original photo: Palo Coleman
The call came to Paterfamilias. A friend asked if PF could look at his son's resume and counsel him on his job search, a search that wasn't going well. After graduating from college--the first in his family to do so--the son came home to live with his parents but didn't seem to be doing much to get a career job. He did some occasional waitering thanks to his dad's connections, but three years into his post-graduate life, the son seemed to be do little more than fiddling with his smart phone and raiding the refrigerator. The dad was frustrated and thinking of telling his son to move out and support himself.The son is not alone. Lots of twenty-somethings are returning home after college (nearly half of the post-college Millennials who responded to a TD Ameritrade survey in May said they had "moved back to my parents home after college."). Some are failing to launch, with their parents providing financial assistance longer than they expected or intended.
Some are obvious, like the possible financial strain on our checking or savings accounts. What's being spent to pay an adult child's rent, to feed and clothe them or foot their cell phone bill is money that could be used to pay our bills or be squirreled away in a retirement savings account. When financial assistance goes out in small increments rather than one big lump sum, we may lose track of the negative impact.
Even if we can afford to provide the support, by paying their bills we may be enablers in delaying their ability to function independently and prioritize between "need" and "want." Living at home free of financial responsibility or depending on mom and dad to pay for upkeep eases a necessary burden of responsibility.
There's another unintended consequences that may not be as clear: The impact on the family dynamic. On some level, a body of psychologists tells us, our kids equate gifts with love and when we help one of our children, the others--even if they are doing well financially--may feel we're playing favorites. To ease that tension, we may want to make offers of help to our other children. Or at least an explanation of what we're doing, why and for how long, and whether it will even out in the end.