My Parents are Rich, So Does That Mean I’m Rich?

[Happy Friday, Lovelies! Enjoy this guest post from my blogging brotha Ben (Triple B in da house)! Are you interested in guest posting? Leave me a message using my contact form.]

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that, in general, people today are relying more and more on other people financially, especially our parents. I currently work as a bank teller and I get customers who come in all the time needing to put money in their kids’ account because they’re at college and their account is overdrawn again. They usually joke a little about it, but when I joke back, “Looks like it’s time for him to get a job,” I can almost see desperation in their eyes.

Why do so many of us young people think that they have some sort of right to their parents’ money? I’ll admit I sometimes feel that way a little too. When we visit my parents, I’m always secretly hoping they’ll take us out to dinner and use their money so I don’t have to use mine. It’s not an expectation of mine, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel a tiny bit of disappointment when it doesn’t happen. But why?


Good parents want to help their kids

Good parents don’t like to see their kids suffer. Some of our parents didn’t have a lot growing up, and they didn’t want us to have to go through the same things. Giving us things, therefore, is an extension of how they show their love for us. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s also nothing wrong with parents helping out their adult kids a little. But it becomes unhealthy when all the pampering conditions the kids to begin to expect it. Like the teenager who was upset with her parents because the laptop they bought for her wasn’t a Macbook. Or a couple of the people I did a humanitarian trip with, who treated it like a vacation, always finding opportunities to plan grand weekend trips and getting upset when their parents didn’t deposit money in their accounts as quickly as they could spend it. Good parents want to provide a great life for their children, but I’d argue great parents know when to let their kids struggle a little, because it’s through that struggle that we become better and stronger.

I was teaching a Sunday school class at church earlier this year and one girl told us that she was finally getting an iPhone, but that she had to pay for the phone and the data plan. One of the other girls, incredulous, yelled, “That’s ridiculous! You should make them pay for it!” I didn’t know anything could boil as quickly as my blood did when she said that, but miraculously was able to calm down and just laugh, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. First of all, we don’t make our parents do anything. Maybe we can talk sometime about all the great things our parents already do for us. Secondly, I think you’ll thank your parents later for what they’re teaching you right now.”

And it’s true. My parents rarely just gave me money when I was a teenager, and they’ve never given me money since I’ve been an adult, without expecting me to pay them back. It was extremely annoying when I was younger, but I’m glad for it now, because it taught me to be self-reliant and work hard for what I want.

Weakening the weak

When parents come into my bank to put money in their college students’ accounts, I can tell when they’re afraid that if they don’t help their kids financially, they’ll end up living in the gutter and starve to death. A lot of these kids grew up in a very comfortable lifestyle and don’t know what to do when they don’t have it anymore, so they instinctively go back to the source. But are parents doing their kids any favors by not allowing them to struggle and adjust?

In the book, The Millionaire Next Door, the authors talk extensively about this (they labeled it Economic Outpatient Care), and suggest to parents to avoid “weakening the weak”. When children flounder a little, it’s not the end of the world. In most cases, it’s not even a crisis. It’s just an opportunity for these wet behind the ears young adults to learn something. It may even force them to start budgeting their expenses and make their expectations more realistic.

Again, it’s not a bad thing to help your kids out a little, but if you start noticing that it’s become an expectation, it may be good to cut it back, otherwise you could be making your children weaker rather than stronger.

For the whippersnappers

First of all, I know that feel, bro. After I graduated high school, I lived at home while attending my freshman year of college, and I drove my parents’ car during that time. Then I spent two years abroad, after which I came home and my dad told me, “Let’s go find you a car, because you’re not driving mine.” My $2,500 in savings dwindled to nothing as I paid cash for my first car.

I ended up transferring to a different college, leaving my parents’ house, my old job, and my full-tuition scholarship. I had to find a new place to live, a new job, and a way to pay my tuition. Based on the car experience, I knew that if I went to my parents, I would probably get some good advice, but I definitely wasn’t going to get any handouts. So I learned to take ownership of my life. I started working full-time while going to school full-time to avoid student loans as much as possible. I learned to budget and track my expenses. I got a credit card to build credit and made sure to pay off the balance every month. I learned to say no when I didn’t have the money to do something.

I’ve had to borrow money from my parents a few times, but I’ve always made sure to pay them back as quickly as possible. And there have been some really hard times when I’ve stressed about money, especially since I’ve been married. But we’ve taken ownership for our lives and we’ve felt the freedom and confidence of knowing that we are independent and we can do whatever it takes to take care of each other.

Have you had experiences or know others who have had experiences receiving Economic Outpatient Care? How has that affected your/their ability to take ownership in life?

[Ben is a personal finance blogger who does his thing over at The Wealth Gospel. He’s passionate about helping people to stop thinking about personal finance according to the template society has created, and to find their true potential and align their behaviors with it. His favorite food is chips and salsa and his spirit animal is Warren Buffett. You can find him on Facebookfollow him on Twitter, or get his feed via RSS]


  1. MakintheBacon January 10, 2014

    My parents spoiled my sister and I big time growing up and they still do, from time to time but to a much lesser extent.

    Oddly enough, this drove me to my independence, starting with going away to university. I wanted to do my own thing, be on my own and had no regrets. Although my parents helped me out a lot, and let me stay with them rent free when I moved back home for a few years, I still worked hard and saved my money.
    MakintheBacon recently posted…Making Friends Is Like DatingMy Profile

  2. Mimi December 28, 2013

    We have four grown children, and we helped them a lot. They all worked, beginning at age 15, and helped themselves too! Between scholarships, our substantial contributions, and their jobs, they all graduated from college debt free. Hubby and I have never been of the school that says, “You are 18 and on your own.” We feel it is the responsibility of parents to prepare their children for life, and that costs money! If you don’t want that kind of commitment, then you should not have children. (IMHO)

  3. Ryan @ Impersonal Finance December 26, 2013

    I think a lot of younger kids have trouble separating their parent’s wealth from their lack of wealth (my wife and I were just talking about this regarding her brother). There was an awesome King of the Hill episode (not that they aren’t all awesome), but Bobby found Hank’s emergency credit card and racked up all kinds of expenses on it, until Hank shares the budget with him. I think sharing a budget and setting clear expectations in regards to what, as a parent, you will be helping your children with is key. Also, when you won’t be helping them.

  4. Travis @debtchronicles December 23, 2013

    The trap that many young people fall into (and we did as well when my wife and I started our life together) is that it’s expected to essentially start where our parents are. We grew up in a certain lifestyle, and we think that right out of college, we can just start from there and continue growing. But, it took our parents years and years to get that far in life…..
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  5. Newlyweds on a budget December 23, 2013

    this is definitely more of an issue of parents not being able to let go a little bit, rather than children assuming their parents owe them. If children are raised by parents who supply everything for them, it’s really hard to right their wrongs several years down the line.

    • Ben @ The Wealth Gospel December 23, 2013

      It’s hard for kids NOT to be conditioned to it when parents don’t really give them a chance. And I know parents who are trying to backtrack now after years of it and it’s a lot harder than they thought it would be.
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  6. Jen @ Frugal Rules December 22, 2013

    I was once told that it is not what you do for your children but what you teach them to do for themselves that will help them learn and value things in life and help them become wise and be able to deal with life and in the process become successful. I believe this should apply to children of rich parents too.
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  7. Brent December 21, 2013

    I know many people who continue to coast through life without having to pay for anything. I’m amazed to see how little they value money.
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  8. Charles@gettingarichlife December 21, 2013

    I think too many parents are using this recession as a crutch to enable their children. They give in too often, as a result they hurt themselves.
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  9. E.M. December 20, 2013

    My parents were great about helping me out, and I have to admit I was spoiled as an only child when I was younger. However, I watched them struggle with a lot of debt, so I always felt guilty. When I got a job and enough saved up, I purchased them nice presents for Christmas as my way of showing thanks for all they’ve given me. I have made sure to treat them to dinner out once in a while, since that was something my parents didn’t do while in debt.

    I completely agree that it’s okay to let your kids “struggle” lightly; you shouldn’t provide absolutely everything to them, especially once they’re 18. Obviously if their situation is dire, that’s another thing. This is why I think children should pay rent if they choose to live at home during/after college. Parents need to teach them some sort of responsibility.
    E.M. recently posted…Being Grateful: Tenth EditionMy Profile

    • Ben @ The Wealth Gospel December 21, 2013

      I also think the definition of “dire” is important. Something came up recently in our family that was “dire” for the suffering party, but had I been in that same situation, it would have just been a mild inconvenience.
      Ben @ The Wealth Gospel recently posted…Spreading the Gospel: Live and Do What You WantMy Profile

  10. Dear Debt December 20, 2013

    My parents helped me a lot when I was a kid, but for school I was completely on my own. Even though I wish I had their help, it’s instilled a great work ethic in me that I don’t know if I would have otherwise. I have seen people who get whatever they want from their parents, even as adults, and I think it’s hard for them to work hard and fend for themselves.
    Dear Debt recently posted…Dear Debt letter from Bee Debt FreeMy Profile

    • Ben @ The Wealth Gospel December 21, 2013

      Yeah, I’m pretty close to some of those people. And it makes me sad that they’ll never get to experience the same freedom that I will when we’re completely financially secure, because they’ll always remain dependent.
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  11. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply December 20, 2013

    I loved that Cosby show reference…I remember that episode! My parents were pretty frugal and we were working class people…I think I’m frugal and I got nothing on them. So I never thought I’d rely on their money. Started working in high school for the extra cash and worked throughout college and went to grad school part time while working full time to pay for that. My parents covered all of my necessities so I can’t complain though…what else can you ask for?
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  12. My parents helped me a lot financially growing up and I admittedly still look forward to going home and getting those free meals. But while my parents supported me financially, they did not establish a consumerist attitude in me. I was one of the only kids in town taking the bus as a senior in high school. We didn’t have cars or smartphones or ipods or any of that. But I did have financial support. I think it’s a good balance, for parents who can afford to provide that.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…Smart Holiday TravelMy Profile

    • Ben @ The Wealth Gospel December 20, 2013

      I agree! It’s definitely good to know that your parents are willing to treat you, and I think it all really boils down to the attitude you have about it. When you freak out because they don’t get you what you want, there’s something wrong there.
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  13. Tonya@Budget and the Beach December 20, 2013

    I could write a novel on what I’ve seen first hand when it comes to enabling. I’m talking about my brother. It becomes a crutch, and depending on the character of the person, you either learn to try to avoid the crutch, or become a terrible human being and take advantage of loved ones because you don’t have the strength within to want to make yourself a better person. My parents have given me money over the years, but I don’t expect it, and would certainly never hold it against them if they couldn’t.
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    • Ben @ The Wealth Gospel December 20, 2013

      Yep, there are some in my and my wife’s families. It’s also hard not to say anything about it, because you really want to help everyone involved but it always comes across in the wrong way.
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  14. Michelle @fitisthenewpoor December 20, 2013

    Great post! I had to take a loan from my dad to pay for grad school tuition a couple of years ago. I regretted it instantly. My dad had always taught us to be self sufficient and my parents were nowhere near rich (in fact, my mom raised three kids by herself way under the poverty line). I vowed to never take loans from them again (and to pay him back interest).
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    • Ben @ The Wealth Gospel December 20, 2013

      Yeah it’s tough. I borrowed a little money from my parents a while ago, just for a couple of weeks, and I later regretted it because I realized they didn’t really have the money to spare. My dad didn’t say anything though. I paid it back ASAP!
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  15. Mrs PoP December 20, 2013

    I was pretty much 100% on my own as soon as I graduated high school, and I think hat definitely shaped my decisions in a responsible way. I know too many people who are counting on inheritances and some even who look at their parents’ spending as taking money out of their future pockets. It’s not a good way to live.
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  16. Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial December 20, 2013

    I knew better than to ever ask my mom and dad for money. Occasionally my dad offered me $20 for gas money (he still does, actually, when I run an errand for him), and they do pay when we go out to eat, but if I ever actually expected them to pay for something I think the best that would happen would be they’d laugh in my face. They were all for me getting out on my own and having me take care of myself – and by not allowing me to access the Bank of Mom and Dad, I learned very quickly how to manage my own money and take responsibility for myself. Parents who don’t let their children venture out 100% on their own – which means no financial support – are setting their kids up for failure.
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  17. Oh, kids these days… But it’s true. A lot of parents have been coddling their children because they want to give them the best. It’s true that my mom supplied me with money during college, but it was usually to cover what my workstudy money didn’t. And at times, if I earned a bit extra by working, U wouldn’t touch the money she gave me.

    If kids could see that there are a lot of other expenses that their parents need to think about, besides having to pay their phone bill, I think they would appreciate the limits a lot more.
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    • Ben @ The Wealth Gospel December 20, 2013

      Yeah, I think it would be very helpful for parents to actually share their budget with their kids so they could see that. But then I guess the parents would have to have a budget first…
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