By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
My adult son lost his job when he became disabled. He is married with one child. His wife, who has degrees in finance and accounting, does not work.
We managed to get Social Security disability payments for him, and thought his financial problems were solved.
But instead of paying rent, they spent his disability payment on private-club dues and expensive iPhones, none of which we have ever been able to afford.
We are retired and live on our savings and Social Security. We are already paying for private school for our granddaughter and their medical expenses, car repairs and weekly cash for food.
At the end of the month, my son asks me to pay his rent and says, “You don’t want us to be evicted, do you?” So I have to pay.
What should I do?
Elderly Retired Father
Rule No. 1: You never have to do anything in life that you don’t want to do.
To quote MTV’s “The Real World,” you need to stop being polite and start getting real. Your son will not live in the real world if he doesn’t have to, and as long as you are paying his bills, he will continue to have you keep him in the life to which he would like to become accustomed. He can pay fees for his private clubs and iPhone, but not his food and rent?
He has made a decision to remain a child, and will do so as long as he is receiving pocket money, and he is using his child as leverage. It’s manipulative. If you want to be free from being used in this way, you have to be able to use “no” as a complete sentence, accept that he may become angry with you and withdraw for a time, and/or risk losing your son for good.
Roughly one-quarter of young adults were financially independent by age 22 or younger, compared with just less than one-third in 1980, according to the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C. Young men are more likely to “launch” than young women, but that gender gap has diminished in recent years, Pew found.
They too tap their parents for essential bills. “A majority of young adults who have received financial help from their parents say at least some of it was for recurring expenses,” the researchers wrote. “Six-in-ten say the money went toward household expenses such as groceries or bills, and significant shares used it to pay their tuition, rent or mortgage.”
“Today’s young adults are staying in school longer and are marrying and establishing their own households later than previous generations. A growing share are living in their parents’ homes well into their 20s and even early 30s,” they added. But that does not account for your son, who has left home (in theory, anyway) and is married with a child.
Here’s what I would do in your position: Hire a financial adviser for one day to go through their income and expenditure, and frame it as a gift. Then I would sit down with your son and his wife, and see exactly how much financial support he needs, excluding expenses for their aforementioned lifestyle. Last but not least, suggest what they can do to rectify it.
The good news: Your son does not live with you, and you don’t have to evict him from your home. You may recall the 2018 case of Mark and Christina Rotondo, a couple based in Syracuse, N.Y., who went to the New York State Supreme Court to evict their 30-year-old son, Mark, from their home. Their son called the judge’s decision “outrageous” and vowed to appeal.
There is no easy answer to your question. Entitled children who want money for simply existing in the world are not uncommon, and it’s always messy. There will be no clean ending to your situation. We like simple solutions — we go to the movies for them. We live in messy times. The pandemic had a messy start, and it will likely have an equally unsatisfying end.
You and your wife must present a united front and stick together. Be prepared for a backlash, guilt trips and/or even threats that they will have to move away and take their kid. Hire the financial adviser to lay it out in black and white for your son and his wife, highlight what you are willing to do for your grandchild and all you have done for your son, and tell them they’re on their own.
Rule No. 2: If they can afford to attend a private members club, they can afford to work.
<STRONG>You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at firstname.lastname@example.org</STRONG> . Want to read more? Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter and read more of his columns here.
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