McNay on Money

Just Say "No" To Adult Children Wanting Money

By: Don McNay
By: Don McNay

It seems like every family has one - - the Child Who Never Grew Up. They mooch off their parents well into their "adulthood." They frequently need to "borrow" money, with no intention of paying it back. They always have car problems, relationship problems, "bad luck" or other sob stories. All their problems have the same proposed solution: Money from mom and dad.

 My old man is another child that's grown old
-John Prine

It seems like every family has one - - the Child Who Never Grew Up. 
They mooch off their parents well into their "adulthood."  They frequently need to "borrow" money, with no intention of paying it back.  They always have car problems, relationship problems, "bad luck" or other sob stories.

All their problems have the same proposed solution: Money from mom and dad. 
 
Often they are living with mommy and daddy, long past the time when their contemporaries are starting careers and families.
 
Concepts like budgeting, responsibility and ambition don't make it into their vocabularies.
 
According to multiple media accounts, former Michigan basketball star Rumeal Robinson took mooching to a new art.  
 
He tricked his mother into letting him mortgage her home.  A headline in the Miami News Times sums it up: "Hoops hero Rumeal Robinson blew a fortune on strippers, got indicted and left his mom homeless."
 
Sounds like a great guy. 
 
Mooching children usually don't hurt parents as dramatically as Rumeal Robinson did, but the results are still bad.  Adult children with a "failure to launch" are dragging down parents who can't afford to subsidize them.
 
The headline from a recent Newsweek online article read "Retired and Broke."
 
According to the AARP, people over 55 is the age group most likely to declare bankruptcy.  The article cites the usual bankruptcy causes, like medical expenses and credit card debts, but hammers on the idea of parents not giving money to their children.  
The article ends by noting that "parents may want to help the next generation extricate itself from debt.  Leading by example might be a more valuable gift."
 
Wise advice.
 
It's not an easy decision to implement.  There are situations, like medical emergencies or short term downturns, where families don't have another alternative.    
 
I'm also not talking about children with severe illnesses or who are unable to work.  I wouldn't throw my sick child out on the street and neither would you. 
 
I'm talking about the child who has a car, an iPhone and running-around money but doesn't chip in for rent or groceries. 
 
You are not doing your children any favors by not allowing them to grow up.
 
Roger Ailes did an interview for CSPAN a few years ago.  He said when he turned 18, his father asked him where he planned to live.
 
Ailes was puzzled, but his dad said, "I can get you a job at the factory, (where his dad worked) but you can't live here."   Ailes decided to go to college at Ohio University and got into broadcasting.  He went on to create Fox News, CNBC and play major roles in some presidential campaigns. 
 
Love him or hate him, Ailes is one of the most influential people in American media.   His father forced him to grow up and make his mark.
 
I had a similar moment on my 18th birthday.  My father took me outside and said, "You are going to get what I got on my 18th birthday - - the whole wide world to make your living in." (Dad had to quit school and go to work at age 15.)
 
Dad pointed to his car.  He said, "You see that Cadillac?  That is MY Cadillac, not OUR Cadillac.  Make some money and buy your own."
 
20 years later, I did.
 
It wasn't "tough love."   It was making me realize that I was an adult and had adult responsibilities.
 
I'm ok with parents helping children through college (in four years, not forty), but after that they are on their own.
 
People in my father's generation were drafted and sent off to war.  There are 18 year-olds today who are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
 
I saw a Frontline story about Afghanistan where the soldiers are sleeping on the ground without mattresses. I suspect those soldiers don't have much sympathy for a 30 year-old who is still living with mommy and daddy.  
 
I work with people who receive "big money" from lotteries, inheritances and injury settlements.  All of them have the same problem that retirees have.  Once they lose all their money, they have very little ability to make it back. 
 
Like retirees, their financial downfall often comes from family and friends who want to "borrow" money from them.
 
Which gets us back to the adult in your house who still acts like a child.  I can go on for hours about how making life too soft for him or her is bad.   I can go on about how eating away your savings will leave you in a situation where death is your only way out of the mess.  I can go on for hours about how giving adult children money is not actually love.  It is enabling bad behavior, like giving heroin to an addict.
 
Instead, I give you three words to remember: Rumeal Robinson's mother. 
 
Don't end up like her.
 
Helen Ford adopted Robinson at age 10 after his biological mother abandoned him.  She and her husband raised him, helped Rumeal become part of a national championship basketball team at the University of Michigan and a player in the National Basketball Association, making millions of dollars.    
 
Rumeal blew through his money, spending it on strippers, nightlife and high living.  He never gave anything to the people who raised him.  After his career ended, he got his mother to agree to let him take a mortgage on her house.  Later, it was foreclosed on.
 
She used the house as a center for foster children.  Now she lives in a two room apartment. 
 
Rumeal's mother had good intentions.  She wanted to help her son.
 
Parents  are often the last to see that their child is a piece of  human garbage.  They are the easiest of prey.
 
I'm seeing a lot of elderly people lose their houses, savings and often their lives (financial pressure is a key trigger for suicide) because children "borrowed" money and never paid it back. 
 
It's time to cut them off.
 
The kids will pout and cry.  They will try to make you feel guilty.  Immature people do that.
 
Show them that you are a real, loving parent and not a patsy.
 
Just say "No."  Your own survival is at stake.
 
If you want some reassurance, I would ask you to call Rumeal Robinson's mother, but I assume her phone has been cut off. 
 

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is one of the world's leading authorities in helping people deal with "Big Money" issues.
 
McNay is an award-winning syndicated financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor.
 
You can read more about Don at
www.donmcnay.com
 
McNay founded McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in 1983, and Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. You can read more about both at
www.mcnay.com
 
McNay has Master's Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Hall of Distinguished Alumni of Eastern Kentucky University.  
 
McNay has written two books.  Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery
 
McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.

 

 

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