[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 Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or get his feed via RSS]