The debate over whether or not to support our grown kids financially--all, in part or an occasional bit of help--falls into two camps: The Tough Lovers (not at all) and the Helping Handers (all of the above). Many of us who fall into the latter group like the way an occasional hand out feels. If we can afford it, it gives us pleasure to see our child use our gift--their legacy delivered early--to do something important or meaningful: buy a house, a safer car, top-quality day care for their child.
The key, of course, is not to overdo it and to feel comfortable that our child isn't demanding help--isn't asking for assistance out of a sense of entitlement.
I was reminded of the dangers of entitlement when I was reading one of my favorite columns in the NYTimes Sunday Business section: the Q and A with an industry or company leader. The interview almost always starts off with a question about the leader's youth--early leadership anecdotes or lessons learned from mom or dad. A recent one had a bit of kicker in the answer.
Carter Murray,the CEO of an international ad agency and a son who grew up in a comfortably well-to-do household in England, talked about how it felt to be at the receiving end of parental largesse. He lived in London as a child, went to college in the U.S., after which--well, I'll let him tell his story.
"After I graduated from Duke, I moved back to London. Our family business is high-end real estate. I just had a lot of fun. And my mother and stepfather, in particular, were being very nice. I lived in one of the properties they developed. I had an allowance. It’s quite ridiculous when I think about it now.
"If you come from a privileged background and you’re taking the financial support, you start to think it’s your right to have it. I just became entitled. I had a credit card for emergencies, and it’s amazing, over time, what gets considered an emergency. Like, how often am I going to be in South Africa with this view? I need to order a bottle of wine.
My parents sat me down one day, and said, “You know, this isn’t free.” And after that sank in, I decided I was going to do it on my own. I cut up the credit card. I actually got even closer to my parents as a result because there wasn’t that financial bond. I think entitlement is the kiss of death for the soul of a human being."
Every rupee spent doting on an adult child cuts ..