There is an abundance of stories today about members of the Millennial Generation aka Gen Y living at home, struggling with the challenges of both economic and emotional freedom. You could point to many factors such as the recession impacting not only job expansion opportunities or members of the Baby Boomer generation refusing to let go financially or emotionally. You could look at parents who have worked so diligently to hold and control their children that they are unable to break free of their addiction and make life "too comfortable" for their offspring to leave. Financial and emotional bondage at it's very best-or worst. Every parent I speak with wants their children to be independent, happy and self-sufficient; unfortunately not every parent has provided the tools necessary to take it from thought to action.
Parents who maintain financial control, by refusing to allow their children to struggle, figure out solutions and live within their means, are crippling their offspring's abilities to mature and grow. As a parent who is on the very brink of officially becoming an empty-nester, as they say in tax lingo, I recognize and realize the depth of this step for all parties involved. There is joy and sadness surrounding my son's impending departure. I will miss evenings watching a ball game or TV show or listening to new music together; I will miss the laughter and discussions-the house will seem empty without his presence. But I am happy because he is doing what is appropriate and necessary and he is doing it with the right amount of trepidation and excitement.
It's not as if this is the first time I've experienced life without him home; four years of college and a year in Italy teaching English gave me a taste of it, but I always knew he'd be back-at least for a little while. Three years of law school and a year of job searching later, he's ready to leap and it's hard to hold back tears. But, I know, they will flow regardless of my desire to be staunch and strong. Have I given him what he needs to fly? In my heart, I know I have-he's far smarter than I and while he lacks the experience, he will adapt, grow and succeed.
Parents can better prepare themselves and their children for financial independence and success by following a few basic rules:
1. Don't keep money a secret, especially difficulties. Making a child believe that there is no such thing a money difficulties is keeping them inappropriately isolated from the truth. It is important to talk, share and discuss issues at age appropriate times.
2. Live within your means and according to your values. If you live trying to keep up with someone else's concept of success, you will pass on this unhealthy attitude to your children.
3. Give your children responsibility to pay their bills and handle their finances. [If it wasn't for my kids, I'd still be writing physical checks and not banking online].
4. Talk about goal-setting
5. Discuss the importance of risk management (emergency funds, insurance etc.)
6. Introduce them to your financial planner (notice I didn't say stock broker); they are not too young to seek professional advice.
7. Talk about "Plan B", as my wife is so fond of saying. What happens "if"? These discussions are important and while the answers might not be forthcoming, it's on the table.
As my son is getting ready to take possession of his first apartment and my wife and I are "ready" to take possession of his room, there are challenges for everyone and after the tears, the hugs and the help-he will create, build and design his life as an independent, self-sufficient human being; his mother and I will be there, on the side lines to offer our support and encouragement. It's moments like these that the word "bittersweet" was created.