06/18/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Cutting The Financial Cord

Dear Christine,

I have a job and my own place, but I'm still pretty financially dependent on my parents. My mother especially makes sure that I get to live this great lifestyle in the big city. Thing is, I'm not at all sure my parents can actually afford to keep supporting me the way they do. Every time I try to have a conversation with them they just say not to worry about it and then deposit money as usual. I really enjoy having the lifestyle I do, but I'm starting to feel really guilty about what kind of affect it's really having on my parents. What do I do?

~Financially Loved but Guilty, New York, 25

Dear Financially Loved but Guilty,

First of all, I commend you for having some guilt about this situation. At least you are aware that your Paris Hilton arrangement may be a strain on your parents. Many Gen Y'ers use mom and dad's credit card as if it's their birth right. But now it's time to move out of guilt, a reactive feeling that simply helps justify your position, and into action!

Yes, the great life in the big city is fun, but how much are those delicious dinners and beautiful new outfits really costing you? You are 25, you have a job, and you are living on your own so it sounds like the extra dough your parents are giving you is just "fun money." Hey, there is nothing wrong with getting fun money from time to time. My dad still gets great joy out of handing me a hundred dollar bill every now and then when I visit. But regular deposits? That is financial dependence. By becoming dependent on that monthly deposit from mom and dad, you will never figure out what you can and cannot afford on your own. So YOU are going to have to be the one to cut the proverbial cord.

Today's parents often strive for a relationship with their twenty-something children that is more like friendship than parenting. However, this is a double-edged sword. If they over-support you emotionally and financially, it becomes a crutch for both the parents and the children. Parents get to continue having an active part in their adult children's lives, many times at financial risk to themselves, while the young adults remain tethered to and stifled by the support of their parents.

If you are right, and the money in your parents' checkbooks is running out, prepare yourself for this eventuality - and the reality that you are a grown up. Don't delude yourself about the lifestyle you can actually afford, otherwise you'll end up in debt to maintain that illusion. Being clear about your finances now will help keep your feet on the ground as you climb the workplace ladder and your financial responsibilities grow.

It's clear your parents love you and want to support you in any way they can, and to return that love and support, it's time for you to be independent. Take the expert advice of Neale S. Godfrey, founder of Children's Financial Network, Inc. and author of numerous books including Money Doesn't Grow On Trees: A Parent's Guide to Raising Financially Responsible Children. Neale advises "Come clean with your parents and say that you are really seeking independence and need their help to do so. Design a budget, review it with your parents, and let them feel empowered, not guilty, about helping you to leave the nest." Start prioritizing the activities and expenses in your life. What are the necessities? What are the extras? By creating an action plan with a budget, you are taking a giant step towards becoming a fully independent adult, and will be helping your parents in the process.

As the pressures of the real world surround you, it is so easy to slip back into the role of the child when your parents took care of the bills and eased your mind of worries. But a large part of growing up is taking responsibility for your own life. It's time to cut the purse strings.


Please send me your questions by posting them in the comments section below. You can also email me at