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Today we are happy to bring you the first article in a new series – Reader's Stories. We'll occasionally be publishing personal stories sent to us by readers or guest contributors who want to stay anonymous. If you've got a story you think will benefit our readers, please contact us here for additional details.
You're Not Doing Them Any Favors
If you are providing financial life support to an adult child, I have just one thing to say: You're not doing them any favors.
My brother-in-law, “Danny”, has had a spotty work record for the 32 years I've been in the picture. After he was fired, the story was that the boss was some variation of an ogre.
It was really that Danny had problems being told what to do. He was always smarter than his bosses. He may have been more intelligent–he tested quite high in IQ. But if he didn't respect all aspects of his boss 100% of the time, he couldn't work for them.
I've been a boss. I'm sure my staff didn't respect all aspects of me 100% of the time–it's an impossible standard.
In the early years, he bounced from housing provided by his mother to housing provided by his father. The parents no longer spoke, so they didn't know he was bouncing, they assumed he was occasionally supporting himself.
They felt sorry for him; they divorced at such a terrible age. My husband said, “You're not doing him any favors.”
Then he met a woman with a young son, and he looked after the son while the woman worked. That was satisfactory for a while. Then they split up.
But his mother had died and left him a small inheritance. So he lived on that for a while.
Then he was living in a spare bedroom in his Dad's home. Working occasionally but mainly smoking all day in his Dad's house, with his Dad's money. My husband said, “You're not doing him any favors.”
Then he was living in a motor home in his Dad's backyard. His Dad gave him money for food and cigarettes, and he paid his utilities. My husband said, “You're not doing him any favors.”
Fast forward to today
This kid is pushing 60. Living in a home owned by his father–apparently, that motorhome became uninhabitable.
I hear his new home is quite nice as he had very specific requirements for what would be acceptable. He hasn't taken care of the yard, he sits inside and smokes all day. He's in poor health. Everyone is out to get him. Life isn't fair. He's now unemployable, he's obese and can barely walk.
He should be on public assistance, but he's too proud for that. He won't sign up for Medicaid though I'm sure he's eligible.
His Dad gives him money each week for food and cigarettes, and he pays the mortgage and utilities each month. He also covers his medical bills.
So now his Dad is working on his estate planning. Danny tells his Dad if he receives his home with a paid-off mortgage that would be acceptable to him. But that's more than his fair share of the estate. And his Dad is all about keeping things fair among the kids.
Though things haven't been fair for decades.
So it's very likely Danny would need to get a mortgage if his Dad dies. As you now know, that would be impossible.
So he'll be homeless and will have to swallow his pride and get on public assistance. He will lose his Dad, his source of income, and his pride all at once. Though it's very likely, his Dad will outlive him.
He no longer speaks to either of his siblings. The financial life support will not continue to another generation.
Financial Life Support, Not doing any favors…
But here's the part of this story that makes me crazy, makes me want to cry. My father-in-law is pushing 90. He worked really hard his whole life. He'd like to spend winters in the desert. But he can't afford it.
He figures he's paid out about half a million dollars supporting his adult son. Whom he was not doing any favors.
What do I wish had happened?
I wish his parents had provided some mental health counseling; anti-depressants might have helped. I wish they'd paid for job training.
Financial support should have decreased over a year or 18 months until he was entirely on his own. I wish they hadn't given him enough money to buy cigarettes.
We'll never know what he could have become. A bird can't fly when it's tethered to the nest.
A big thank you to our anonymous author. We're sorry to hear of this unfortunate situation and while it seems unlikely, we do hope things might turn around for all family members concerned.
As this article and our article on being financially independent pointed out, it's important for parents to set limits on the assistance they provide their children. Working together, parents and children can create a plan to end all financial support over a set period of time.
More and more people are becoming part of the “Sandwich Generation” – stuck between financially supporting adult children and helping parents too. While it might be too late to do anything but support older parents, it's not too late to do something about adult children.
In fact, it's time to make sure we're not “doing them any favors”.
If you've got a story you think will benefit our readers, please contact us here for additional details.