What if, despite your best efforts, your adult kids just aren't able
to sustain themselves financially?
The idea used to give Andy Byron the cold sweats. With a whopping
five kids, the 57-year-old financial planner from Pleasanton,
California wanted no part of 'delayed adults' hanging out in his
basement well into their thirties.
So he and his wife turned their household into a virtual factory for
churning out financially independent kids. The eldest girl, 29, is
an English language teacher. The 26-year-old twin boys work for
Apple and PricewaterhouseCoopers[PWC.UL], respectively. Their
22-year-old son scored a paid summer internship with medical device
manufacturer Stryker Corp, with an eye toward a career in medical
The 19-year-old daughter, a college sophomore in the fall, is
combining her studies with a paid summer internship and a part-time
accounting job during the school year.
So what's their secret sauce?
"Start early, be consistent, and make sure they know what their
responsibilities are," Byron says.
As soon as they were 16 or 17, the parents told their kids that they
had to get jobs, and would be on their own after graduation. As a
result, the three oldest are out of the house and get no more
monthly cash from the bank of Mom and Dad; the younger two will
follow suit soon.
While the Byron clan appears to have figured it all out, it's no
easy task to nudge kids from the nest. Among people in their 40s and
50s who have adult kids, a stunning 73 percent report lending
financial help over the previous year, according to Pew Research
Center, a Washington-based think tank.
Are the successful launches of the 27 percent due to thoughtful,
years-long projects to educate kids about handling finances? Or are
they product of tough love, throwing adult kids into the deep end of
the pool in order to force them to swim?
"They are more the result of financial education, and talking about
money, which ranks right up there with sex as a taboo subject," says
Sally Koslow, author of the book "Slouching Toward Adulthood."
For those with children who have yet to launch, there is plenty of
time left on the clock. Here is how to prep kids for true financial
independence, during college and the critical years that follow:
DO YOUR PART
If you don't want your kids financially hanging on, do whatever you
can to help them graduate from college debt-free. Seven out of 10
college grads last year had outstanding loans, at an average debt of
$29,400, according to the advocacy group Project On Student Debt. To
help them avoid indentured servitude, start saving as soon as
they're in swaddling clothes.
Andy Byron and his wife contributed at least $50 a month, and often
much more, into 529 college-savings plans for each one of their five
kids - "as soon as each child had a Social Security number," he
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Byron supplemented that aggressive strategy by "strongly suggesting"
the kids go to public, in-state universities. The payoff: All the
Byron grads have emerged from their college years free of student
DRAFT A WINGMAN
The popular HBO series "Girls" was premised on a key event: Lena
Dunham's character getting financially cut off by her parents.
That can be excruciating for everyone involved, but necessary
nonetheless. "Parents get so emotionally involved," says Matt
Curfman, a vice president with financial advisers Richmond Brothers
in Jackson, Michigan. "That's why I tell them, 'If you need me to
jump in and help, even if I end up being the bad guy, I'm happy to
It doesn't have to be done in one fell swoop, Curfman notes. If your
adult kid runs into financial trouble, write down a concrete plan to
help with a certain amount of dollars for a certain number of months
- "but that's it."
BECOME A PART-TIME PROFESSOR
Kids get plenty of calculus and chemistry in high school and
college, but personal finance? Not so much.
That's where parents can make themselves a critical resource. For
24-year-old Annie-Rose Strasser, home instruction was what set her
on the path to become the financially independent young adult she is
now. Strasser has a full-time job as a journalist in Washington and
lives in her own apartment. "I never learned personal finance when I
was in school - 401(k)s, saving, balancing a budget: I learned it
all from my parents," she says.
Paired with that informal home-study was the early expectation that
Strasser would put herself to work as soon as she was able. A
constant stream of it - at summer camps, at office jobs, at paid
internships - helped set the table for her successful launch.
"My parents aren't the kind of people who would say, 'Go off and
explore yourself,'" she laughs. "Instead, they put a lot of stock in
the idea of finding a career, saving money - and being extremely
(Editing by Beth Pinsker, Lauren Young and Jonathan Oatis)
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