I thought for a moment and said: "For my entire adult life I'd driven a boat down a clearly marked, narrow channel. I had to stay between the markers in order to provide for my family. Then, when you and your siblings left, I came to a vast ocean with no markers and no land in sight. It was exciting and overwhelming; I had all these options, and I wasn't sure what to do. But it sure was nice my money was finally freed up to make that last push toward retirement."
And yet, some 85 percent of parents plan to provide some sort of post-graduation financial assistance.
Sure, new graduates are entering a much more difficult job market than he did, and even those who do secure jobs are unlikely to have the job stability he's enjoyed. But a difficult job market is only part of the story.
Social norms have shifted so that accepting help from Mom and Dad well into your 20s is okay. Psychologists call this trend “emerging adulthood.”
As Eileen Gallo and Jon Gallo note in their paper “How 18 Became 26: The Changing Concept of Adulthood,” for a certain socioeconomic set, growing up and moving out — permanently — means downgrading your lifestyle. The authors quote sociologists Allan Schnaiberg and Sheldon Goldenberg:
1. Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself: Is my financial assistance helping or hindering my child's emotional and financial growth? Well-meaning, softhearted parents can do a lot of harm without realizing it. Who wouldn't enjoy having most all the privileges of adulthood without the responsibilities?
(MORE: What Do You Owe Your Kids?)
If you're lucky enough to have a 20-something kid who will actually talk with you about this stuff, jump on each and every opportunity to teach and listen.
Dennis Miller, a financial consultant, is the author of “Retirement Reboot”, a book chronicling his own journey to save his retirement in a low yield, turbulent investing environment. Find more of his columns and reports at millersmoney.com or contact him at [email protected].
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