Over the last year there has been a reoccurring conversation topic among my friends: when do we start passing expenses to our children? Of course, we love our children, and have happily provided for them over the years, but with adulthood comes responsibility, right?
Do you have a running tab for your kids or some outstanding ‘I owe you’s’? I remember as a kid my mom would put a post-it note on the counter saying, “You owe $X for car insurance this month.” I worked at CVS during high school and had to pay for my cell phone, gas and going out expenses. Fast forward nearly 20 years, I’m now a parent with a sixteen-year-old and a fourteen-year-old, I think my time is coming to start leaving post-it notes on the counter.
One caveat, our children need revenue to start contributing to their expenses. I think this has gotten harder for them, the starting age for a job is older than in generations past. This brings me to the thought that with each changing generation the benchmark of financial independence seems to shift. I think with the most positive of intentions each generation has blazed a slightly easier path for their children which may enable more dependence.
Like learning to ride a bike, ‘financial independence’ starts with training wheels. It starts with children using ‘their’ money when they walk up town to buy Dunkin’ or when they go shopping with their friends. Their first debit card allows them to learn how to manage their money. Depositing money in their first investment or savings account allows them to learn about financial returns and risks. I think having honest financial conversations with our kids is important, so they learn how to be smart with their money. When my children started accumulating money we encouraged the motto, ‘“Spend some, save some, give some.” Now that they are older, I may need to add, “you owe some’”.
Financial independence looks different for each child and family. Like everything in parenting, we are doing our best and teaching as best we can. Kids if you are reading this, two things: One, be on the lookout for a post-it note on the counter soon for that car insurance bill. Two, just like when your training wheels came off the bike, and Dad held on to the seat to make sure you didn’t fall, we will always be here to support you and help maintain your financial balance.