Q: At what age should young adults be encouraged to leave home and live on their own?
Juli: This is a question more and more parents are asking because there doesn't seem to be a "norm." In generations past, high school graduation (or at least college graduation) was the accepted milestone at which most young adults were expected to become financially independent. Most young adults married and began their occupations or careers by their early 20s. Now, adult responsibilities seem somehow to be too much for a 22-year-old. Many parents have adopted the philosophy that kids should "live a little" before settling down. As a result, it is common for parents to still be housing and financially supporting young adults into their late 20s or early 30s.
The common trend to delay marriage, commitment to a career and parenthood may appear to be a gift to this generation of young adults. In my opinion, it is more of a handicap. Yes, young adults don't typically have the wisdom to think through the lifetime decisions they are faced with. That is why they need mentors and coaches to help them. However, the greatest teacher in life is the process of making difficult choices and living with the consequences of those choices. Rather than protecting young adults from pain, delaying the big decisions of life keeps them immature and paralyzed.
While there is no "magic age" to determine when young adults should be encouraged to leave the nest, many are staying dependent beyond what is healthy. Ironically, the same kids who were pushed to start preschool at the age of 3 are now encouraged to stay teenagers until the age of 30! If you really want to give your 20-something a jump on life, don't get in the way of the adult responsibilities that promote maturity, self-sacrifice and perseverance.
Q: I'm at a loss as to how to teach my kids sound financial principles when banks, businesses and the government are setting such a poor example. Do you have any suggestions?
Jim: Regardless of what's happening with the economy, many parents, sadly, are not doing a great job of teaching their kids the basic principles of money management. Perhaps financial expert Dave Ramsey put it best when he said, "We're raising an entire generation with 'sucker' stamped on their foreheads." Consider these statistics:
-- Just 26 percent of kids ages 13 to 21 say their parents taught them to manage money.
-- Eighty percent of undergraduates have at least one credit card and nearly half of college graduates carry four or more credit cards.
-- Only 13 states have educational requirements for financial literacy -- and those don't start until high school.
As parents, we need to start sooner than that. A good, old-fashioned allowance and a piggy bank might be a decent beginning. But Ramsey and others have proposed employing THREE piggy banks for each child: one for spending, one for saving and one for giving. Kids need to learn that once the "spend" money runs out, it's gone, so they need to budget wisely. And they need to delay gratification for the bigger-ticket items for which they're saving. Most importantly, they need to learn the importance of setting aside money to give to charity or the church.
More than anything, though, our kids need Mom and Dad to set a good example. They're not going to learn to spend, save and give wisely if their parents are living on credit and debt. In fact, I believe there are many adults out there who could benefit from the "three piggy bank" approach!
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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