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When to Stop Accepting Parents’ Help With Money and Pay the Bill?

We're thrilled to present this smart LearnVest story here on Savvy!

Your parents have supported you since you were born, but now you’re an adult. You don’t want to mooch off 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. Our goal is to change the way people talk about finances: Money should not be taboo!

For more on parents paying for their children, read on.

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 well-being 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.

Image Source: Thinkstock
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enginerdette enginerdette 5 years
Mixed feelings about this. For those of us that live in California (namely, the San Francisco Bay Area), buying a house on our own is near impossible without parents helping us with the down payment. If I was living in Arizona, my boyfriend and I could have paid off our house by now. Different story. Plus, there are others out there who are still getting their Ph.Ds well into their late 20s or early 30s who will probably need parental funding for awhile longer. I agree with the article that it depends on where you are in life, what type of financial need is required and how much you can really get by on things. If you are racking up $1000s in credit card bills from buying junk you don't need, then you should probably fend for yourself. If you were laid off and spent the last 6 months in the dreary economy job-hunting and can no longer afford basic necessities, it's not a bad thing to ask for a handout.
JenniferVL JenniferVL 5 years
I think that there should be a line as to how much parents give their children if they are financially stable or old enough to be fully responsible. I am 27 years old and ever since I was 23 I have been fully responsible for myself as far as paying my own rent, car insurance, credit cards, etc. Yes my mom has taken me out to eat and sure she has sent me money on birthdays or holidays. But that is more like a gift than supporting me financially. There are going to be tough times, we all have them. It is nice to know that parents are there to help. Like currently I will be staying at my dads for about a month until I find an apartment for my husband and I , he is in the military. It is something temporary and when I lived there before I paid rent monthly, so I see this as my dad helping back. I will still be responsible for all my bills. I definitely do not agree with children who are in their mid or late 20s even older mooching off their parents constantly. If you want to have bills and debt you have to take responsibility for it.
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