Your kids are recently out of college and starting to make their way in the world. They have a mountain of student loans, an underpaying job, and are just making ends meet. How can you help them become prosperous? Should you help them financially?
Today’s recent grads face a tougher job market and a longer career path than previous generations. The cost of a college education has become staggering. Long gone are the times when you could put yourself through college by working a summer job or waiting tables on the weekends. Those jobs aren’t going to cover the $50,000 tuition bills at a private university today. Even students who work through college can finish with $40,000, $60,000, $80,000 or more in debt.
I’ve also seen parents go too far and give their children million dollar homes, creating unreasonable expectations and a total lack of drive and ambition. Why work if you’re just going to be given whatever you need? Parents risk having adult children who don’t value money and have no interest in developing their own financial success.
There are, I think, a number of creative ways to help your children financially without simply writing them a blank check. Parents want to prevent their children from falling on their faces, but we have to remember that challenges often teach us the most important lessons. Children often copy their parents’ money habits, and not talking about money isn’t going to help your kids become responsible adults. Here are ways to help.
1) Rent to Roth. If your kids are going to move back home after college, consider charging a nominal amount for rent, based on what they can afford. If that’s only $200 or $300 a month, fine. Then, take that money and put it into a Roth IRA in their name. Give them the account after they move out.
There is an enormous benefit to starting early for retirement saving. If they save $3,600 at age 23 and 24 ($300 a month), and earn 8%, they’d have over $175,000 at age 65 just from those two years! But they have to not touch this money – to leave it invested and not spend it on student loans, or a car, or a house, or a wedding. It’s got to be off limits!
2) Give them this book. It is a gem. It’s short and they could read it in one afternoon. If they read it, they will know more about money than 99% of their peers. (And if they don’t read it, you’re only out $12.)
3) Mom and Dad’s Matching Program. Rather than making an outright gift of cash and hoping they use those funds wisely, offer to match their funds for goals like student loans, buying a used car, or funding an investment account like a 401(k) or IRA. This at least requires that they also contribute towards their financial goals rather than making everything a free-bee. Support financial needs which will make them more self-sufficient, rather than inadvertently making them more dependent on their parents for living expenses. Ask if this support is empowering or enabling?
4) Sign them up for my Wealth Builder Program, which is specifically designed for their needs. I will work one on one with them on their financial goals, including loan repayment, risk management, savings strategies, and investing. They get advice from their own fiduciary, which they may accept more readily than advice from a parent! Your cost is $200 a month. Alternatively, if you’re working with another financial advisor, ask if they will include your adult children as part of your household, but meet with them separately.
5) Encourage Entrepreneurship. Working families think that an education is the key to financial success. And to some extent, it is. But wealthy families know that owning a business is the real path to financial independence. Consider how you can encourage, support, and invest in your children starting a business.
Just remember before sinking your whole nest egg into their yoga studio (or whatever) that 80% of new businesses disappear in less than 5 years. If you are going to commit money to an idea, then it should be a sensible investment – either equity in the business or a loan with specific terms – and not a gift. It must be in line with your own investment strategies and not represent a substantial change to your risk profile.
An estimated two-thirds of parents are financially supporting their children over the age of 21. While this may be a new reality, it is also wreaking havoc with many parents’ finances and their ability to save for retirement. In some cases, we also need to be candid about what the parents can or cannot afford and what these sacrifices may mean for the parents’ finances. This is where a financial planner can provide an independent, objective point of view to make sure that your generosity is not going to jeopardize your own goals or become a permanent need for support.