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.
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?