stop paying your adult

Stop Paying Your Adult Child’s Bills

We get it. Parents have a very clear role in life – take care of your kids. And it’s a great honor and a great joy to do so. But as your child ages you aren’t taking care of them if you are protecting them from the realities of life. Our kids need to learn that not every thing you attempt, works. Not every job you work at, you love. And you can’t always afford the things you’d like to have. One way to help your child is to stop paying your adult child’s bills.

You wouldn’t keep running behind them as they ride their bike their whole life. Yes, they might fall. But they need to do it on their own. This is no different. Graduate beyond being the answer to their problems. Let them figure life out. It might not look pretty to watch, but you might be surprised at their growth on their own.

Don’t let your happiness be dependent on their daily happiness. Growing up is difficult so your child’s adult life won’t always look like a romantic comedy with laughs and lattes. Life is difficult, but their struggle helps them grow.

You know the science behind the butterfly. If a butterfly doesn’t work at emerging from the chrysalis, it dies. The struggle helps prepare it for flight. Stop paying your adult child’s bills.

Money & Kids

Lots of emotion goes into your relationship and the handling of money. Recognize your feelings of guilt or fear of their failure. We all feel that way on some level! Also identify any ways they are trying to guilt you into funding their lifestyle.

The goal is long term: raise financially capable kids.

A nationwide trend shows over two-thirds of parents over the age of 50 financially supported a child older than 21 in the last five years.  The practice is so common psychologists named this period of extended child dependency “emerging adulthood.”

While the butterfly takes flight, the extended child dependency isn’t quite as pretty to watch.

Where To Start

Start here. Read through this checklist. And then craft a new plan with your spouse. Sit down with your adult child and let them know how much you believe in them. Then communicate lovingly that by a certain date you will stop paying for all or some portion of these items:

    • Cell Phone
    • Car Insurance
    • Rent/housing
    • Car payment
    • Student loan
    • Credit Cards payments

They are capable. Trust them. Let them be resourceful and figure out how to make it work. At their age, we all did.

An Example of Success

We have a client whose adult child is a teacher. He recently married another teacher. They live on the east coast so housing and life isn’t cheap. But our client told us a few years ago, “I’m resisting the urge to ride in on my parental ‘horse’ and save the day.”

The last time we met with him he shared with us that the last two summers the teachers tried their hand at being entrepreneurs. They started hosting clambakes. And, wait for it, this last summer they made more money in those three months than they do teaching all year.

Had our client assumed they couldn’t do it on their own and gave them a handout, they never would have come up with a side business that blesses them and others. And gives them even more options for their future when their family expands. Plus he would have dug into his retirement causing problems of his own.

Fear of Failure

As parents, we are afraid to let them fail. Or to let them do things that may be really difficult. But kids gain self-esteem when they encounter something difficult and they figure out how to survive. You can’t buy self-esteem you work for it.

In the worst times, our family has learned the most. Whether it was when we were launching three businesses or during my battle with breast and thyroid cancer. Our struggle brought the four of us together and made us stronger.

Credit History

Another gift you give your adult child by requiring them to pay their own way is the beginning of their credit history. A car payment helps them build good credit. Paying off credit cards each month helps build good credit. They won’t be able to borrow much or ever get a house if they have no credit history.

Stop paying your adult child’s bills.

Student Loans

Unless you’ve made a previous arrangement with your college grad their student loans are their student loans.

Scott and I both paid for our college educations. And we intend for our boys to pay the majority of their schooling too. Paying for their own loans will keep your student’s skin in the game. If they know a fifth year adds to their bill and not just your bill they may focus a little harder years one through four.

After college, I (Bethany) lived in a crumby two-bedroom apartment with four girls. We slept on mattresses on the floor. My parents could have bought me a bed, but they didn’t need to. Seeing that they weren’t worried about me helped me know I didn’t need to be worried. I survived that season of life and was proud of our little place. I have great memories of that time of life.

Now Scott’s experience of living on his own was a little different. He got his first credit card and man, did he use it. Scott remembers buying all kinds of “freedom” items he knew his folks wouldn’t let him buy. He talks about buying a 12-pound bag of M&Ms with his new credit card. What?

That and a few other things landed him in $1200 of debt that first year. When he arrived home and told his dad, he recalls, I thought my dad was gonna kill me. Once he pulled himself off the floor. He asked what my plan was. (Not here’s a plan or let me bail you out, but ‘son, what’s your plan?’) I promised him I’d get rid of it. And I busted my back working two shifts a day. It wasn’t an option to return to school with that debt.

There is no need for an angry or negative conversation. Tell them how much you trust them to do well on their own.

Younger Kids

And start earlier with any younger kids. Go over the bills with your teens now so they understand a cell phone bill, a gas bill, or how much computers cost when they are on their own. Do they know how much groceries cost or the price of their jeans?

Any child done with elementary school is more than ready to learn smart money management. And your adult child is ready too.

For more tips on how to have these conversations with your kids, grab a copy of our 5 Money Conversations to Have with Your Kids at Every Age and Stage book.

And learn your kids’ Money Personalities. Some kids will struggle with money management more than others. Find that out now. It’s a great investment in the success of their future.

You can’t start too early! Talk about money regularly with them at 10, 11, and 12-years old.

If you are paying for your adult child now, explain how things will change in the future. Make it a positive conversation. Be optimistic. There is no need for words spoken in anger or disgust. Encourage them. Root for them and be okay with them skinning their knees a little bit.

As parents, we are all doing the best we can. We are certainly not perfect, but we are tying to raise independent children together. Please join us. Your kids will thank you some day.

Scott & Bethany Palmer

The Money Couple





2 thoughts to “Stop Paying Your Adult Child’s Bills

  • Denise Cmar

    Please help! Suggestions? My adult son is making goid money. He has not paid his car payment for 3 months and insurance is also due. I look at his bank statement and it’s all withdrawals. He also co signed on a car loan for a friend who I think is taking advantage of him. What to do? This is an ongoing thing!

    • The Money Couple

      So sorry to hear you are worried about your son. Money challenges can be so stressful.

      We would encourage you to find a way to talk with your son about your concerns. Don’t spring the conversation on him, ask to set up a time to talk about something that is bothering you. Let him know you need his help with something. During the conversation be sure to focus not on his actions, but rather on how worried you are about him. Ask lots of questions, and focus on gathering info and being supportive.

      Of course, we always suggest everyone learn their 2 Money Personalities. The free assessment might be a great way to connect with your son on this topic. Let him know you found this really cool tool that you’d love to share with him. One you know his Money Personalities it might shed some light on his behaviors.

      If he is an adult the best you can do is try to have a supportive, productive conversation with him and let him know how you are feeling.
      Hope that helps. Best to you!

      What Are Your 2 Money Personalities?


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