warned her in advance that it might be more difficult than she could imagine and it has been. She is now moving back home, 9 months after the experiment began, with a better understanding of independent life. She’s just not ready for it yet.

    I went to college while living at home. Transition to the “real world” was gradual as graduation was not when I quit taking classes and finding work was not easy.

  20. I agree with Johanna. A very clear-headed eighteen-years old may have an idea about how much being independent actually costs on a day-to-day basis, but if that is not the case, it might be well to think again. Not to stay under your parents’ wings for the rest of your life, but just to really understand what is needed for indepence, and how much its cost and will cost.

  21. I think it should be phased; depending on the kid. My middle daughter did not go to college and moved in with her boyfriend. I stopped supporting her financially at that point. Then later I bailed her out 2 times. Since that time she knows not to ask because I will not bail her out again. (These were caused by her overspending nothing more) She decided she wanted to be “independant” so I let her be totallly independant.

    My youngest daughter was going to college. She decdided to go locally. She stayed with my brother the first year. We paid for the vehicle and gave her some money. She was repsonsible for everthing else. In June she moved into a house with roommates. I would pay half the tuiton, the rest was up to her. i paid for the vehicle and insurance still.
    I feel her focus should be on her college. Yes I expect her to work and pay her own bills, which she was doing.
    Now she had a car wreck and has a long road ahead of her for recovery. She was crying one day because she told me one day before she moved out that she would never have to totally rely on us again.
    The difference between the two has made the difference in what they recieve. After college the youngest knows she is totally on her own as well.

  22. NEW QUESTION:

    First of all, I have learnt and am learning quite a bit both personally + professionally from your daily posting. So, thank you!!

    Now to question.

    Over the long term, is it better to invest in stocks OR buy a house i.e invest in real-estate. Considering the economic conditions and the various conflicting report I read on journals, I am confused. I totally understand the risk/benefits in either one. I also understand, it depends on how much we have saved, long term goals, emergency funds etc etc. I have also considered all of these and also factoring in all of these for decision.

    Is it better to invest in stock (say 8% return) or buy a house – in long run?

    If you were to have $75K, what would you do/where would you invest?

    Thank you in advance.

  23. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with helping out the child when they turn 18, just as long as there’s expectations and limitations that have been discussed.

    When I was 17 and finishing high school, my parents made it pretty clear that I was free to stay at home for as long as I needed, providing I was getting some sort of post-secondary education or skill training. As long as I was in some sort of school, I was free to stay. But as soon as I wasn’t, I would start owing rent. Rent would start low and increase steadily every month. I think this was very fair and reasonable.

    As such, I stayed home going to a local University, and I’m much more financially stable as a result. Once I graduated, it took me a couple months to find a good, stable full time job, and then I took a few months to save some $$, and then I was out. As a result, I was able to move out on my own, debt free, with a bit of money in my bank account. I’m very thankful for that.

    Everyone’s personal viewpoint will differ slightly (based on their experience, family situation, etc), but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to help out a kid who’s willing to help themselves.

  24. Tuition, rent, cost of books, has risen way higher than wages, so I think it would be very smart to take financial help if the parents can give it reasonably. Mine helped me get my bachelor’s degree, but I’m on my own for graduate school so I’ve seen both sides (one exception being that I get health insurance through my dad’s company).

    The other thing that she needs to look at is one what kind of jobs can she get without a degree and is the program she’s in one that you can work enough to make what she needs to live on? For example, my undergrad school had a policy that you were not allowed to work more than 20 hours.

  25. I totally disagree. I am an orphan who grew up in US orphanages (called childrens homes). I moved out when I was 16 into my first appartment and I worked full time while in my senior year of high school. I also worked through college and graduate school.

    I am very independant now. However I spent a lot time working at 5.15 an hour in the late 90s and early 2000s. Which builds character but also it took a lot out of me. I started having back problems lifting immobile patients up in the bed….while cleaning their butts. It was pretty unpleasant work and my back still spasms.

    When I went to college and met a lot of kids who did not have this difficulty…they also had more time for themselves. They could wait for better paying jobs. I had to take whatever I could get and I have been abused on the job and had my employers run away from the IRS taking my last pay when living paycheck to paycheck.

    I think there is a happy medium. Don’t stress about getting help from your parents….be happy that you have parents who can help you. I wish someone was around to help me from time to time.

  26. I understand what you’re going for with your post, but all I can think of are the following stories:

    A close relative had graduated high school, was still 17 and her dad encouraged her to go ahead and get her own place. He’d send the child-support (divorced parents) straight to her. Which he did for a few months before stopping all together. She ended up struggling more than she had planned for a number of years.
    _________

    My mother works as a high school librarian. One year, the saludatorian got home from graduation. The “step-father” (with the mom’s acquiescence) had changed the locks and all his belongings were on the lawn. The kid was 18, very smart, but with NO family support and living in a rural area with few opportunities. The ‘Step-father’ didn’t see that he had anymore obligation to his wife’s child and was ready for the kid to be gone.
    __________

    There’s a difference between not being a crutch and closing the door on helping your kids get started on life. There’s a difference between paying CCs for pizza and ski trips and contributing towards tuition and books. My husbands parents paid for all of his schooling and not having student loans has helped him with the future. He did pay for life on a CC for 3 months until he found a job, but his tax return zero’d that out. I’m still paying my student loan and will be for the next 5 years and would have loved to not have that debt. But I’m happy my mom has saved for retirement and finished paying her mortgage off the year after my sister and I (twins) graduated college.

  27. I think the key is not “out the door at 18,” it’s a clear deadline and clear boundaries. For me, it was 22, and my parents made it clear to all their children they were getting 8 semesters of support, period. They also paid their contribution to the university for tuition and room and board–anything from my pocket (books, fun, clothes etc) was my responsibility so there was no direct transfer of cash from parent to child. I also knew what sacrifices the family was making to help me in school and it meant I took it much more seriously. So I think the answer is much more about where the family is financially and what their relationships are (if there’s any kind of history of emotional complications, maybe being independent right away is best) than just saying “don’t take any money.”

  28. I wonder, like others, if there is an appropriate middle ground. My parents loaned me a set amount of money while I was an undergrad (half of my tuition, about $2500 per year since I’m in Canada). The rest of my tuition, books, living expenses were paid from summer job savings, scholarships and bursaries, working part time while in school etc. Knowing a set amount they were able and willing to loan me meant that that amount went into my budget. I still had to be careful about budgeting, because I knew they would not take kindly to phone calls home on a regular basis stating “I can’t pay my phone bill” or “I forgot about lab fees” and requesting additional funds. Plus, I knew that this money was a loan (interest free, but still due to be paid back) so I hesitated to borrow more than I absolutely needed to. I think I learned many a financial lesson during this time and learned to be an independent adult, despite this hand-up from my parents. I would posit that having parents who would “rescue” you out of every situation would be detrimental, as you never have to feel the pain of the mistakes, so you wouldn’t learn from them. I did have a very few of situations during my 10 years of postsecondary school (I have a PhD, I’m not a slacker who took 3 times too long to finish a BA) that I did run into problems that I couldn’t manage with my very tight budget, and my parents helped me out temporarily (e.g., a few hundred dollars for a few weeks until my next scholarship cheque came), but they knew that I was loathe to ask for help, so if I was, I must have really needed it.

    I think overall, if you’ve taught your kids good habits all along, and you can afford to help them without sacrificing your retirement needs, you can do so in a way that won’t sacfrice the financial lessons to be learned at this critical period of development.

  29. While I understand the argument, and agree with it (young guy on his own, frugal, no debt, independent), I think that it needs to be pointed out that this is a Western expectation of independence and family structure, and just because we’ve been indoctrinated to like it, doesn’t necessarily make it the best/right way.

    I lived in east Africa for a year, and there, the expectation was that children were children up until about 30 or so. Oh, they were expected to work, but the housing/job market didn’t support starting new independent families, and parents expected their children to be around for years.

    They also expected their kids to provide for them in their old age. Given the rate of child mortality, having more kids was generally a financially sounds decision (not more mouths to feed, but more hands to provide for said mouths).

    Now, I saw where families were trying to “modernize” and how that affected their dynamic. Kids who had the benefit of leaving for a Western education, and then filled with ideas of independence, leave home. What it meant was leaving parents at home having to support themselves, cook their own food, do their own laundry, etc.

    Keep in mind, we’re not talking about loading up the Whirlpool and heating up a frozen dinner. We’re talking hours of manual washing (try it some time, ain’t as easy as it looks, you’ll understand why so many of the older women had forearms like lumberjacks). We’re talking hours to prepare meals, you know, catch the chicken, kill it, pluck it, etc.

    Not to say that they couldn’t do it, but for most it meant relying on hired help (neighborhood kids mostly) to get their daily business done. And all this is over and beyond working a normal job.

    On the opposite side too, independent kids weren’t all bad times. It definitely helps educate on equal rights across genders, in a way that nothing else could. I’d talk to young guys who were off at school, and the mental hurdles of having to clean their own clothes, cook their own meals, often while being laughed at by their male friends for doing “women’s work”. But overall, they were happier for the experience, not just for the sense of independence, but also because it showed them first hand the kind of work/expectations they had been putting on their female family members.

    Anyway, just some thoughts.

  30. I completely agree with this post. When I left the home for school at 18, that was the end of the financial support. I put my self through school with a mix of grants, loans, and elbow-grease. Sure I graduated with student loan debt (had CC debt but paid that off quickly), but those experiences were part of the Other Education that has allowed me to be independent and successful when those in otherwise similar situations have not. In fact, my current employer was impressed that I put myself through school and said that was one of the main factors why I was chosen for my current position and others were not. While I do believe that when sent out of the house, that should be the end of the financial support en toto, I do believe that the support should be a fall back plan rather than the starting point.

  31. One thing to consider in this picture is that the current financial aide picture expects parents to foot a substantial part of the college bill for students. In many cases it is much less expensive for the college student to live at home than to add the extra expense of dorms and campus meal plans – resulting in less debt for everyone.

    Parents who want to encourage their students to save money by living at home but who also want to avoid becoming financial enablers could work out a reasonable plan for paying room and board and/or making mandatory budget plans and savings account contributions each month or semester.

    Avoiding as much debt as possible during college is crucial! My family is saddled with the enormous college debt my husband and I accrued in the late ’80s and early 90′s. We both worked during college and were not extravagant spenders but came from income brackets where there was little aide available and no family resources to contribute. Living at home might have helped spare us some of this burden but living on campus or in apartments was just what everyone was doing at that time. For some crazy reason, society was encouraging college students to think it is “normal” to go into debt to pay their rent.

  32. When I left high school, I was just like the person who wrote the question. I wanted complete control over my finances and to fund my future. I felt others would have less influence over my decisions if they were not financially involved in my eduction. That said, when I needed help (and I did), my parents were willing to help out. They knew that I wasn’t using their bank account as a cash machine. I also studied harder and was more focused compared to some of my friends (this may have been the case regardless). I had a friend who was musing her senior year (age 22) that she was afraid to leave college because she didn’t know how to budget or balance a check book because her parents had done it all along. I would much rather try to be financially independent and ask for help when I am 19 instead of being coddled throughout college and have to ask for help at 25.

  33. If the parents have assets, the student would have difficulty obtaining student aid. There are guidelines set for whether or not your parents assets are considered on the FAFSA forms and “did your parents declare they will not help you” is not one of them.

  34. A compromise:

    When I went away to school, I was given a strings-attached credit card: I could use it only twice a year for textbooks, and my parents (who were not in a financial position to be generous) paid those bills. The only other educational expense they paid was the interest on my student loans while I was in college.

    Any other expenses, including my room and board, were my own (and were often covered by grants/scholarships); I inherited my loans when I graduated.

  35. What about college tuition costs? If she is including those…..I don’t know. I am struggling to pay off my college loans in a short period of time and it is almost crippling…..do you include that in her independence?

  36. It’s great to want to be independent, but is it really possible these days? You must declare your independence, and prove it, long before you go to college for you to get financial aid without your parents’ income and assets counting against you. I’ve met a few people who have doctors as parents, and don’t pay a cent, and they are stuck with zero financial aid. Loans, hellish hours of work, and then school on top of that. Right, drain all the life out of them before they can enjoy it.

    But beyond that, why aren’t the children helping their parents out during retirement? Is that an idea so foreign in this country? That it’s OK to leave our parents to fend for themselves when they helped us get so far?

  37. I wonder if most of the friction on this topic comes from everyone seeking to validate their own experiences – that is, it looks like most the people commenting here take the position that the appropriate level of parental support is the level that they themselves received.

    Including me. My parents saved tens of thousands of dollars for my college education. I didn’t need it all (I got a nice scholarship), so I got to keep the rest. And their future plans weren’t hurt too badly: They still managed to retire at 58, and they know how to manage their money, so I’m not worried about them ending up in poverty 20 years from now.

    My parents didn’t have to provide so much money for my education. But I’m really, really glad that they did. And I can’t imagine how I would be better off if they had provided less. That’s why it irks me when I see it argued that parents are doing their children a favor by not giving them any money for college.

  38. “To the young lady who wrote in initially, tell your parents to take that support money and put it towards their retirement by bumping up their 401(k) contributions by 2 or 3% a year. Suggest to them that this retirement savings is actually a benefit to you because it reduces the chances that they’ll be a financial burden to you later in life while also giving you the opportunity now to figure out how the world works.”

    No offense, Trent, but if at 18 I gave my parents financial advise, good or bad, I’d get a very negative response, not matter how well intentioned. Along the lines of “who do you think you are?”

    My parents “inheritance” to me was to pay for school, a state school. They paid tuition and books, while I paid living expenses and other costs, with the occasional $100 every once in a while when things got tight. Because of that, I graduated with no student loan debt. Even if I never get another penny from them, I’m still thankful for this. If the questioner wants to turn down financial support from her parents to “build character” or “learn valuable lessons,” it smacks of someone needing to swallow their pride. Sure you can learn lessons from being in debt, but if you can avoid it, I’d take that route.

  39. I don’t believe that it is necessarily a bad thing for parents to provide support to their children while they are in college. Sometimes managing coursework and a job is just too overwhelming. It is more important for college students to be just that: students. I’m not saying that parents should give their children the world while they are in school, just supply them with a limited budget and make a point of having a set amount – when it runs out, it’s gone! Young adults can still learn to budget this way.

    As far as allowing your children to move back home. I believe there are certain circumstances that justify “free” rent. (this article outlines what I mean, http://bit.ly/Y2uFS.

  40. So many assumptions were made while giving this advice.

    I don’t know why it is assumed that the parents don’t have an adequately funded retirement plan. Or why it is assumed that this student doesn’t already have a grounded financial background on which she can rely on to make good decisions once she graduates.

    There is nothing wrong whatsoever with helping out your children with their education costs. Here in Canada, the government has a matching program for our child’s education savings (called RESPs) which helps fund your child’s education while providng you with tax incentives. It is considered expected and normal to help our children succeed. They are already going to school – why also force them to attend the school of hard knocks?

  41. I think it comes down to whether or not parents have taught their children the skills necessary to become independant. Do they have a solid work ethic? Can they perform the basic financial, household and social tasks necessary to survive without self destructing? If they haven’t then regardless of what the parents, child or any of us might believe… the kids will get a harsh reality smack.

    Great discussion all the way around. It has given me the desire to go back and re-read the sections on “economic outpatient care” in the Millionaire Next Door, “The Lost Tools of Learning” by Dorothy Sayers and pretty much everything in “The Richest Man in Babylon”.

    Thinking about it, I might even start offering a few paid book reports for these and a few other books to the kids I care about. Better to pay $25 or $50 bucks for them to start reading and thinking about this stuff than the alternative…

  42. I totally disagree. My experience was much closer to yours, Trent, than the other extreme, though I was allowed to live rent-free at home if I wanted since my college was nearby (though I didn’t, for the most part).

    But i absolutely do not think this is what made me independent and self reliant, nor do I think it would have mattered if they had paid my tuition bills. I also am sure I was allowed to live at home after college as long as I wanted. But I didn’t want to. There “allowing” me to stay at home didn’t affect my level of independence at all.

    I think if parents can help financially without affecting their other goals, they probably should. If they can’t, that is ok too — but don’t say that it is actually better! At best, it is equivalent. There are many ways to help your kids turn into happy and healthy adults. Cutting them off at 18 isn’t the only way to get an independent self reliant person, and maybe not even the BEST way.

  43. I couldn’t disagree more with this advice. It is a shame that we encourage students to saddle themselves with massive amounts of debt to go to college. If possible, young adults should not start their working life with a burden of debt. If her parents have been planning to help her with college, they should do so. Saving up for college is just a smart way to do things (if you can). Saving up for purchases is always a good idea; why should education be an exception?

  44. I think a lot of high school graduates would be well served by aplying to college, then deferring for one to two years and working, even at relatively low paying jobs.

    It will make them much more focused and mature once they begin their college career, they will have a better sense of the nuts and bolts of what living and working can really be like, and they will get a lot more out of their college experience once they know what it at stake.

  45. @ Steven,

    “But beyond that, why aren’t the children helping their parents out during retirement? Is that an idea so foreign in this country? That it’s OK to leave our parents to fend for themselves when they helped us get so far?”

    For real.

  46. I think that regardless of the level of financial support parents are giving, that it is important that it is clearly spelled out. “Sally, we can give you $15,000 per year for the next 5 years, and we’ll give it to you in the form of a check in January of the new year”, which makes the young adult responsible for the management of the funds is much better than a slipshod arrangement where money has not been discussed, comes in unreliably or at random times, or according to no program.

    Even better, I think parents should expect/demand a yearly accounting for of the years’ expenses. Any corpration can tell you what all of its expenditures were for the year. Why not a 20 year old young adult, particularly one that is, in all reality, still in training and under some kind of partial guidance from his or her parents. If this seems intrusive, then I would suggest the condition of making it subject to an audit by an accountant instead of the parents.

  47. Times have changed, that’s for sure. I moved out at 18, making minimum wage, but I shared a place with a roommate. I was able to live quite comfortably and even survived being unemployed for 2 months, because of savings. These days, our child is having a tough time making it and we find ourselves helping with groceries, gasoline, etc. I’m glad I didn’t have to ask my parents for help and I’m also glad I decided to drop-out of college, especially after reading all of these stories of accumulated debt. I certainly hope the cost is worth it. I’m very fortunate I was able to carve out a career with very little college and I realize it seems to be a rare case. I just find the cost of college unfathomable and I wonder about the R.O.I.

  48. Why isn’t anyone paying attention to the fact that this girl *wants* to support herself independently. This isn’t a question of weather her parents should kick her out on her 18th birthday – it’s a question of weather her parents should let her try to support herself independently.

    I think they should respect that desire, and provide as much support as they can in other ways. They can help her figure out a budget and give her advice of getting a place to live and balancing work and school. They can let her know that if anything happens or it’s not working out, they can be there to support her. Maybe they can help her with tuition, and she can provide for her living expenses on her own.

    If she has the desire to become financially independent and try to gain the maturity and responsibility that comes along with that now, I say go for it. Her parents can still support her in that decision.

  49. Another option is to work your way through college paying for anything not covered by grants or scholarships with cash. It may take a little more time this way, but when you get your degree you have no debt – student loan or credit card.

  50. My parents paid for my college education, but after I graduated got a job and moved out. Since I came out of college debt free, I was able to save money for my house downpayment.

    Like others have said, I think it’s okay to pay for tutition and books…not CCs for pizza.

  51. I would never help a child with college or any other non-emergency (read: medical) expense after age 18. I think my dad gave me $100/month for three months after I moved out (which was 2 weeks before my 18th birthday) to go to college 2 hours away.

    If you can’t get into college with enough merit-based aid to pay your own way, maybe you shouldn’t be there. Go to trade school or directly into the workforce for a few years and decide ON YOUR OWN what is right for you. That’s when you’ll know a) if you want to go at all, and b) how much debt (if any) you’re willing to go into for that education. Plus, your parents won’t be claiming you on their tax returns, so if you go to college later then their assets can’t be used against you.

    The fact that so many people are willing to pay so much for something is part of what’s driving the price up so quickly. If more people choose other options or refuse to go if they can’t afford it, you can bet the “tuition bubble” will burst and then we can all get back to reality.

    And I have a PhD and work at a public university, which is what has driven me to this opinion.

  52. When she says “completely independent”, does she mean paying her own tuition? Or is she talking more about living expenses?

    If she is talking about tuition, can she pay for it herself without loans or at least minimal loans? If not I would let your parents pay for tuition if at all possible. You really want to avoid taking on loans if you can.

    If the parents’ and the student’s employment and finances allow, a good middle ground is for them to pay for tuition and room & board or rent, and the student pays for living expenses, such as entertainment, cell phone bills, non-meal plan food purchases, gas and insurance if they have a car, utilities if they live in an apartment where they are not included.

  53. I agree most with Melody that the parents should respect the fact that she wants to be as independent as possible. But they should work with her to make sure she understands exactly what that would mean.

    I would suggest that she apply for as many scholarships as possible. The more she earns that way, the less she has to pay. Then I’d suggest she get a part-time job. I wouldn’t suggest any student work full-time unless they truly have to. In college you need time to go to office hours, work with study groups, etc. Anything that can’t be paid for with scholarships and the part-time job should be up for negotiation between the young woman and her parents. I think at that point they might come to a good compromise where both sides feel satisfied.

  54. What about health insurance? It is allowed for kids in college up to the age of 23, often at no cost if there are other kids at home. What about the tax break for the parents if the kid is still a legal resident and, by definition, a dependent, even if they are living an independent lifestyle? Should there be an understood ‘fallback’ position that is stated in advance to handle the fact that many mental illnesses don’t manifest until kids go off to college or attempt responsible life, not to mention pregnancies, major injuries, illnesses, whatnot?

  55. Wow, talk about opening a can of worms! I do NOT think there is any one size fits all for this transition. DH and I are in our early fifties, and our parents both paid tuition and expenses whil we lived at home and got summer jobs for spending money. Both sets were clear that they paid for four years ONLY and for passing grades for non-married kids who followed the basic family values. It worked well for us.

    We offered the same to our sons, now in their mid twenties, at age 18. One flunked out, got a blue collar job, and then joined the Army. He went on the get is AA and is twelve credits away from his BS (on his and the GI bill’s dime.) Another son was asked to leave our home afer refusing to study of work. He took a year to get a clue and a real job in IS, also with an AA and workin on his BS.

    I think the bottom line is the kids’ maturity, work ethic, and willingness to cooperate. I think anyone funding an adult child to party and sleep is a moron, but I’d be willing to help an active student who lived by own famaily values.. After 18, I feel the two choices are cooperation or paying all your own bills.

  56. Oh, man, this has played out at my parents’ home this year. My sisters and I recieved about 20% financial support from our parents in college (+ a place to live in the summer). We earned our 80% through employment + scholarships.

    Our younger brother recieved 100% financial support. He had never had a job when he entered college, and my parents asked him not to get a job while in school because they feared he wouldn’t do well in his classes. He missed the deadline for scholarship applications because he wasn’t “paying attention” according to my mother.

    My sisters and I worry that our parents are setting him up for future failure by not allowing him to develop basic work skills as a college student. He also isn’t developing any money management skills because he depends so heavily on my parents. Oh, yeah, Mom and Dad also have a much greater say in his life, from classes to friends to free time…

    So to the student asking the question: it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Work with your parents to create a reasonable budget. Figure out how much you can contribute and be glad that your parents can help if needed.

  57. If the parents are doing well, they may have maxed out their tax-friendly options for retirement. If they’re saving more than those ceilings, they might be doing well enough to help their kids without any issues. I’ve seen plenty of kids have their parents support them through college BUT convey that they wanted their kids to be financially independent (if not flat out well off) a few years after graduation.

  58. I think there is something to be said for the multigenerational home. Americans love the idea of independence and self-reliance, but I think it’s unnecessarily stressful and kind of stupid.

    Why pay for the same services twice, when you can share them? Basic phone, Internet, cable, etc. are all services that can be parceled out fairly indefinitely. Plus, while your electric bill will go up, it’s cheaper to share food bills and so on.

    Isn’t conserving expenses the epitome of frugal? Why is having a roommate OK, but sharing a home with your parents not OK? I think you could trust your parent further than your roommate.

    Why not live with a grandparent who could help watch the little ones? Or live with a sibling who can help share the housekeeping, childcare, mortgage payment?

    It’s OK to say you can’t do it all, or don’t want to do it all. It’s more efficient to share the same chores among multiple people. It’s cheaper to do it in bulk.

    It’s easier for your children to be surrounded by lots of loving family. 76% of child abuse occurs by non-family members. (Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.)

    Remember that the American nuclear family has always been a sort of unattainable ideal. Over half of the children under age 18 in this country live in a single-parent, female headed household. Over half of the children under 5 live under the poverty line. Pooling resources in these, the most common situations, just makes sense.

    And yes, I fully intend for my child to live at home during college, rather than waste money on unnecessary expenses like rent. If she wants to move to China to get a job, that’s great! But I’m not going to insist that she live by herself as a maturity strategy.

  59. I knew someone whose parents were fairly well off, but whose parents refused to help her pay for college. She got little if any financial aid, since the formula worked out that her parents could afford it. She attempted to make it through a good private school, but after taking out enormous loans she realized she couldn’t possibly afford it and went to the local state school. Maybe it was a learning experience, but if her parents were trying to force her into attending the local state school, it would have been better to do it *before* the huge loans.

    My parents had to do it differently with each of their three children. My parents had no money my freshman year, so I paid much of my tuition from savings and loans. They could help a bit more in other years. Their main concern for me in college was that I take advantage of opportunities and have time enough to study, so they encouraged me to only work 10-15 hours a week, which I did all four years. They also wanted me to take advantage of unpaid or low paying internships in the summer and in return do more household chores and run errands. Their argument was that their hourly rates were far higher than anything I could make at a summer job, and it was more important to get experience. The result was that by doing well in school and making lots of connections I got a $5000 a year merit scholarship, and then was able to attend graduate school basically for free. My sisters each took very different routes, and have very different life situations.

  60. I admire any young adult living independently but I am glad I had so much support from my parents. I’m Australian, so I had a type of government support called HECS which meant that my tuition was deferred until I earnt a certain amount. I also worked part time and lived at home. I paid board, contributed to groceries, and was expected to the basic running of the house (cooking meals, doing laundry, etc). I also paid for all my other expenses: car insurance, textbooks, etc.
    My parents taught my a lot about budgeting and saving and I used my time at home to save a high percentage of my income, which allowed me to buy a house with 20% down right after I graduated.

    I now have a small mortgage and have begun paying back my HECS. I’ve never had to borrow money for bills or budget blow-outs and I expect I never will.

  61. I have to agree with Melody #33. This girl’s parents should respect her desire to be financially independent and help her out in other ways. There are a lot of parents out there who probably wish they had a child that wanted to be financially independent.

  62. I knew from a pretty young age that I was going to get no assistance from my parents for college. My parents divorced young and my dad remarried and had three new kids with his new wife. I left home at 17 as soon as I graduated and joined the military. I used the experience that I got from two enlistments and got a great job, and went to school in the evenings paid for by the GI Bill. To date I have never asked my parents for any money for anything. My dad’s new kids have been a different story. His wife is an RN and makes good money. They have given two of the girls help with their college and expenses. The third, a son joined the military and has been draining them of cash since he left home because he can’t manage money. I currently have a daughter and we are saving money for her for her future. Notice that I didn’t say for college. Not everyone wants to or needs to go to college. She might decide on a different route. If she wants to live with us while she is going to school she is welcome to, but it will all be dependant on keeping her grades up and contributing to the household. There will be the expectation though, that she will be given this money to help her get started in life. If she blows it she needn’t bother with trying to come back for more. I agree that there is a balance between kicking them out with nothing as soon as they graduate, and funding them through 9 years working towards a Bachelor’s degree while they are “finding themselves”.

  63. ITA with Courtney. I lived with my dad through college. It was the first time I had ever lived with him since my parents got divorced when I was very young. If I had left at 18, we wouldn’t have as solid of a relationship as we now do. Now that I am on my own I have told him that he will NEVER be in a nursing home…he gave me a home and I will gladly do the same. That’s what family is about.

  64. Can we please all go back and read Melody’s comment (#33)?

    This girl WANTS to be financially independent. There are a million ways to support a child and money is only one of them.

    If she WANTS to do this, then isn’t the best option to allow her to attempt it? It’s pretty well understood that we grow and develop the most when we step outside our comfort zone.

    Now, there’s plenty to be said about using teamwork and sharing responsibilities and spreading out costs and financial resources, but that is not at the core of the question.

    Take away this girl’s desire, and there’s plenty of valid arguments on the board, but when someone decides that they want to know what it’s like to take care of themselves, why would you ever try to deprive them of reaching their goals?

  65. I have to smile while reading some of these posts.

    It would seem that so many folks are happy to stay home, if their parents allow them to do so, while attending college. I guess most people have it pretty comfy at home and/or get along reasonably well with their families. That is NOT the case for some of us, who not only wanted to go to college, but also wanted to get as far away from dysfunctional families.

    I could not wait to get out of the house at 18. It was a very unhappy home situation for many reasons. It didn’t matter whether I could be “totally independent” whatever that is. I wanted to go to college so bad that I would have done just about anything. (I had to threaten my father, who was divorced from my mother, to fill out the financial info part of my scholarship application. He did not want to reveal anything to my mother, because for years, he claimed he had no money. As I told him, I. Am. Going. To. College. WITH a scholarship, so fill this out or you will NEVER see or hear from me again. Yea, it was that kind of family where basically my mother’s constant refrain was: Who do you think you are to go to college? Answer: Someone who worked their ass off in high school to get into the schools of her choice, got accepted, and then had to take what she could afford (loans) with a scholarship. )

    I had a scholarship, a grant, a loan AND worked three part-time jobs (and was editor of the paper and VP of student council) and was thrilled to death to be living on hot dogs and soup. First, on campus and then in my first apt. in NYC. I was tired and stressed but still pretty happy.

    I loved what I was studying; was thrilled to be in NYC; and met fabulous people. More important, I was NOT in my mother’s house anymore (except for some holidays, I have a little brother I missed terribly). And I met people who encouraged me to learn and excel and come into my own.

    That is independence.

    Meanwhile, I’ve spent most of this year trying to keep a friend sane. Her 26-year-old son, who blew almost $300,000 (his father’s insurance policy on his death), has no money left for his last year of school and has now got huge debts (including a school loan my friend stupidly co-signed because he told her his financial advisor said NOT to pay upfront and which he now refuses to pay, leaving her in the lurch and she cannot afford it.)

    She twice took him back home. He worked some jobs and paid her NOTHING for food, or anything else and it cost her money she does not have, to keep him off the street (she is so worried he’ll be literally on the street.)

    Meanwhile, he has no incentive to get any job as he has free everything again, even as his mother stresses out every day due to her own financial obligations due to her illnesses, etc.

    She may yet stroke out, but all she cares about is her son. And he cares nothing about her.

    Every family is different. Every kid, too.

    Last bit. We have friends who are mega wealthy.
    When their kids went to college, they made a simple deal: We’ll finance X% of your tuition and books–the rest, you have to work during school. If needed, We’ll make a personal loan for X years and you can work some of that off by working for us in our business.

    The kids were thrilled to have the opportunity to work off the personal loans to their parents and did so within three years of graduating (they worked nites and weekends, since they landed full-time jobs that didn’t pay enough to make the loans)

    The parents sent occasional modest care packages of food but that was it.

    The kids never expected their parents to pay for their entire tuition and took that into account when choosing a college. They hustled and they did well.

    Meanwhile, the kids of the parents’ rich friends, who were spotted for ALL the tuition, did poorly. They had no motivation and no drive. After years of being coddled by the parents, no surprise.

    You have to know your kids and you have to be willing to risk their ire and anger to get them launched.

    There are no safety nets other than those you create. And you only create them WHEN you have to!

  66. Realistically, if the OP really wants to support herself independently, she will, and the parents will have no say.

    My oldest brother left home in the middle of the night when he was 18 (actually, maybe 17 1/2), soon after my Mom had given him one of those “When you’re living under my roof you have to live by my rules” talks. And never came back. He woke my mom up to say “Mom, I’m going” and as gone, out, working and living independently of my parents. As far as I know, he didn’t even take a loan from them, except for maybe one for a couple of thousand bucks from my fatther several years later, which I have to assume he paid back on or before schedule, knowing him.

    I can well believe at the point he decided he was leaving, no one was going to be able to stop him. And if the OP wants to be independent, the parents have little to no say in it in the end.

    However, if the OP is saying “I want to feel like I’m independent, even though I’m not,” then she needs to have a reality check and realize what she is doing is pretending to be in a place of development where she actually isn’t, and her parents would do well to point that out. If so, there may be incremental steps that she can take to gain *more* degrees of independence than she currently has, in preparation for full independence.

  67. Even without full financial independence, young adults can make steps to redefine their relationship with their parents in a way that gains them some of the psychological independence that I think the young woman in the letter is probably yearning for. It requires her to first articulate what she’d like to happen and how she would like to relate with her parents about certain things, then she needs to communicate her desires directly and clearly to her parents in order to redefine and “grow up” or make age appropriate those aspects of their relationship that need changing.

    It can be harder work, and less clear, than just moving out but it can work if you want it to work and make it work.

  68. I agree with Courtney. However, I think the big difference in her example is that living with family/parents as an adult means that you live as an adult – paying bills or contributing in other ways as needed – not enjoying an extended childhood.

  69. Kirstie and Courtney are both spot on. There is a LOT to be said for multigeneration families, but IMHO it is darn near impossible to acheieve this healthy interdependence without the young person living on their own for some period of time. In our family, visiting our son and family is a joy (at our place or their’s) with everyone being kind, polite, considerate, and taking care of their own messes. This is WORLD’s away from the sullen, messy, impatient couch ‘tator that left my home in 2002! In fact, as he is a soldier, he knows that he and his family are always welcome here if need be!

  70. I would evaluate this on a case-by-case basis. Someone who has a real idea what they want to do I would love to support throughout college, and maybe a little beyond. But someone trying to find themselves in college or who only wants to go to be with friends won’t really be supported much.

    It may not be equal or may be “unfair” to treat kids differently than a sibling, but I would not be vague about the reasoning behind it. If you want to party a lot in college or don’t apply yourself or have no plans to use the education — then you can be the one to pay for the bulk of the cost through a job and/or student loans. I’d still help them by setting them up with a room at home and cheering them on.

    I have seen a lot of people make the lifestyle choice to live at a college. Not for the education, just to go and experience it and usually party. They make up a TINY PERCENTAGE of my fellow college students, but most of them have their education funded by parents.

  71. We gave our son a lot of money to help him out when he couldn’t find a job out East–we should have just said move home! He now owes us money which he will never be able to repay–we’ve accepted it is gone. But as a result of the debt, he feels guilty no matter how much we assure him and it has hurt our relationship.

  72. My parents started cutting the cord in middle school, when I had to buy gifts for friends’ birthdays with my own money (they stopped driving me to friends’ houses in the neighborhood when I was 9 too). In high school, they paid for shelter, food, health insurance, and vacations. That doesn’t include car insurance, gas, clothing, fun, etc. I learned a lot before 18. I think that’s the way to go because it forces you to figure out budgeting, but still provides absolute necessities. I think my parents did this out of financial necessity though, because I have 2 much younger sisters who are getting whatever they want because my parents have a lot more money now. It’s a real shame they aren’t learning the same skills I was taught.

  73. I agree with those who believe the all-or-nothing and out-at-18 philosophy is too arbitrary. Some children are simply more capable than others and some need more help, financial or otherwise.
    What concerns me is how much were these kids taught along the way? Have they been brought up to be responsible and independent? Did the parents teach them how to cook and clean and balance a checkbook? Were they given the opportunity to learn how to budget their money and given a good foundation towards making good choices in life? To me, that kind of help is far more valuable than a monetary bailout and if the parents haven’t done their best to teach their children how to survive in this world then they *should* support them until they learn. This is the promise you made (or should have made) when you had this child. I’m not saying they shouldn’t learn some things on their own and make their own mistakes but I see so many young people so totally and unnecessarily unprepared for life and most of it is through no fault of their own, their parents never bothered to teach them the most basic things. Maybe the kid isn’t thrilled about learning how to sew a button or make a meatloaf but it’s up to the parents to take the (usually longer and harder) road to be sure they learn so when they are on their own they have that experience to draw on.
    Of course that was my experience and I was far more capable than my peers and even people I met who were much older because my parents devoted themselves to teaching me the skills I’d need. Our family shorthand was ‘baby do’ because that’s when they started. My childhood was one long teaching moment but since it was done in a sense of cooperation and love I saw it as fun and loved to make them proud of what I could do. I was a change of life whoops and my mother told me they made a conscious decision to bring me up to be more independent because they knew I wouldn’t have them as long as if they’d had me in their 20s. Sadly, they were right and they were both gone by the time I was 26 but I have the skills they taught me and the ability to teach myself the ones they didn’t. IMHO, that’s what kids need.
    They also told me they’d be there to help me in whatever way they could for the rest of their lives. But-since they’d instilled in me a sense of self-reliance I did all I could to avoid asking because I wanted to do it on my own. The two times I had to ask I was so angry at myself for needing a bailout. They were happy to do it but even happier that I’d figured out how to never make that particular mistake again.

  74. From an older perspective, when I graduated in 1980, I left home, worked full time at minimum wage, went to college part time, shared a cheap apartment with three other girls, bought a huge clunker of a used car, and still managed to eat. My daughters cannot do that anymore, the math just doesn’t add up! DD#1 lived at home while working full time and going to nursing school, so I provided room and board. She still had to take student loans. DD#2 left home, got an apt. worked full time, school at night, and got wiped out when her car died. She took out a reasonable car loan, only $125/mo., and was just too close to the edge, ended up moving back home, still working and going to college. I don’t have money to subsidize them. I do have a house with rooms and beds, and they are welcome to use them.

  75. My father paid my tuition for college and he paid most of my expenses. For my first two years there I didn’t work during school semesters. I am very grateful that he supported me because I was able to get excellent grades my first two years and figure out the whole college thing without a lot of financial worry and pressure. I always worked in the summer and saved that money to buy a car and use throughout the year for clothes and other personal stuff. I was able to strech the summer job money because my dad paid rent, car insurance (he always wanted to make sure I had insurance), health insurance, gas/electric bills, and tuition and books, but not much above that.
    It worked very well for me because as I got older I was more able to balance school and a job. I also found interesting jobs – I never felt trapped in a job I hated because I knew I had a safety net, but I didn’t ever feel entitled to the support either.
    For me, it made a really good balance, and now that I have a child of my own I plan to do the same with her. She knows that at 18 she will be independent and on her own, yet as long as she’s working on school I will cover her necessities, at least through the first two years so she can study hard.

  76. My experience won’t be as helpful, but I will give it. I was raised in a household where no one had gone to college. I wanted to badly. I turned down a full scholarship to any of our state’s teachers colleges because I wanted to go to our church college. There I received a $50 grant and that was it. I worked for 1 year before going. I lived at home.

    I went through 2 years there with no help from home. I took a full load and worked 40-48 hours a week at minimum wage or less. This was in 1956-8. My costs actually ended up being cheaper than at a state college. I had no loans to pay off and until the year after I left school there was no such thing as guaranteed student loans. The only help I got from home was the money I had paid in rent when I was in my late teens. Mom & Dad had banked it and when I lost my job 2nd semester of my soph. year, they sent that so I wouldn’t lose what I had already spent.

    I just took 2 courses at a local community college which cost me more (incl books) than I paid for a whole year of tuition (full load) and room while at college. Wow – have times changed.

    I lived at home between semesters, rent free, and also after out, I left home, worked, moved home again, left again, moved back. When being investigated for a State Dept. job, the question was asked – did I not get along with my step-mother because I left home so many times. Mom said the question was wrong. It should have been – why was I moving back home so many times. I was 25 at the time. The next year I left home for the last time for the State Dept job and then got married.

    We did basically the same thing for our daughter when she went. We helped with some minor expenses and she had student loans. This was in the 80′s. Her first year we let her go 400 miles away to college. She had some rules at the school and, if desperate, she could call and we would help. She called very little. She is still paying on the loans because they got deferred so often because her income was little or nil. She is doing fine now. Our son joined the Army and served for 9 years. He now has a wonderful job. We sent them farther from home to help them learn to be on their own, yet with access to us if needed, and a place that still had some rules to follow.

    No advice will fit everyone perfectly. Our job is to find and use the best advice for us and to be thankful if our circumstances worked out well.

  77. I still don’t get why people think taking on student loans is demonstrating independence. It’s just a more expensive form of dependence.

  78. Wow. Seems everyone’s opinion differs on this topic!
    I think it depends on the parents, and how they raised their child – of course, I completely agree with Trent on the NOT supporting adult children – as that just enables, and they will never get anywhere in life. You have to TEACH and GUIDE your children – give them the skills and they will make it.
    I was thrown out on my 18th birthday – 2 months before HS graduation. No other reason than my Father felt that at 18 you were an “adult”, therefore – get out of my house and be one – and his Father did that to him.
    I was never taught any financials other than putting any birthday, job money into a savings account (to this day, at 44, I have not seen a dime of those “savings”), I had no car, and was never taught to drive! I had to move in with a friend, as I had no idea what I was going to do. I made it to graduation, got a full time minimum wage job at a local retailer – and thankfully, met a couple at church who took me in and guided me through the next 2 years – showing me how to save, drive, get my license and buy a car – and eventually, move out into my own apartment. I am forever thankful to them.
    It took me many years of working full time during the day, and going to school at night to finally get my degree – and personally, while I felt I was cheated out of something by my Father – I made my way on my own by struggling for many years – and am proud of that, BUT I would NEVER do that to my own child! I would teach them the skills they need to make it, and guide them through the process, rather than the “trial and error” that I had to go through by being tossed out the day I became an “adult”.

  79. I think these rules are all livable…whatever the parents and kids decide to do, as long as everyone is on the same page about expectations.
    I must write about one of my saddest professional day. I was working as a counselor at a homeless women’s shelter. One evening, a young woman came to the shelter. I did the intake, and as I asked her her birthdate, she started crying, and then told me that her 18th birthday was the day before, and her parents had kicked her out.
    No money, no job, and unfortunately, nowhere to sleep. I could never do that to my child, but, I guess it’s done all the time.

  80. A lot of people here have mentioned not being able to support yourself in college, because it’s so expensive. I do believe, personally, that parents should save up for their children to be able to go to college. At least in part. Also, I’m 22 years old and have not yet gone to college. I’m aiming to be able to be financially stable and able to AFFORD it, not BORROW. I’m looking at Apprenticeships in my career field, etc. etc. etc. Ya, that may not be possible for everyone, and in that case I’d understand a parent helping their kid out with food and such while their in college. But it should taper off…I don’t think a parent should IMMEDIATELY cancel all support.

    -Anthony.

  81. The topic of how much independence to give your child (in any area, not just at moving out at 18) is a tricky subject, but it seems to me that the general guidelines should be:
    1) Let your kid try anything where failure won’t be horribly disastrous.
    2) Keep an eye on your kid so that you know if/when they are about to fail.
    3) If your kid asks for help, give it. (This doesn’t necessarily mean swoop in and obliterate the problem completely. There are times when that’s appropriate, but use the kid’s desires as a guideline.) Otherwise, hands off.
    4) If failure seems inevitable but your kid still hasn’t ask for help, strongly consider letting him fail, especially if he turns down help when you offer it. You’ll have to use your judgment here, but failure isn’t necessarily that big of a deal.

    I agree with everyone who says not to take on student loans if you don’t have to. That’s just a different kind of dependence. If you can’t pay for tuition/books on your own but your parents can and will, let them pay for it and consider it a debt to them if you really want to.

    If you have things where your bills are currently combined with theirs (like a family cell phone plan), I’d go ahead and keep that.

    Other than that, what’s the worst that could happen if you try to be independent and fail? You work extra hard, get stressed out, and still can’t pay the bills? Well, they can give you money THEN! Even though you’ll feel a bit ashamed and they’ll have still given you money, chances are that scenario still lets you keep more pride and them keep more money than if you’d never tried at all.

  82. A lot of interesting comments here. When I was in high school I knew a girl who had already been told that she and her 3 sisters would have to move out on their 18th birthdays. We were in junior high and she was already worried.

    I actually moved out just before I turned 18 (to be closer to my first job) and never lived at home again. I moved 650 miles from home a year later the day after I got married.

    Did all of that make me independent? Not in the least. I was an only child and my folks insisted on picking my first apartment for me! They provided financial help throughout my marriage and after it broke up (when I was a single mother with 3 kids 5 and under).

    But it cuts both ways. Each of my kids took turns during their teens living with my mother over a period of 5 or 6 years so she could stay in her condo and not have to go into extended care (she had very serious rheumatoid arthritis and had multiple surgeries & lots of meds). It wasn’t easy, as whoever was there had to take 2 buses and rapid transit to get to and from their private religious high school from where my mother lived and I’m very proud of them.

    Now, my 2nd husband, our 6 year old & I share a house with one of my adult kids and her family. We share childcare, vehicles and get each other to work and school. My other 2 adult kids live on their own. Different things work for different people.

    I think my parents (especially my mother) should have handled things differently so that I was able to become financially independent at a much younger age but that’s just wishful thinking. I mean, we’re talking about a woman who expected me to hold her hand when we crossed the street *when I was a teenager*! She clearly never intended for me to grow up. And I wanted to, but I didn’t have the skills so I was just floundering around. I’ve tried to make sure all my kids know more, but you also have to let them make their own mistakes or you just become your own mother.

  83. I would recommend what my parents did for me. I came up with a budget for living expenses and some discretionary funds, and paid for what I could with a part time job, while my parents paid the rest. I could learn how to budget and manage finances, but did not have to lose studying or networking time to do fully support myself.

    I would also say that I recently offered my home to a college friend who was fully support by his parents. He is out of college 3 years now, and was living in his car, because he still hasn’t figured out how to manage money or be responsible. I gave him 4 weeks to live rent free and gather funds, but he had so little willpower, he didn’t save a dime and is now moving back in with his parents who are “thrilled” to have him back.

    I wouldn’t recommend going fully independent while in college, because there are a LOT of opportunities that are non-paying and time consuming but very helpful for the future, BUT, parents should come up with a plan to encourage the child to take some responsibility for money and time management. College is a great time for us kids to ‘test our wings’ before we go out into the world and its a disservice to your children to not encourage this in someway. Even more of a disservice if you continue it later in life

  84. Especially with the economy now I dont know of any parents who give their kids the ultimatum “18 and out.” But ideally parents and kids would ideally like to go off to college at 18 and be fully independent with a “good job” when they graduate. Parents have the idea that if kids just do good in college there would be corporations lining up to take their pick at seniors like the NFL draft. No parents really want their kids to move back home after graduation unless they absolutely have to.

    I have a few friends that were great students, did well in school all throughout college, never worked but are now lost because they dont know what to do. They’re so used to the school system of study, do good, then be rewarded. They didn’t major in a straight to work major like the medical field and are still waiting to be rewarded for graduating. They lack real world skills but did everything by the book. I believe that schools really need to teach students more real world skills like financial literacy. It’s rare to have a job now where you can put all your trust and life into a corporation that will take care of you for the rest of your life.

  85. OK, it’s a year later. This person has now entered college – any follow up on the status now?

    It seems 2 things missed here were: 1) how the student was going to finance the independent life – working while going to school, savings up to that point, summer job only, credit card debt or school loans? And 2), what motivated the student’s decision – are the parents too controlling or intrusive when they’re paying the bills, or is this person already very independent & ready to move on? One doesn’t often see someone declining financial help without a good reason behind the decision.

  86. I love systemerror #38′s statement: “My parents “inheritance” to me was to pay for school, a state school.” S/he articulated my husband’s and my philosophy when it came to paying my sons’ tuition/books/living expenses during their college years. We are both college professors and have seen how students who have to support themselves during college suffer relative to those who don’t–they miss out on opportunities for networking (don’t discount that) with professors and potential employers, they can’t take advantage of the extra-curricular opportunities like lectures and concerts that broaden the college experience, and, frequently, they are too tired from working to get the most out of their classes and their grades suffer.

    Our son who graduated in May 2009 (in four years) is now on his own feet. He has a job, has an apartment, pays his own bills, and is frugal and saves a couple of thousand dollars (or even more!!) each month. The other one is still in college (a junior) but we expect he will follow in the financially responsible path of his brother.

    We have also told them through the years that we will smooth their path by paying for their college but we expect that they smooth their children’s path by paying for their children’s college.

  87. I think this is a topic that varies enormously (as the posters have made clear!) with each family, and even within each family. I’m the middle of three sisters from Canada. The oldest went into a military university, which was fully funded and paid, and in return owed five years of military service. She loved it, and chose that route because she wanted to be independent, and wanted to do something both physically and intellectually active. My parents paid for trips home (it was a three-hour flight or two-day car drive).

    I, in the middle, am more scholarly and interested in far less practical things. I was responsible through my undergrad for tuition, books, and spending money; my parents helped with living expenses. I moved across the country for the program I wanted because my parents had told me they wanted me to live in residence regardless of whether I went to the local university or not. I paid my portion by summer work and scholarships, and did not work while I was at school. I took my parents’ help as my “pay” for my study, and considered that my job. They knew I wanted to go on to graduate school, and I knew that I would have to pay for that myself. When I graduated from undergrad, I got a full scholarship for a master’s program and then full funding the next year for a PhD, which I’ve just finished. My parents were more financially secure as we went on, and were able to help me a bit more later on so I did not have to take out very much in the way of loans — this meant that I have been able to come home more frequently than otherwise, and have also been able to have some wonderful travelling experiences.

    My younger sister has more expensive hobbies than I do and, like the OP, is much more desirous of being financially independent. She reluctantly accepts some help from my parents for her university (together with scholarships), and also works in order to pay for her hobbies.

    I have just got my first “real” job, in my field (a difficult one to get work in), in a town I love, and am starting to save and pay down the small amount of debt I have. I am incredibly grateful to my parents for their financial and emotional support. I would have floundered terribly if I’d been forced to live entirely on my own at 18; my sisters, not so much. However, I also feel that if my parents get into financial trouble when they are older, I will support them most. That, and being successful at what I do, are ways to repay them. They may find my choice of occupation (medieval literature and novel-writing!) bizarre, but they have supported me all the way through.

    Like the others who have posted similarly to me, I never felt “entitled” to the financial help my parents gave me, and I was very aware of the costs to them. I lived frugally, and, as I said, treated my schooling as the work they were paying for.

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