How to Cut the Financial Cord with Adult Children

Do you have an adult child who has not quite left the nest?  Mighty Mommy teams up with special guest Money Girl to discuss how you can help your 20-something child set out onto the road to adulthood.

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #303


As parents, we do our best to love, nurture, and raise responsible and self-reliant children.  For many parents, the goal is to help them have a successful high school experience and then find a suitable college, vocational school, or career path that will carry them into adulthood where they will flourish into productive members of society..

It's a great plan, but a new trend has taken parenting by storm that threatens this well-intentioned progression: adult kids returning home after college or never leaving to begin with.

According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31 (the so-called Millennial Generation) were still living in their parents’ home!  That's a record 21.6 million Millennials living with their parents in 2012, up from 18.5 million of their counterparts in 2007.

This report states that this increase of young adults who live in their parents’ homes appears to be driven by a combination of economic, educational, and cultural factors. While these are certainly worthy reasons, there are also situations where adult children seem to hang on like leeches, refusing to grow up and draining their parents of time, energy, privacy, and of course, money.

Today's working families are having enough challenges paying for college and saving for retirement, but with this trend of adult children not leaving the nest, parents are faced with even more difficult decisions on how to make it all work.

My guest today is Laura Adams, a financial expert and host of the Money Girl podcast.  Laura will share how to help adult children ready for independence. Laura, thanks so much for joining us!

Mighty Mommy: My first question is about how to prevent this situation from happening in the first place. Is there anything parents can do before their kids leave for college or to go out into the workforce to groom them to sustain themselves financially once they leave?

Money Girl: This situation reminds me of one of my favorite movies with Matthew McConaughey, Failure to Launch.  It’s a great rom-com that shows how far parents will go to get an adult child out of the house.

I think one of the most important tasks for parents is to begin setting expectations during high school and college. For many adult children, the “fall-back” option for moving home after they graduate is something that they take for granted. Parents who don’t discuss their plans ahead of time must assume some of the blame when a child fails to launch.

The first step toward sending the child off into the real world is to make sure he or she is working and has the means to pay bills. Not many people find their dream job right off the bat, but they need to begin working at something to get experience, build a professional network, and earn income. That’s the first step.

MM: I would imagine that considerations need to be made on an individual basis, but is there a rule of thumb or appropriate guideline for when adult-aged children should be considered old enough to manage their own financial affairs?

MG: Anyone capable of holding down a steady job and living on their own should be able manage their own finances. Different personality types will be better at this than others, but with some parental guidance it can be easily learned.

MM:  What are some suggestions that overwhelmed parents can implement with their 20-something children to help contribute their fair share if they move back home after college?

MG: Everyone living at home needs to contribute. If the adult child is not working, they can contribute by helping out around the house. If they are working, they should be contributing financially to the household proportionally for rent, food, and utilities. This will prepare them for living alone or with roommates in the future.

MM: What are some of the problems that adult children will be facing in their future financial life if they continue to live at home?


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.