Am I a Horrible Dad? Plus, 4 Principles to Guide Your Children Towards Financial Success
Even after they’ve grown up, your kids still probably ask you if they can “borrow a few bucks” every now and then.
According to Barron’s, nearly 80% of parents give some financial support to their adult children.
Whether it’s money toward a new car… help with a medical bill… or even just keeping them on the phone plan, you’re probably included in that number if you have kids.
After all, it’s only natural to want to help your kids when they need assistance.
And the easiest way to do that is financially.
But if you’re retired or approaching retirement, you know this can be difficult to budget for.
That’s why today, I’m bringing in my colleague Zach Scheidt to go over four principles you can follow to help your loved ones be successful — without sacrificing your income.
Helping Adult Children Through Life’s Difficult Periods
Am I a horrible dad?
I’ll let you be the judge…
This weekend, I took some time to go golfing with my brother. I don’t get to play golf very often, but it’s always nice to get a little one-on-one time outdoors with family members.
Halfway through our round, I got a text from my 19-year-old son David.
Apparently, David blew out the clutch on his car and it needed to be replaced. What’s more, he wasn’t able to work at his pizza delivery job without a vehicle.
David was panicking and didn’t know what to do!
And I had a dilemma… Do I jump in and help him out? Or do I let him work his way through the situation?
When I got the text from David, the first thing that went through my mind was “How can I make this better?”
As a dad, I want my kids to have a great life. I want them to have meaningful friendships. I want them to grow up to be responsible, fulfilled adults. And I want them to financially successful.
So naturally, I started thinking through solutions to help David get through this.
“How much will it cost to get the clutch repaired?” I asked.
David did some research and found a garage that could do it for $1,500.
“But Dad, I only have $1,200 in savings. And without my car, I can’t earn any more!”
Again, I wanted to jump in and say “No problem bud, I’ll pay to fix your car.”
But then what message would that send to David? Should he ask his Dad for a handout every time he runs into a financially challenging situation?
It was probably fortuitous that my brother and I happened to be on the golf course together that day.
I told my brother about the situation and the two of us reminisced about the times we were in similar situations growing up.
My memory was being stranded on the side of the road with an overheated engine. My dad helped me make the call to get a tow truck. And he made sure I had a way to get home. But it was up to me to scramble and figure out a way to pay for the repair.
My brother had a similar experience, being without a vehicle until he scraped together enough to pay the next installment for his insurance policy.
We’ve all been there.
And as my brother said, “The times when you have to struggle to figure things out… Those are the times when you really grow as a person!”
And so this weekend I didn’t pay for David’s car to get fixed.
Does that make me a horrible dad? I don’t know… I’d be curious to hear what you think!
As my kids get older, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to help them succeed in life.
By not allowing them to work their way through some tough scenarios, we’re robbing them of an important learning experience. We can be taking away the opportunity for them to earn that special level of confidence you get from figuring something out on your own!
At the same time, offering too much financial support to a young adult can also put you in a place where your retirement savings are depleted, or where you have to work longer before retirement.
I’m still learning and with six kids still at home, I’m sure there will be plenty more “young adult financial decisions” in my future.
But here are four principles I’ve settled on. Maybe they’ll help you with some of the scenarios you face as well!
Principle #1: Let Them Do Their Own Homework
As David and I were discussing his situation, I asked him to find out how much it would be to fix his car. It was up to him to call the mechanic and learn as many details as possible.
David also talked about possibly trading in his car and just getting something new.
While I didn’t think this was a great idea, I asked him to find some cars that he might be interested in, check different prices, and figure out what he could get from selling his current car.
By requiring him to do the research, (and helping to steer him in the right direction), I gave him the chance to learn how to work through a similar situation in the future.
Principle #2: Suggest Different Options to Consider
When David asked about possibly trading in his car and getting a newer used vehicle, he had his eye on an Infinity. That’s probably not the type of car that would serve him best as he works a delivery job and starts college in the fall.
I suggested looking at some Toyota, Honda or domestic sedans that might be priced more reasonably and still get him exactly what he needed for this stage of his life.
Similarly, you might ask your son or daughter to consider a different apartment complex (if they’re looking for a place to live), or a college with more reasonable tuition payments.
You don’t have to make the decision for them. But sometimes just by suggesting some different options, you can help them think through what is best.
Principle #3: Safety First
Of course some situations require us to step in right away, regardless of the financial cost.
When I was stranded on the side of the road, my dad made sure I got home safely. I can also think of medical situations that would require us as parents to step in and help first, before discussing finances later.
Of course you have to be the judge of which situations are urgent, and which situations allow you to take time to think through and discuss options.
So while I may sound “tough” when talking about sometimes letting our children learn life’s lessons the hard way, there are still plenty of situations where it makes sense to intervene.
Principle #4: Help by Enabling THEM to Succeed
Sometimes it takes a little creativity to find a good solution. But when our young adult children need financial help, there can be times where we help THEM actually dig out of the spot they’re in.
In David’s case, we settled on me co-signing a new credit card application for him.
Yes, I know credit cards can be dangerous. And I can guarantee you that we’ll be discussing exactly how he uses this card over the next few weeks.
But by doing this, I wasn’t giving him a hand out. Instead, I was giving him a financial tool that would allow him to get his car fixed. David’s only going to spend about $300 on this card, and he’ll be able to pay off the balance in the next few weeks.
Plus, by getting his first credit card, he’ll be able to build a credit history which might come in handy when applying for an apartment or some other life event down the road.
Here’s to living a rich and rewarding retirement!