Extracting the Child Who Stayed in the Nest Too Long

Margaret writes in:

I have a twenty four year old daughter who is still living at home. She went away to college, but moved back in after college while looking for a job. She’s had a good job now for two years, but has made no move at all to move out. She does give me money for groceries and for bills, but she spends the rest of her money as soon as she gets it on clothes and cell phones and laptops.

I think it’s time for her to move out, but I know that if I kicked her out, she would have nothing to fall back on. What credit she has is pretty poor.

So I’m stuck. What do you suggest?

I suggest putting the impetus back on your daughter. This is how I would handle the situation.

Here’s what I would do. I’d sit down and have a heart to heart with her. Explain, quite simply, that you’ve been happy to give her a place to live while she gets back on her feet, but now it’s time to move on. Most of the time, children in this situation will do everything they can to delay moving out, so you’ll hear a lot of excuses about how she doesn’t have enough money, she’s not ready, and so forth.

So change the rules a bit. Offer to let her stay there for one more month if she opens up a savings account. At the end of each month, as long as the balance in that account is $500 (or $1,000) higher than it was the month before, she can stay for another month. Otherwise, it’s time for her to go.

This little move achieves both your goals and her goals. Your goal is to have your daughter become responsible for her own money to the point where she can easily move out of your home, a goal accomplished by her having a wad of money in the bank. Her goal is to prolong the situation – and you’ve given her a route to do that.

Eventually, what will happen is that she’ll begin to realize the money she’s saved up can be enough to help her buy nice living quarters of her own without Mom constantly there overseeing things. That’s a big difference from the state she’s in now, where the idea of moving out is far in the nebulous future. When that option becomes tangible and real, she’ll want to move out.

What if she says that this is impossible? Simply tell her you’d be happy to help her figure out how to manage it. Point out that her income significantly exceeds the amount you expect her to save. If it results in a fight, stick to your guns and remember that she’s actively choosing not to progress forward. That’s much different than merely spinning her wheels, which is what was happening before. If that’s the situation, you have to cut her free and let her make mistakes on her own.

What if she’s on board strongly with the idea? Encourage her. Give her a copy of the book Your Money or Your Life as food for thought. Offer to counsel her in any way that she wants, but don’t push – quite often, the path to learning how to manage one’s own resources is a solitary one. You might even end up pointing her towards The Simple Dollar or other such websites for other ideas.

Remember, the end goal here isn’t to merely extract your daughter from your home, but to make sure that she’s self-sufficient enough that this won’t be a continuous problem in the future. Give her all you can to make her self-sufficient – if she chooses not to, you’ve done all you can. That’s what good parenting is, in the end – making sure your children have the tools to succeed on their own and that they know how to use those tools.

Good luck, Margaret.

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