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Cutting the financial umbilical cord to your adult children

Credit cards are displayed in Haverhill, Mass. on

Credit cards are displayed in Haverhill, Mass. on June 15, 2017. Credit: AP

Parenthood is one of the toughest jobs, period. Even if you finally get an empty nest, that doesn’t mean your children still won’t present financial demands.

According to a new survey from, 74% of the more than 1,000 parents polled say they are helping their adult children financially, assisting with living expenses and paying their debt.

How can parents cut the financial umbilical cord?

  • Recognize your own financial needs

They may be your “baby” but they have to learn to walk on their own. “No parent should go into financial distress in order to help out their adult children,” says Gayani DeSilva, M.D., psychiatrist and author of A Psychiatrist’s Guide: Helping Parents Reach Their Depressed Tween.

  • Analyze the problem

If your child has a pattern of needing help, find out why. “If your child has a history of money issues or other troubles, realize your financial support is enabling the poor behavior,” says Tony Moeller, president of Integrity Advisory in Overland Park, Kansas.

  • Create a separation plan

Weaning your children off financial support is often better than going cold turkey. Moeller offers a strategy. “List all the financial support you give your child — cellphone bill, car insurance, etc. Set up a plan over a period of time, several months to a year, and determine which expenses you’ll stop paying as of what date.”

Give your child reminders a month ahead of time, which expenses will end next month.

  • Stay the course

“This can be an emotional roller coaster,” Moeller says. “But it can end well when your child rises to the occasion with ‘tough love’ and becomes financially capable, and you don’t ruin your financial future.”

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