Thursday, August 10, 2006

Adult Children Leaving the Nest

Is it the complexities of life today that make it more difficult for adult children to leave home and become financially independent of their parents? I have two who are in that transition period with one foot still in the nest.

When I graduated from college, there was no question that I was expected to fully support myself. I had worked since I went away to school so that I was not bound to the life of penury to which my father's stipend would have committed me. I liked good clothes and things that he considered frivolous, so I knew that it would have to be up to me to earn money to buy them.

My first job out of college was for a starting salary of $6,938 – and that's before taxes. After I paid my $115 share of the group house rent, it didn't leave a whole lot of spending money. But I would never have thought of asking to be subsidized by my parents. It never even crossed my mind.

But things are so much more complicated for today's children. We have been paying their VISA bills, their cell phone charges, their health insurance premiums, their car insurance, and so many other things. It's a lot more complicated to just cut the strings and say "Now you're on your own."

In our son's case, he just completed law school, took the Arizona bar this summer, has substantial educational loans to pay back, and turned down his one and only job offer in Tucson to come home and look for a government law job. I'm sure this took a lot of thought on his part – to give up a job with an excellent starting salary because he came to realize that he was going to be miserable working under the stress that it generated. So at least for a while he will be living at home while plan B materializes.

Our daughter just got a BA in bio-psych. She had almost perfect grades and a lot to recommend her, but starting salaries with an undergraduate degree don't support expensive lifestyles. She is so much like I was in that she has always worked in the food industry since she went to school so that she could pay her bar bill and have a fairly nice life. She will continue to waitress at a trendy restaurant in Boston as she starts her first real job.

But we're still paying some of their expenses each month. And then there are crises that seem to occur now and then. Our daughter's house was burglarized last weekend and her laptop was stolen. My husband immediately ordered a new one for her, knowing that stolen laptops are never recovered. Our son in traveling in Europe right now. His VISA card was stolen and his checking account is overdrawn. My husband deposited some money in his account to tide him over until he returns.

The real question is whether we are asking for this continued dependence by our willingness to come to their assistance or whether we would better serve them by just telling them that the bank is closed. I'm sure many of you reading this have been through this transition period and could give us advice.

Meanwhile if you know of any government law jobs for a smart kid who had a 3.5 at the U of Az, was on law review, and is not demanding a 6-figure starting salary, please let me know.

I'm sure that in a few years I will look back on this time and forget the difficulties of kicking them out of the nest. This is assuming that by that time both children are happily on their own and we really are empty nesters.


Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Seems to be a common thing that you are experiencing. School is so much more expensive now than it was when we went in the 70's. They have so much debt when they get out and apartments cost an awful lot more than they did in our era. So most parents I know are indeed subsidizing their kids' expenses even if they are working and still living at home. Your kids are in an excellent position though, and have good opportunities ahead for earning potential so there is an end in sight for you!

9:29 PM  
Blogger Jamy said...

This was not something I ever discussed with my parents, but we all assumed that when I graduated, they would stop supporting me. That's pretty much what happened. While in college, I got an allowance every month and I paid my expenses from that (they paid tuition and health insurance directly). I also always had a part time job. I did not have a credit card or car.

After graduating, my mom would help me out with laundry and pay for dinner. The folks did split the bill for my wisdom teeth extraction--but my dental insurance covered half. But there was no expected financing. When I moved for grad school mom loaned me some money to cover expenses and I stayed at home rent free in the summers (usually working, though). I think dad covered my health insurance once or twice.

However, there was never any question that they would help in a crisis--minor or major. They still would, of course. But now I could help them too, if necessary.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

Their turn will come. My parents made me pay for college and I worked as well. The paid for my brother's college for 5 years. I went two. My father really expected me to get married. I have been on my own since the age of 21. I have had a little help from time to time, but with payback included. I had to take care of my mother during the remaining years of her life and was happy to be able to provide her with some comfort prior to her death. My father never gave us anything if there was a dollar to be made, so, upon his death nothing was left to any of the children.

I think you are being nice, but I think the starting out and living on ones' own experience is one that all of us need. We tend to value things more.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Ghetufool said...

i would like to share an interesting fact with you, from an indian point of view.

in our country, we never throw out our children. our parents take care of us, until we get a job to support ourselves. given the job scenario now, a boy might hang around with his parents upto 25-27 years.

now when he gets a job, he is supposed to take care of his parents, just as they did to him.

we never part with our parents, just the support structure of the family changes. and a girl is supposed to consider her in-laws as her own parents.

in a typical indian family, parents look after their children's affairs even, some times after they are married.

when the parents get old, people do everything to keep their parents happy and bestowe the same care that they received as a dependent.

we cannot even think of saying to our child, you are free now. go manage your own livelihood.

but, now with the financial and social change happening at a break-neck speed in india, adults are forced to live at a differnt place altogether from their parents, the family structure is loosening, but the basic premise remains same.

west is west and orient will be always orient, they say.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I didn't leave home until I was 26 (not counting the one year I stayed in Montreal to finish my college).

As a general rule, my parents provided me with the basics, but not much else.

When I was at home and working, I paid 25% of what I earned to my parents (regardles of how much or little I earned).

When I went back to university, my parents gave me $300 per month - not even enough to cover rent, but it was something. Yes, I had debts after university (as did Sofia), we managed to pay them off.

I am not sure I would pay for my kid's cellphone (at 4 and 7 they are too young for one). Maybe I would buy them a pay as you go one, but they would be responsible for paying the bills themselves.

I think the best way to deal with kids (still have to get to the point were my kids will be asking for my financial assistance) is to provide material gifts, but fiscal matters, entertainment, consumption will be their own responsibility. So, when my kids learn to drive, they will be expected to pay for their gas, their insurance. If they get a cellphone, they will be expected to pay the bills. I will cover their education, but not their frivolities.

My 2 cents.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

In writing this post, I was already feeling guilty for going too far overboard in continued support of my children. I had always wanted to do something much more along the lines of what Richard outlined. The tendency it would seem is to minimize the problems for our children. But I think I am learning. Just this morning, my husband said, "Someone needs to call Geico about getting renter's insurance for R (our daughter)." My response, "She should do it herself. If she doesn't and her computer gets stolen again, it should be her problem." I found Ghetufool's description of family support to be very heartening and something we should all perhaps aspire to -- a lifelong proposition of making sure everyone is taken care of.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

The problem is that no matter how old your kids get, they will always be your kids.

Learning to let go, learning to let them gain more independence is hard (and mine are only 4 and 7). I remember how hard it was for me to let them go to the bathroom alone when we saw a movie a few weeks back (it was a matinee and the theatre was practically empty and the washroom was just outside the cinema door).

We spend our whole life learning how to be good parents, good children, good spouses, good citizens, etc ...

12:44 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

My story's pretty complicated but given what I had to go through to get financial support from my parents in college, I knew I wouldn't have it after. I tend to take care of myself.

I'm glad I could but hate the fact that I tend to get a little angry about people in their early- to mid-20s who don't pay their own way. I think I'm jealous.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous pinkielee said...

I am a 60 year old woman who was
supplanted by my parents until I finally took responsibility for myself when I was 55 and said no more money, dad. I must grow up. It is the way of the world that the children are taught skills by school, parents and world to become an independent being. I was handicapped by my father's insistence on helping me.It stunted my growth emotionally. After age 19 or 20 it was my fault for taking the offerings. I am still learning that if I cannot pay cash after the bills are paid I am not allowed by myself to have it. I was allowed to quit things when I was young: geometry, first year college in the middle, first year law school in the middle. When someone else is paying your way you do not appreciate it. IT HAS NO VALUE.

I am ashamed of the things I quit.
But, I am a hard worker and work harder than most other people. I have been thru much therapy to untangle the knots.

I am getting ready to teach a course to 20 something adults on
leaving the nest. The steps to get there for those who are stuck.

This is a great blog

8:07 PM  

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