When To Stop Accepting Parents’ Help With Money And Pay The Bill?

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Your parents have supported you since you were born, but now you’re an adult. You don’t want to mooch off of the ’rents forever, but you’re not sure if there’s a cutoff: At what age, if any, should you start to pick up your parents’ tab? This can come in one of many, many forms: Our dad has been sending us care packages with coupons and the comics section since college—has the time come to return the favor?

Erika Safran, certified financial planner and owner of Safran Wealth Advisors, told us: “It’s a personal matter based on the relationship within the family. It’s based on the norm within the family, and it’s dictated by need.”

The Most Important Thing Is Open Communication.

After graduating college and getting her first job, Lauren—our financial planner in residence—was a little taken aback when her parents stopped paying for anything. They wanted to teach her personal responsibility. When she visited her childhood home, they’d make her pay for her own toothpaste! But, then, she spoke to them about where she was in life and in her career. Since that first toothpaste conversation, her parents have alternately offered and not offered to pay for her plane ticket to visit them, depending on where she’s been in life and on their own personal finances. When they offer, it’s because they want to help, and when they don’t offer, it’s because they know she can swing it. Talking about money is the number one most important thing you can do. At LearnVest, our goal is to change the way people talk about finances: Money should NOT be taboo!

When Parents Pick Up The Tab, It Doesn’t Mean They Think Kids Can’t.

Often, Safran says, “It’s not…because [they think their children are] financially insecure, but…because [the parents] have it, and they want to share that wealth.” In her experience, many parents will contribute to the financial wellbeing of their kids for the better part of their adult lives. That said, keeping an open line of communication about money will make sure that you and your parents are on the same page, and that you’re giving and taking for all the right reasons.

Pitching In As A Financially Stable Adult.

Adulthood is about understanding your parents’ needs as well as your own. The next time your parents mail you coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond, try sending the return envelope full of coupons for your mom’s favorite Kashi cereal (don’t forget the comics!). Being independent doesn’t mean declining a home-cooked meal because you didn’t reimburse Mom and Dad for the groceries. It might, however, mean offering to cook for everyone, regardless of who paid. When our family gets together, sometimes we split the bill with our siblings to show our parents that we appreciate them—for their emotional support in addition to the financial sustenance.

LearnVest Took A Poll: The Results.

In an informal poll, we asked LearnVest readers when they started picking up their parents’ tab—or plan to start.

“When I’m making a comparable amount.”—44%
“As soon as I start making money.”—33%
Defined by age: early 30s—8%
Defined by age: mid 30s—15%

One reader replied that you don’t have to make as much as your parents and that it’s not about age: “As soon as you are both financially secure, the relationship should almost be that of friends, usually sharing the bill but occasionally treating the other as a…sincere gesture of affection.”

How did you/will you decide when it’s time to start giving back? Share your opinion in the comments below and take our official poll at the top of the post!

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