Updated on 01.31.07

Financial Independence Week: Should I Expect My Parents To Rescue Me?

Trent Hamm

For many young people, one of the biggest fears of financial independence revolves around what happens in the event of a disaster. Should you expect to be able to move back in if something goes awry? Will they provide financial assistance? Or are you on your own? Although it is best to expect no assistance at all and plan accordingly, it is often better for everyone to understand what others are thinking and expecting of them, so that when a crisis comes, there are no damaged expectation and damaged relationships.

Here are some ways to handle a financial crisis with regards to your parents, both before and during the crisis.

Don’t expect anything. Being independent means that you’re not depending on anyone for anything. Remember that in your independence, your parents are setting you up to be their equal, not their child. They don’t rely on their parents for support (well, if they do, there are bigger familial problems than this post can address), so if you wish to be considered an equal, why should you expect the same?

Talk to your parents about these “what ifs.” If you’re considering a move with some risk, simply find out what your parachute is like. Don’t assume anything at all; simply have a healthy conversation where everyone’s beliefs and expectations are laid out on the table. Quite often, your parents will be able to offer you assistance in nonfinancial ways that you might not even imagine.

Don’t hold a grudge if you don’t hear what you hope to hear. If you believe that your parents would help you no matter what and you hear otherwise, don’t hold a grudge against them. A healthy relationship with parents can be an invaluable thing to have through thick and thin; just because they don’t provide financial support to you any more is a poor reason to abandon that relationship.

When a crisis occurs, be open about it. Once it is clear that there is no financial expectation, you should be open with your parents about financial crises. They can provide emotional support, counseling, and perhaps other invaluable nonfinancial assistance.

Ask for their assistance in planning in advance for a crisis. This is a very useful step for protecting yourself from future mistakes. Suggest that your parents set up a savings account with you that can only be withdrawn upon with both of your signatures, then make deposits into this account as an emergency fund. Your parents may be willing to make some deposits as well. Then, if you face a financial crisis, you’ve got several things in your corner: great counselors who can provide advice and financial resources to draw upon if there is no other way out. Plus, setting up such a fund and sticking to it is perhaps the clearest sign of all to your parents that you are being successfully independent. Even better, this measure prevents you from dipping into that emergency fund for unnecessary things.

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  1. Fran says:

    Once upon a half-life ago, I dated a guy who’d grown up in a very affluent family. He was in his early thirties, had wrecked his credit beyond repair, and still expected them to bail his booty out. Would that Trent’s article and wisdom had been available to all back then. And heck, yes, I dumped him. ;)

  2. boardmadd says:

    Much as I love my Mom and Dad, they did me a great disservice when I was a teenager (totally unintentionally) by giving me one of their credit cards unsigned; this way I could use it any time I wanted to, no questions asked (this was back in the days when you could actually *do* that). Needless to say, it insulated me from just how much money I was spending (they made a *lot* of money at the time, so rarely said anything about it). When they *did* get on my case about it, I just decided to get my own cards… and WHOA, what a wild and not fun ride *that* was!!! It took me a few years, but I managed to rack up close to $30,000 worth of debt, much of it to fund my “music career” (I was going to be a superstar and it would all be worth it… HAHAHAAA!!!!!).

    Needless to say, I faced many years of tough times because I was maxed out, and thankfully I was able to stay afloat (barely)! It was hard going and it was a long road until we were able to clean all of that crap out.

    While I had $30,000 in debt when we got married (at 24) my wife had managed to save almost $30,000 (at 23, having worked and saved aggressively since she was 16). What made her different from me was that she did *not* come from an affluent family; her dad was a machinist and made decent money, but he had worked as a logger and a miner and in various other jobs over many years; he was a *very* frugal man and believed in making everything go as far as it could for as long as it could and still have a utility value. He developed the same mindset in his daughter; work hard, be frugal, save as much as you can and make do with what you have for as long as you can.

    I kept our finances separate after we got married for three years because I felt guilty that I would effectively wipe out her savings. Ultimately, we cleaned up the mess, put everything together, and pledged to do all we could to stay out of debt. We have been consumer debt free since 1995. In December, we paid off our mortgage, so for the first time in fifteen years of marriage, we can now say we are completely debt free!

    Through all of this, we have been *very* open and transparent about money to our kids, the true cost of stuff, and a declaration that we will not “bail them out” of financial trouble if they get themselves into it. Of course, we hope that we will teach them the way to stay out of trouble in the first place (knock on wood :) ).

  3. Cheryl says:

    Adults expect their parents to bail them out of a financial crisis? Really? Maybe I was raised to be independent, but that’s just me I suppose.

  4. GEoff says:

    I’ve always had a pretty independent streak, and haven’t taken money from my folks since high school. But when I fell on my ass after college graduation they bought me a bus ticket back home from Iowa and let me crash on their couch for six months while I got life together. … I still owed some guy in Iowa $2,000 and I paid for that myself with the $8 an hour job I could find, and I saved up the stake to buy a truck and put some seed money together so I could move to Dallas. But I really think they bailed me out…

  5. Vanessa says:


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