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Sink or Swim: Support for Adult Children

When I began graduate school, my father agreed to pay my rent. I had a scholarship covering tuition and a modest research stipend. However, a year into my studies, my father abruptly cut off his support, telling me, "You figure it out." This forced me to get a second job working nights at a bar to cover my expenses. Initially, I was angry because he had changed the deal on me. However, I later realized it was one of the best life lessons I ever learned.


In today's world, many parents choose to support their adult children financially, but the philosophies and approaches to this generosity can vary significantly. Understanding these differing perspectives can help families navigate the complex dynamics of financial gifting and maintain healthy relationships.


Multi-generation family sightseeing in Valldemossa, Majorca, Spain on a sunny summer day. Teenage girl, mother, and grandmother taking selfies with a magnificent view of the town and surrounding mountains. Funding family experiences supports children's lifestyle and maintains healthy family relationships, showcasing different philosophies of financial gifting.
Supporting adult children and grandchildren through funding family experiences creates lasting family memories and strengthens family bonds, showcasing different philosophies of financial gifting.

In this blog post, we'll explore three primary philosophies of financial gifting: parents who support their children's lifestyle, those who only support major life events, and those who focus on funding major family experiences.


Financial Gifting Philosophy #1. Supporting the Lifestyle

Some parents believe in providing ongoing financial support to help their adult children maintain a certain lifestyle. This approach often includes regular gifts that cover everyday expenses, luxury items, or even supplemental income to bolster their children's standard of living.


Pros:

  • Reduced Financial Stress: Regular financial support can alleviate financial pressures, allowing adult children to focus on their careers, personal growth, and well-being.

  • Stronger Bonds: This continuous support can foster a sense of closeness and interdependence within the family.

  • Security and Stability: Knowing that there is a safety net can provide adult children with a sense of security, encouraging them to take risks and pursue opportunities they might otherwise avoid.


Cons:

  • Dependency: There is a risk of creating a dependency, where adult children may struggle to manage finances independently.

  • Entitlement: Regular financial gifts might foster a sense of entitlement, leading to unrealistic expectations and potential conflicts.

  • Financial Strain on Parents: Depending on the parents' financial situation, continuous support might strain their resources, impacting their retirement or financial goals.


Financial Gifting Philosophy #2. Supporting Major Life Events

Other parents prefer to support their adult children during significant life events such as weddings, home purchases, a graduate degree, or starting a business. This approach emphasizes helping during critical moments rather than providing ongoing support.


Pros:

  • Encouraging Independence: By limiting support to major events, parents encourage their children to be financially independent and responsible for their day-to-day expenses.

  • Focused Assistance: This method ensures that financial gifts are used for meaningful purposes that can significantly impact their children's lives.

  • Budget-Friendly: Supporting only major events can be more sustainable for parents, helping them manage their own financial needs and goals.


Cons:

  • Stress During Other Times: Without ongoing support, adult children might experience financial stress during periods without major life events.

  • Potential Resentment: If expectations are not clear, children might feel unsupported or resentful during times of need.

  • Timing Issues: Determining what qualifies as a "major life event" can be subjective, potentially leading to disagreements.


Financial Gifting Philosophy #3. Supporting Major Family Experiences

Some parents choose to use their financial resources to fund significant family experiences, such as annual vacations or gatherings that include extended family and friends. This approach focuses on creating lasting memories and strengthening family bonds.


Pros:

  • Strengthened Relationships: Shared experiences can strengthen family bonds, creating cherished memories and a sense of unity.

  • Life Enrichment: Funding experiences rather than material possessions can enrich the lives of all involved, fostering personal growth and cultural exposure.

  • Inclusivity: This approach often benefits not just the immediate family but extended relatives and friends, enhancing the overall family dynamic.


Cons:

  • Financial Burden: Large-scale events can be expensive, potentially straining parents' finances.

  • Unequal Distribution: Some family members might feel left out or perceive an unequal distribution of resources if they are unable to participate in these experiences.

  • Dependence on Parents: If these experiences are solely funded by parents, there might be an expectation or dependence that could lead to disappointment if circumstances change.


Key Takeaway

The philosophy behind financial gifting to adult children varies widely among parents. Whether supporting a child's lifestyle, focusing on major life events, or funding significant family experiences, each approach has its benefits and potential pitfalls. Clear communication, setting expectations, and balancing generosity with the promotion of independence are crucial in maintaining healthy family relationships. 


Ultimately, the chosen philosophy should align with the family's values, financial situation, and long-term goals, ensuring that both parents and children can thrive.


Final thought.

Are you comfortable with your progress towards retirement? Are you striking a balance between helping your adult children meet their financial goals and managing financial expectations? Have you taken steps forward on estate planning and intergenerational wealth transfer?


If you have more than $2 million saved and need wealth management assistance, the Peak Wealth Planning team is here for you.



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About the Author

Peter Newman is a Chartered Financial Advisor (CFA®) and president of Peak Wealth Planning. He works with individuals nationwide that have accumulated wealth through company stock, ESOP shares, real estate, or running a business. Peter applies his unique background to help clients achieve their specific goals and enjoy peace of mind.


Peak Wealth Planning provides concierge services to meet your wealth management needs. Services include: financial planning, investment management, esop diversification, retirement income, insurance, and estate planning advice. Peak Wealth Planning is a fee-based financial advisor based in Champaign, Illinois, and Fraser, Colorado.




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