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How Your Adult Children Can Stop Relying on You Financially

Read below to discover the balance of supporting your children and your bank account.

By Mark Colgan, CFP

Giving a hand to your adult children might look as simple as covering their phone bill, though it may be as significant as contributing to a down payment on a house. As children transition into adulthood, many may be hard-pressed to find a parent who loses the desire to support their kids, both emotionally and financially. This is why it can be so hard to wean your adult children off of your bank account.

Mark Colgan, CFP®, is a founding partner of Montage Wealth Management. Over the last 29 years he has helped hundreds of clients navigate through significant life events that require big money decisions. He is also the author of Death’s Red Tape, your Guide for Navigating Legal, Financial, and Personal Transitions When a Partner Dies,  a newly released technical guide by Mark Colgan on the logistics people have to contend with after they lose a loved one. For more information visit www.montagewealthmanagement.com.

Mark Colgan

If you’re helping out your kids into adulthood, you’re not alone. A 2018 Pew Research Center report found that only 24% of young adults were financially independent by age 22 or younger, compared to 32% in 1980. While one can consider parental financial support a hindrance to one’s ability to become fully self-sufficient, there is another grave side-effect: your shrinking retirement savings.

So how can you bring an end to financially supporting your adult children? Ease the process with the four suggestions below.

Be Transparent in Your Communication

When first letting your children know that you will no longer pay their phone bill, help out with groceries, or give them a hefty Christmas wad, make sure to explain why. Remind them that this is not about your lack of care or love for them, but rather it is for their long-term benefit and ability to provide for themselves, long after you’re gone.

Let them know that it may affect your ability to retire comfortably and cover potential health costs in the future. By appealing to their compassion and treating them as fellow adults, you can actually give a sense of empowerment to your children.


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Give Your Children an Adequate Timeline

If your kids are used to a monthly check, phone support, or even one-off amounts of money when in need, it can be a shock to be immediately cut off from the financial supply. Giving your children time to organize their finances and emotionally prepare to fully support themselves is one way to lead them towards successful financial independence.

In addition, giving them a timeline creates an objective boundary that might be hard to set otherwise. If you wait until you think your kids can handle it, or until you feel “ready,” the time may never come. Choosing a date and sticking to it puts the decision in stone and makes it easier to follow through.

Provide the Tools to Succeed

Educating your adult children on best practices for managing their money can increase their confidence while giving them the means to budget, spend, and save properly. You can give them advice on your own or point them towards a financial planner, which has various benefits. If it’s your own financial adviser, he or she can explain how your financial support can be detrimental to your retirement and well-being, which can give your kids more clarity on the situation.

Having an objective perspective can take the emotion out of the decision, making it more of a logical next step. A financial planner can also assist your kids in organizing their finances and give them a head start on becoming financially literate.

Support Your Adult Children in Other Ways

Let your adult children know that you’re not completely cutting the cord and removing the parent-child relationship. You can continue to offer support in ways that are not financial. For example, you can still provide emotional support when needed and offer advice if they ask for it. Ask them how you can help in a way that doesn’t offer financial support. You can help them strategize new ways to make or save money or help them apply for new jobs. Don’t push the offer to help if they refuse. Let them experience their new independence and learn for themselves what they need to do.

Prepare to Still Feel Responsible

As you put a stop to financially supporting your kids, you may still feel twinges of desire to help them out. The first step towards dealing with these emotions is to expect that they may come up, but prepare yourself to avoid reacting. Even if your adult child struggles trying to figure out how to afford certain expenses, it is ultimately this difficulty that can lead to growth on their end. When faced with financial realities, it will likely motivate your children to prepare, save, and budget more diligently.

Putting an end to financially supporting your adult children isn’t easy, especially with regard to current financial hardships. With 54% of young adults dealing with college debt, it can be emotionally difficult not to offer assistance if your kids are struggling. However, by easing your adult children into independence and preparing them with the tools to effectively manage their money, you can smoothly move towards a healthier financial state for both you and your kids.

About the author: Mark Colgan

Mark Colgan, CFP®, is a founding partner of Montage Wealth Management. Over the last 29 years, he has helped hundreds of clients navigate through significant life events that require big money decisions. He is also the author of Death’s Red Tape, your Guide for Navigating Legal, Financial, and Personal Transitions When a Partner Dies, a newly released technical guide by Mark Colgan on the logistics people have to contend with after they lose a loved one. For more information visit www.montagewealthmanagement.com.


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