Should I Give Money To My “Entitled” Adult Children?

Dear Woo Woo Girl: I am trying to decide whether to give my two adult children money for their education, a down payment on a condo, or leave it for their inheritance. Is it fair to ask whether they deserve it or not? I am really struggling with this, as I feel they don’t work hard enough and have a sense of entitlement that makes me furious. What are your thoughts? Signed: I Worked Hard For My Money.

Dear IWHFMM: It’s an interesting dilemma and like most things in life the answer is simple and complex. Welcome to the human experience! We all want to help our children get a step up in life. As parents seeing our kids move ahead professionally and monetarily, brings a sense of pride. Outwardly they are our reflection of our performance as parents. Children’s upward mobility means we did a good job raising them. We get the gold star!
But helping them too much is a double edged sword. It is not easy launching in todays world. In so many ways, the world has changed. House prices are out of this world, the demand for “over education” in almost every career niche has sky rocketed, and technology has complicated and sped up life. Children could use some help. But the “helping” part is seen by them as our duty. Financially and emotionally. Every generation has faced their own set of challenges, and this crop of adult children are asked to get over their need for hand holding and figure it out. Let’s face it. The expect us to pay for something and hold their hand at the same time.

Soo, what do you do?

Here’s the thing. It is not for me to say whether you should give money to your children. Only you can decide that. I only have thoughts on the deserving part. When we chose to have children-it was a choice- in doing so it became our responsibility to ensure they were cared for, nurtured, and healthy until they were adults. Along the way life lessons about working hard, frugality, and most importantly not expecting things to be handed to them should have been sprinkled like fairy dust over their heads. It is the latter part-the sense of entitlement that I think as parents from our generation, have failed. Most young adults carry this sense of entitlement which is infuriating. But it is our fault.
Because you and I have have insisted our children have a soft landing on their way to adulthood we feel obligated to keep helping. It is a viscous cycle.  
We have coddled them and taken away their drive and independence, replacing it with expectations that they will be rescued, always have someone to talk to, and that their worries are somehow more serious than ours were at their age. Smoothing over versus messily getting over life created the entitled adult that we call our children. But the are not children. They are adults. Lol.

How do you back peddle? How do you fix it?

Practically speaking, if we are talking about twenty year old’s, patience is important. Don’t you remember your twenties. They were filled with angst, ridden with insecurity because you felt you were supposed to know all the answers, and have this thing called life figured out. Throwing money at young adults is wasted because they are not grounded. Besides, giving your child a rude awakening isn’t a bad thing. Sure it might be a shock to find out that tuition won’t be paid for by mommy or daddy, but they will get creative and figure it out. It isn’t a war and there are worse things in life.

At times I thought I would have been so much further ahead in life if I was given money as a young adult. I would have had more stability, and perhaps choices. But I wouldn’t have had as much fun. Not having monetary gifts from my parents, gave me the freedom to live my life on my terms. I was pretty independent and had a lot of fun learning to live, which also included carrying debt. Making mistakes without having to explain or justify where and how I was living and spending my money was part of becoming an adult. The number of dinners out and bottles of wine I consumed over five years was enough for a down payment on a condo. But hindsight is 20/20 and it is every young adults right to learn the hard way. So don’t feel bad if you are not stopping a bumpy landing. It is a rite of passage you will have given.

The 30 – 40 year old adult child is different. They should have landed somehow and somewhere. Giving money to them should be for the tangibles. But again, if they had made bad choices along the way and their progress just feels like another shot in the dark, let them keep shooting. Take the wait and see approach on how your children evolve and live their life. Let them carry the burden of something – education or housing- as it is not your job to carry them. You did your time.

Children mature at different rates and struggle with what they “want” to do in life, not to mention emotional issues which seem to be at an all time high. It is hard to know if they are deserving until the dust settles.

Food for thought though. Check out this NY Times article on Thinking About Giving Money to Adult Children? Think Again.

I think the more important question is if you help them, can you do what you want to do with the time and money you have left? If you can afford to help them here and there, and don’t begrudge it then do it. But if you do begrudge it, and feel obligated put the money aside, don’t tell them about it and carry on with your life. Money is helpful only when it is really needed-not to buy frilly underwear or fix mistakes. So throughout your children’s life, decide when it is needed, and do you WANT to help. Sure. Help them with their education or a down payment on a condo, but remember –
Your children are not OWED your money.
If you are not convinced they are deserving – and some children simply are not, wait. If there is a better cause than your children, in your inheritance give your money to it. Or set up your will in a way that gives your children a monthly income versus a lump sum. But don’t try and control them from the grave.

A sense of “entitlement” takes time to lose. Children have a lifetime to “get real” and learn money is a gift and not their right to receive it or spend it from their parents; no matter how much we coddled them. Some children will always carry it while others will learn the lesson. Take time to figure out which one of yours will.

Here are some other articles for you to consider:
1. Stop supporting your adult children

2.Adult Children: When to Help and When To Let Them Learn

Spiritual Exercise: Practice gratitude that you have money.