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Owing Mom and Dad: Debt or Gratitude?

The following is a guest post by Susie Bafico.

Plenty of parents help out their adult kids with cash, and it’s not just cars and trust funds. For many, the safety net is pulled on the way to college, while for others it never really ends.

If you’re still making withdrawals at the Bank of Mom and Dad, don’t worry so much about it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it may be more common than you think.

Of course, the relationship between money and family is different for everyone:

  • One friend of mine just paid back a $5,000 loan to her parents, happy to be finally free of the family-entangled debt.
  • Another friend of mine took out thousands of dollars in student loans while her parents are building a ritzy retirement home and paying for her sister’s private school education.
  • A third friend is still out $4,000 her dad still hasn’t paid her back from years ago.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen how my friends have struggled, but I love to praise my parents for the financial help they’ve given me. They were wonderful for paying for college for me, and yes, an allowance was included. (Okay, that might be a little embarrassing.) Hey, at least I was able to leave college without debt and with a small pile of savings.
I was living on the West Coast, with plans to move to New York that same summer to start my career (…and by ‘start my career’ I meant, move out there and hope to find a job.). Apartment hunting 3,000 miles away is not an easy endeavor, unless you have the big bucks.After graduation, however, I hit a different financial road block.

Thankfully, about the time I was throwing in the towel a friend offered to share her apartment with me for a month, and my parents presented me with a deal: I’d have six months of support to make something happen or I would be heading back home.

Right before the job market fell apart, I found a job at FiLife, and a home in New York City. How do I feel about my arrangement with my parents? So grateful. I wouldn’t have made it without their help. I plan on returning the favor as much as I can from now on – but lucky for me, there’s no guilt administered in my family.

I realize that’s not the case for everyone, which is why people who are lucky enough to be supported when they need it (and not waste that gift!) shouldn’t be afraid to admit they received help from home.

What about you? Do you still receive money from your parents? Are there any strings attached?

Published or updated on August 27, 2009

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  1. My parents helped me as they good in college and I was very greatful.

    I plan to help my children as much as I can as well. College costs have gone up and salaries have not kept paced. It is hard for students to repay thousands of dollars of debt when they start out making maybe 40K to 50K on average per year. I do not want my kids to have that burden over their head if possible.

  2. Thanks for the post, Susie! I agree with Paul 100%. I’m not bothered at all by young adults still accepting help from their parents as long as they appreciate it and show gratitude. (Younger generations can take all the help we can get starting out in life).

    I am, however, occasionally shocked and appalled by 22, 25, even 29-year olds who send routine bills home to mom and dad every month but live like they’re self-made millionaires. One can only hope it will catch up with them sooner or later.

  3. Paul says:

    Great post Susie, I think all that matters is ones attitude towards the assistance. From your post it is obvious that you were able to make the best of it and not put your parents in the poor house all the while staying extremely appreciative of what they did.

    What bothers me the most is when I learn that someone I know receives assistance and they seem to not have an end game. They just add this money into their “budget” as though it is income and not a safety net put in place to allow them to do something exceptional, like follow their dream as you did.

    I think when it comes time for me to decide how I will help my children I will take the approach your parents did and put a time line on it.

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