Dealing With Adult Children Still Living at Home

by Gary Foreman

Dealing with Adult Children Still Living at Home photo

Do your adult children refuse to become financially mature? These guidelines will help you encourage an adult child’s independence.

Gary,
I am in such a bind, and I don’t know what to do. I do not live luxuriously by any means. I work full-time and make about $45K a year. I own my own condo, and I have no car payment and very few expenses other than standard utilities, food, phone, etc. I have two older daughters, both 21 (one lives here with me along with her boyfriend and one year old child). My other daughter lives here as well and goes to college full-time. None of them gives me money. I also have a 12 year old. 

I have a lot of debts that are very old. I am having an extremely hard time making ends meet. I don’t go out, and I don’t shop. I don’t spend my money foolishly. Yet, it seems I never have enough money for my bills, never mind anything for me personally. I haven’t taken a vacation in ten years. I am becoming very bitter about working so hard my whole life and feeling like I have nothing. Do you have any suggestions for me? I must be doing something wrong.
Deena

No wonder Deena’s tired! She’s trying to support a family of six on a single income. Not to mention the old debts that demand attention. And, there’s the daughter in college.

Adult children need to help close the budget gap.

What can Deena do to close the budget gap? She can increase income or reduce expenses. Either the young mother or her boyfriend should be contributing to the family income. Even a minimum wage job will bring in hundreds each week.

Anyone not working outside the home should help reduce expenses inside the home. That includes both the 12 year old and the college student.

Food shopping and preparation is an excellent source for savings. The “average” family spends between 10 and 20% of their income on food. They can start by creating a weekly menu based on the grocery store ads. There’s plenty of hands to help with the cooking. That should eliminate the need for restaurants, fast food or pizza deliveries. Proper meal planning, along with the use of coupons and a price book, could cut their grocery bill by 25%. Not only will they be saving money, but the younger members of the family will learn a valuable skill.

The combination of at least one extra income and a reduction in expenses should provide Deena with some financial breathing room.

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Adult children need to get on board or get out.

Getting her family to participate will probably be harder. Like many parents, Deena seems to be having trouble getting her adult children out on their own. By some estimates, roughly one third of all singles in their 20s live with their parents.

It’s hard for Deena. Protecting our children is part of parenting. But so is teaching them to be self-reliant. At some point, our “help” actually disables them. They need to know that they are capable of running their own lives. And part of that process is getting and keeping a job. Being responsible for earning your living expenses is another part.

She can help her older daughters create a plan for their financial independence. For the college student, it might include living at home until she graduates, but a different plan should be adopted if she drops out of school. For the young mother and her family, it would include finding employment, creating a budget and moving to an apartment.

Deena will need to explain to her 21 year olds that they need to contribute to the family. And, if they don’t contribute, she’ll ask them to leave. That won’t be easy to do. Deena may be concerned that if she kicks her daughter, boyfriend and baby out that they’ll be homeless.

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Adult children need to gradually become independent.

One way to avoid that is to help them with their plan and make them complete the necessary steps that will lead to their independence. Deena may want to bring in a financial adviser, especially if she has a hard time standing firm with her children.

When Deena’s kids were small, she helped them take their first steps knowing that they’d fall and she’d help them up to try again. The stakes are a little higher now, but the principles are the same. As parents, our job is to teach them to walk on their own and encourage them along the way.

Reviewed May 2021

About the Author

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. You can read Gary's full bio here. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews.

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