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Should You Take Financial Help from Your Parents?


Yesterday being father’s day, I was thinking about the often controversial topic of twenty-somethings receiving financial assistance from their parents. If your parents offer financial help, should you take it? And how?

Not everybody is so fortunate to have parents who are in a position to support them financially after they leave the nest. My dad often expresses regret that he couldn’t afford to buy me a car or pay for me to travel around the world for a year (or two or three), as so many of my friends seem to have done after college.

“Pa-lease!” I tell him.

I feel privileged to have as much help as my parents have already given me. They helped put me through an expensive college at a very difficult financial time for them, they let me live at home for a couple of years after college (without rent), and they continue to happily feed me whenever I pop over unannounced! I realize that millions of people my age haven’t enjoyed such luxuries, and I am grateful for everything my parents have done for me – financially and otherwise.

While many twenty-somethings have been living on their own without parental assistance since the age of 18, still others are 25, 26, or 27 and their parents are still paying some or all of their bills. I have known people who, at the age of 25, seem to be living autonomously, but whose parents pay their rent, their car insurance – even their credit cards. That begs the question, even if your parents are super-rich, when is enough, enough?

When to Accept Financial Help from Your Parents

Personally, I think that if your parents can afford it – it’s 100% acceptable to accept their financial support through college. If they can foot the bill for your college education – including living expenses during that time – then I say lucky you. After all, most parents aspire for their kids to go to college, and many parents plan for many years for that education.

But after college? I think you should be on your own. Period.

Am I saying that you can’t go live at home while looking for work or spending your first year or two on the job? No, I’m not, but I would suggest that you pay some kind of rent.

Am I saying that parents shouldn’t help with graduate school? Yes, perhaps I am. I think that your decision to go to graduate school should be based upon your ability to pay for it – either now – or later if you’re going to be earning a degree that will significantly increase your income.

Am I saying that you shouldn’t join the peace corps, teach English aboard for two years, or spend the years after college doing something for the better good, but earning little or no money? No, I’m not, but I suggest you use the time to learn what “living within your means” is all about.

Am I saying you shouldn’t let your parents pay for your wedding? Maybe. Yes, maybe. Many parents will want to contribute financially to their children’s weddings, and if they are in a position to do so, I think it is okay for the bride and groom to accept their generosity. However, I do not think that you should get married unless you are in a position to pay for the wedding (and starting your life together) on your own. That may mean you have a wedding with 10 friends, a bonfire, and a keg, (which is so completely OK, by the way!), but don’t go expecting your parents to foot a $30k wedding bill if you don’t even have a tenth of that in the bank!

How to Accept Financial Help from Your Parents

Whether they can afford it or not, most parents want to help their twenty-something children financially, and many of us will accept that help. While I would argue that every twenty-something be brave enough to learn to support themselves sooner, rather than later, I recognize that it is getting harder, and that if parental assistance is available, you may choose to take it.

So if you are ever lucky enough to have your parents pay your rent, pay your way through med school, or bail you out of debt, remember:

  • Once you are 18, your parents, even if they are billionaires, have no obligation to give you money. Be grateful!
  • Even if you are at Harvard and everybody’s using Daddy’s credit card, most of the world isn’t so lucky. Don’t flaunt the fact that it’s not your money.
  • The fact that it’s your parents’ money doesn’t give you the license to be fiscally irresponsible. Sooner or later, you’re going to be on your own. If you can’t learn to budget and spend wisely with your parents’ money, you’re going to be in big trouble when it’s your own.

Special Circumstances

Though this article addresses the most common times parents will want to help their twenty-something children financially (college, graduate school, the first few years in the real world, and marriage), there are always special circumstances that arise in which parents may help out their adult children financially. I will write about some of those circumstances in the future.

What do you think? Have you parents supported you financially into your twenties or have you been on your own since day one? How do you feel about it?

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Comments

  1. I have learned, not just with finances, that there are very few (there are those few, though!) things I can be dogmatic about. Reading your post, I totally agreed with you. Kids should learn independence and they should learn the value of a dollar.

    Thing is, I’m 25 and live at home. And while I do contribute (work for the family company on the side for free), I’m pretty sure I’m getting the good end of the deal here.

    My parents and I have talked about this (by my bringing it up), and they are almost hurt that I wouldn’t want them to help me. When I reimburse my dad for the cell phone bills, he acts a little confused.

    For them, they worked so they could give. Not just to their kids but to a lot of people. I’m learning that they show they love me that way, and I show I love them by being grateful for the compromised giving that goes on.

  2. I think you really hit on something GG – so many parents want nothing more than to help their adult kids and would see declining that help as ungrateful and hurtful.

    I think that, as adult kids, how we accept help from our parents (whether with grace or with entitlement) defines whether that financial support will help us in the long run — or hurt us.

  3. Veronica says:

    As one of those 20-somethings who moved out to go to graduate school right after college, I’ve been able to compare those who have stayed at home and those who haven’t. My friends who stay at home, living rent-free or close to rent-free have been able to sock money away to pay the loans they do carry or for future expenses. Those of us who moved out, had to fully fund grad school through loans and are now facing debt burdens of almost 100k will never get out of the hole we dug for ourselves. Honestly my fancy private undergrad school ended up costing me less than my city college public school…and I’ll be headed into a low paying public sector job. So moving into my old basement bedroom is on the agenda…

  4. T. Porter says:

    How do you all feel about having parents who refuse to help you financially just because they are struggling themselves. They have been trying to push my sisters and I on own own since we can remember, because they fail to take care of their own finances; not because of hardship but simply because my mother just will not work at all. I am 21 and want to go to school so genuinely, I pay cash out of pocket for community college b/c they don’t do their taxes, which makes me unable to turn in a FAFSA. That is the key is getting any type of schooling funding: whether it be grants, scholarships, or loans. And I have no credit worthy co- signer in my life to boot. What options might I have; any ideas anyone?

  5. T. Porter says:

    to clerify what I wrote previously: I meant my parents struggle financially b/c my mother refuses to work and yet spend quite a bit of money leisurely. And I didn’t mention that they borrow money and use my sisters’ and my name for credit towards their own needs like cable, elcetricity, rent etc.

    • This is in response to T. Porter’s comment – parents are supposed to help their children financially – not the other way around – I am working so hard so that my son will not have to experience the hardships I have had to and continue to endure – I am in college to for nursing now – I know I will still be in poverty for a few more years until I am out of school and have worked a decent job long enough to get caught up financially but I plan on saving as much as I can for him to go to college someday so that he can be independent and hopefully he and his children will get to have much better quality lives.

  6. My parents have never helped me – not with college, not with anything that I can think of especially when it comes to money – I think people assume that because they have money they have helped me – oh they could afford it – even when I was a kid, they would buy me like 2 shirts and 2 pairs of jeans for school every year, I had to constantly borrow clothes from friends, I had to start working at age 15 and I literally saved all the money I made so that I could help pay for college – when in college I had 2 scholarships, a pell grant for $2000 total (was based on my parents income) and I worked three jobs with crappy cheapo cars I bought just to make it through – does it make me feel like they love money more than their own child? Is it depressing? Absolutely.

  7. Earl Balentine says:

    We were divorced when my 3 children were 10/12/14. My children struggled to finish high school. I regret I didn’t have the money to send our kids to college. My ex-wife and I both were struggling to make ends meet.
    Today one of my sons is very successful and one is getting by and the other goes thru 2 or 3 jobs every year. My 2nd wife has an adult son and he to is living off of food stamps and unemployee checks. Today my wife and I are doing fine finacially and plan on retiring in the next year. The problem is we seem to be dishing out money to our kids to pay their rent and bills on a regualr bases with no end in sight. I don’t mine helping, but as soon as they get a job and I pay their rent, they quit their job again. They are always one month away from sleeping in their car.

  8. I agree 100% with the post above. My folks have tried to pay for as many of my expenses as they could and I have accepted very little of their “aid.” They also buy me a lot of gifts and try to pay for things ordinarily have to pay for in my every day life. For example, when I complained about paying $250 to my car mechanic, they offered to pay for it. It is my (unproven, but highly suspected) belief that they are using these gifts as leverage in an attempt to control me and deny me my financial independence. I am not poor. I can afford to pay a $250 to the car mechanic and could even afford much more.