Manage Adult Kids – Living with Adult Children
You can change the location at any time. This four-poster bed and nightstands manage Adult Kids – Living with Adult Children my parents’ when they got married in 1948. Eventually they were in my childhood bedroom, and moved with me when I left home. Then the set became my oldest daughter’s growing up, and now it’s in her apartment.
Parents of grown children, please sit down. I have some harsh news for you. Your kids don’t want your stuff. It’s not that they don’t love you.
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The china hutch, the collectible figurines, your antique map or thimble collection, the sideboard, all those family treasures may hold many precious moments for you, but for your kids, not so much. Yes, I know you think you’re being generous. Yes, I know you paid good money for these things. Yes, I know kids can seem unappreciative. Yes, I know it was part of your family’s history. And, yes, I know it still contains some useful life.
I also know that deep down, you believe your kids will change their minds. This topic hits home, so to speak. That became clear last week when, at a book signing and author chat for my new book, “Downsizing the Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go,” the subject stirred up a fine fuss. It began when one woman among the group huddled inside a small independent bookstore asked what I thought about this situation: She wants to give her Drexel bedroom set — which she has had since she was 16 — to her daughter.
Only, her daughter doesn’t want it and has made that abundantly clear. It’s a wonderful bed, and I want her to have it. You don’t give it to her,” I said. Groans of recognition rippled across the room.
As boomers downsize, declutter and empty their nests, many are facing the painful fact that their millennial offspring don’t want the king-sized carved headboard, the box of handmade Christmas ornaments, the 12 place-settings of china, the nostalgic memorabilia or the silver tea set. Walk through your local antique, consignment and thrift stores. They are overflowing with brown wood furniture, porcelain and china pieces, embroidered table linens, and marginal art. One of my readers, Mickey Kavanaugh of Denver, is smack in the middle of this painful awakening.
Kavanaugh’s mother died in December two weeks’ shy of turning 104. She had many beautiful antiques, as does Kavanaugh, who is 80. I saw this coming,” he told me over the phone when I called him. Lordy, I have so far to go. Predictably, his son, 48, wants almost none of the accumulated goods, beyond a roll-top desk and some military medals that were his great grandfather’s. I’m leaning on what you experienced when you went through your parents’ stuff,” Kavanaugh told me. That is helping my sagging morale.
I don’t want to burden him. I know I am on touchy turf, but to save generations of strife, I offer the following advice for deciding what to pass on or let go. Ask, don’t assume: Do not fall into the lazy trap of thinking you will hang onto your stuff for the kids. Ask them what they want and get rid of the rest. Believe them: When your kids tell you they don’t want whatever it is you are foisting on them, honor that.
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Believing otherwise is really a delay tactic that allows you to postpone giving up stuff. So what if they look back in 20 years and regret not keeping Dad’s green La-Z-Boy recliner. Let them live with the consequences of their decisions. Your kids want to create their own lives: Just like you did. They also want their own style, not yours. By the time I cleaned out my parents’ house, I had my own houseful. I did not need a second dining table or desk or sectional.
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If it’s still useful, sell or donate it to someone who wants it. Times have changed: Many millennials eschew fussy formal furnishings and prefer to live smaller and lighter. Though I can’t get excited about living in a 700-square foot downtown apartment and taking Uber everywhere, I respect their lifestyle choice. They are practical: Most adult children will take furnishings they like if they can see it working for them. When I asked my youngest what of mine she might want someday, she said, “Maybe your china. But not because it’s meaningful, but because I happen to like it. My oldest, age 23, just got her own apartment.
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She was grateful to get many castoffs, including her bedroom set. The set was mine as girl, and it was my parents’ when they got married. Don’t guilt them: Please do not say things like: “When I’m gone, I want you to have my 12-foot mahogany dining room table and eight chairs, because that would mean a lot to me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The line between bestow and burden is blurry. They don’t need your furniture to hold you in their heart. Give them the gift of freedom. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of NOLA Media Group.
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This may seem like your fate, given the tough economy for young adults, but you don’t have to write a blank check. These strategies will help you launch your kids on the path to independence without risking your own financial security. Steve and Darlene Goldstein could be on a crash course to a difficult reckoning. With a six-figure annual income, they shouldn’t have a worry in the world. But Darlene recently retired as a substitute schoolteacher, and Steve, 68, a program manager for a national security technology company in Las Vegas, wants to join her. Only he can’t—not while the couple is still supporting their daughter, Abby, 25, a yoga instructor who lives more than 1,200 miles away.
Like millions of parents with adult children who in one way or another remain on the family ticket, the Goldsteins are trapped between wanting to soften their daughter’s entry into the real world and making their own financial security the top priority. In what feels like a blink, an era of extended child dependency has taken root across the country. Fortunately, the answer in most cases is no. Still, if you are wearying of the endless dry-cleaning, cellphone, and insurance bills that your adult children are sending your way and you want to accelerate their launch, you may have to offer tough love instead of hard cash. For now, though, few parents seem willing to push back with any vigor.
Two-thirds of people over 50 have financially supported a child 21 or older in the past five years, Bank of America Merrill Lynch found last year. David Tyrie, head of retirement and personal-wealth solutions at Merrill. Half of those middle-aged parents said they were their grown child’s primary means of support—in some cases because their offspring were still in school but also, more than a third said, for reasons other than education. Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Wave, a consultant on the aging population. Not least: Why are so many young adults failing to launch?
The financial crisis and weak recovery, and the overhang of soaring student loans, explain a lot. Only about half of adults ages 23 to 26 and at least one year out of college have a full-time job, according to a five-year longitudinal study from the University of Arizona. As a result, there is no longer a stigma to living at home while you pay down your debts and explore your passions. To some, that may look like mooching.
Yet building savings while looking for the right career can improve the odds of kids remaining independent when they finally move out. In some ways this is as much a demographic story as it is a financial one. Little more than a century ago there was no such thing as adolescence. You were a child to 13, and then you went to work. As human life stretched out, we made room for the teen years, when kids could experiment and go to school longer.
Now we’re expanding that life phase once again to where twentysomethings can go to graduate school or try a few personal pursuits before settling into a long career. Whatever the reasons, the fact is that these young adults are costing their parents a lot of money. 5,000 a year on their kids. Most are willing to make big sacrifices to do so, if necessary.
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It’s also unclear what effect this extended support will have on the long-term well-being of the kids. Do grown children really benefit from another five to 10 years of nurturing? What you want is to strike a balance—to provide just enough support to help set your child up to be happy, productive, and self-sufficient without undermining yourself. The following moves point the way. That’s exactly the kind of thinking that prompted Michael Golden, 67, of Clovis, Calif.
26,000 toward the down payment on her first home two years ago. And Golden, a retired state criminal investigator, plans to do the same for his son, 33. Golden has enough income from his pension to get by and has long planned to provide this help from savings. Lori Gibson, 53, and daughter Courtney, 24. Courtney’s parents are helping with groceries and other living expenses until she can make it on her own in New York City.
Golden is doing at least a couple of things right. First, he has run the numbers and is confident the gifts won’t set back his own plans. Second, he has chosen to bestow a one-time bounty meant to jump-start a fruitful life. 5,000 tab for daughter Abby’s move from Chicago to Dallas, where she’s landed a job as the assistant manager of a yoga studio. 14,000 she made last year as an instructor.
For the first time since Abby graduated from college in 2011, Steve and his wife will no longer be paying their daughter’s rent, though they’ll continue to cover groceries, insurance, and her cellphone bill. Continuing education and vocational training also come under the heading of expenses the Gallos believe are worth chipping in for—if you can afford it or the sacrifices you make to pay them don’t seriously undermine your long-term security. They point out that many young people change focus several times before settling on a career. Consider Tatung Chow, 54, a software engineer in San Jose, who had just finished paying for his daughter’s undergraduate degree in visual arts when she decided she wanted to be a fashion designer. The majority of parents shell out a lot less than the Goldsteins and Chows. 5,000 a year, often for everyday expenses such as cellphones, utilities, Internet and cable bills, and car and health insurance.