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My son is due to stay with his grandmother for the first time without me and his dad. My mother is planning a series of trips, including visits to a zoo and aquarium. Should I give her money for his food and outings, or should I expect her to cover those costs and instead give the boy some pocket money for buying souvenirs? I can’t afford both the costs of the outings and additional spending cash.
If your mother invited your son to stay with her and did not ask you for money, then she plans to cover the costs herself. In most cases, when relatives invite a child to visit, they neither request nor expect financial help. If your mother couldn’t handle the costs, she most likely would have scheduled less-expensive activities.
Contribute to the cause if you like, but don’t feel you must. However, giving your son some pocket money makes sense. Allow him to buy a few mementos from the trip and treat himself to an occasional ice cream cone, but don’t sweat the big stuff. Grandma should have it covered.
Should parents continue to finance their children after the children are 18?
Are those children diligently attending college and earning solid grades? If so, then feel free to keep covering their expenses if you desire. Parents are not obligated to pay for college or allow their college students to live at home, but given the cost of higher education, you do your child a great service by helping out.
That education has long-term value (college graduates average salaries 57% higher than high-school graduates, and about 5% of college graduates are currently unemployed, versus 10% of those with no college). By supporting a child attending college, you are probably helping him to better support himself later.
However, with a few exceptions I’ll get into shortly, nobody wins when you support an adult-age child who does not work. Some children have medical conditions that prevent them from working. And in a few cases, the child might have other problems, such as legal entanglements or academic issues, that will require some time to fix.
But in general, once a child is capable of supporting himself, he should do that. If you want your adult child to live at home with you, just make sure he works a job and contributes to supporting the household, either with money or with household labor. If an adult lives for too long on the charity of others, a sense of entitlement may kick in. And once he gets used to living without working, such habits can prove hard to break. In addition, most people – particularly men – feel better about themselves and more confident in their future when they earn their own money.
Now, your 18-year-old child may not be able to fund the kind of lifestyle you provided him. And that’s fine. Most of us have a lot less money at 18 than we will at 38 or 58, and we dealt with it just fine.
The threat of going hungry motivates people to work and earn enough money to buy food. The desire for a better life in the future motivates people to pursue careers, invest, and otherwise take steps to build future wealth. These motivators have pushed many generations of humans to carve out a niche for themselves. But by supporting an adult child rather than requiring him to fund his own lifestyle, you circumvent those powerful drivers.
Remember, a parent can hinder a baby’s ability to walk by constantly carrying him rather than letting him learn to put one foot in front of another. The same principle applies to many other life skills, including financial self-sufficiency.
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