Giving Financial Support to Adult Children

As couples have children later in life, they can be faced with saving for their own retirement and considering an adult child’s requests for financial help. Many of today’s twenty-somethings are underemployed despite having earned a college degree. Now that the suspension of federal student loan payments is about to end, they’ll be servicing this debt along and paying higher prices for everything from food to gasoline.

If you’re a pre-retiree and parent of an adult child who asks for financial help,  you’ll probably want to mull over the decision. As a parent of adult children, I know this decision can be difficult. Saying yes could pose a hardship for you, but saying no could seem unreasonably harsh.

It’s not my place to tell clients in this situation what to do. My role is to help them think through the consequences of their reply and identify financial alternatives to the bank of Mom and Dad.  

I do, however, have an opinion on the subject: Individuals who are close to retirement need to prioritize their own financial well-being. Supporting grown children isn’t noble if it leads to bankruptcy. It certainly sends offspring the wrong message about smart money management.

Younger adults have other options. They can take out loans and have time to pay them back. They can even work a second job temporarily. In contrast, pre-retirees don’t have access to retirement loans and are unlikely to land more lucrative job opportunities.

An adult child’s request can open the door to an honest discussion about money. Every generation in a family has financial challenges, and a frank conversation is often the fastest route to win/win solutions that can keep the peace.