When my oldest child was about to graduate from college earlier this year, I made a strategic decision: We were going to kick her out of the house and get her living on her own.
Do you think I am a bad parent? Or, am I taking the steps that more parents should today–getting their children to be responsible for their own finances despite the inevitable struggles?
When my daughter graduated in May, my wife and I gave her a specific deadline: By the end of the summer, find a job, find an apartment, and find out exactly what your monthly expenses will be when you are living on your own.
Even though we’ve done well enough that we could have given her a bunch of cash or let her stay at home for a couple of years to build up a nest egg, my wife and I agreed that this was the best option for her. And it’s the best option to demonstrate what the path will be for our two younger children when they graduate college.
Next, we outlined things that we believed had been key to our success and, in turn, could help her to create her own success. First, we had no Plan B. After college, both my wife and I were left with little in our bank account and were forced to work immediately just to survive. Second, you really value things you get in life when you earn them and not when they are given to you. Third, learning how to manage your expenses will allow you to be a better manager of your own family, if you have one down the road.
Of course, kicking your kids out of the house doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t offer some initial help, but it does mean that they will be responsible for paying for their housing bills. We were steadfast that our daughter’s basic bills–rent, electricity, television, food, entertainment, etc.–would all be on her dime on her time. If she wants to shop at Whole Foods instead of Aldi, then good for her. She will just need to figure out a way to afford it.
We chose to subsidize two things for the next 12 months–her mobile phone (we are on a family plan) and her car insurance. After 12 months, she becomes fully responsible for those expenses as well.
Ultimately, it should be up to our children to decide whether or not to get a roommate to share costs, and whether to start their career with their dream job even if it pays very little or just a job that will pay the bills. The point is that you, as a parent, have to be decisive about the fact that the “safety net” of living at home is coming to an end–even if you choose to subsidize their housing for a small period of time.
We told our daughter that she may need to have roommates if her current situation doesn’t work out or she may need to live a lifestyle lower than what she has been accustomed to. And we continued to emphasize that struggle is what creates success…not your parents.
Our daughter didn’t take our decision lightly, especially having grown up in an affluent Atlanta suburb where her friends got fancy cars, international trips and some of them even had their parents put a down payment on a house. We certainly had a few blow ups. And I’d be lying if I said that my wife wasn’t initially reluctant about the idea. But after we went through the pros and cons and what we believed the intended and unintended consequences would be from this decision, we agreed, as parents, that a summer-end deadline would be the best option for our daughter.
No doubt, all of us want to help our children. However, letting them know there is a Plan B will never really help them get to the success of Plan A.