Yesterday, I read an interesting article in the Boston Globe highlighting the experiences of the many 18-29 year olds still depending on Mom and Dad.

You: Because they’re still living at home?

Actually, the examples in this case aren’t boomerangs. Instead, the article profiles people living in the big city who are still getting checks every month (or are having certain bills paid by) their parents.

You: Oh.

While there are exceptions to every rule, for the most part I found such behavior detrimental to one’s reaching financial maturity.

You: What’s financial maturity?

When you’re able to truly support yourself and your family. It means you can pay your bills and save for the future.

You: Sounds nice.

It is nice, but my experience shows me that it can only be achieved via earning it.

You: The old fashioned way?

Indeed. I loved that commercial.

No single person making $50,000 a year truly needs financial assistance.  Yet this article shows how Megan Brown has grown to depend on her folks to make ends meet.  Of course, given her lifestyle, it’s easy to see how she needs additional funds:

  • She lives in the most expensive part of Boston.
  • She has a parking spot – not cheap in Boston.
  • She has a health club membership – probably not at the Y

Candidly, we know very little about her spending habits, but the fact that a single individual earning $50,000 can’t take of her own bills tells me that she’s spending too much somewhere.  Not sure who she’s dining with in the picture, but if you’re ordering Pellegrino, you pretty much lose any rationale for monetary assistance.

Yet, I have sympathy for her plight.

You: You do?


You: Why is that?

Because most people would take the money if it were offered to them.  At 23 years old I probably would have to.  But for me, it was never an option – and not because my parents couldn’t have helped had I genuinely needed it.

It was clear to me, as part of my upbringing, that when I was done with college my folks were done supporting me financially.

So, I didn’t live in the best part of the big city right away – I commuted 45 miles each way.  I didn’t live alone – I shared an apartment.  I didn’t drive a nice car, I drove a freakin’ Neon. I could go on but I’m tiring of it and I had a great life so I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I’m not. I’m contrasting.

Still, I  have sympathy for Megan because it isn’t Megan’s fault.  It is her parents who are causing, via their enabling behaviors, Megan’s lack of financial maturity.  Yet it will be Megan who, long term, will pay the price.

A person with low income and high student loans who is making wise financial decisions but struggling despite them has my sympathy.  But not the people profiled in this article.

What do you think?  Is this a problem and, if so, who’s to blame?

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8 Comments to “Financial Immaturity: Are you really a grown-up if Mom and Dad still support you?”

  1. Moneymonk says:

    I think only in America depending on Mom or Dad is shameful

    I honestly think the less you dependent on someone financially the more independent you become. There is nothing wrong with needing help. The problem comes when Mom and Dad become enablers

  2. Michael says:

    @Moneymonk: Thank you for the comment!

    Assuming you believe that Megan’s parents are enablers, we agree.

    If there’s a true “problem,” then asking for and receiving assistance is not shameful. I just think the definition of “problem” should be fairly limited. A “problem” is a job-loss or a car accident. Really wanting to live in a very expensive apartment isn’t a “problem,” it’s a desire – it’s lifestyle creep – and, if it can only be achieved by help from others, then that person is being enabled to lead a lifestyle they couldn’t otherwise afford. Not sure if it’s shameful, but it certainly prevents their independence.

  3. Abigail says:

    I think, as ever, the blame is shared. The parents need to be able to cut the apron (and purse!) strings. On the other hand, the kids should be mature enough to be ashamed of taking money rather than finding more frugal alternatives.

    Hell, I didn’t like my mom helping me out when I needed it — and I was having to apply for disability. Thanks to health related debt, my husband and I still get help from her from time to time. She gave us a car when we moved to a different state — that’s pretty big. But we look forward to a day when we can assure her that we are okay on our own. For us, being adults means letting our parents get back to worrying about their retirements, not about our livelihoods.

  4. BRB says:

    I agree completely. My in-laws gave my husband and his brother a very sweet life while in college and because of that my husband isn’t very good with money. He has a hard time determining what is a “need.” His brother moved back to their home town and had his parents pay to open up an auto shop and they are living in a double wide that the grandfather used to live in and also belongs to the parents, rent free. The entire situation is ridiculous.

  5. Dan says:

    I believe that at the end of the day, this isn’t that complicated. Kids learn a great deal growing up simply by watching their parents. Those families that talk openly about their finances and help their children navigate through the deluge of target children’s marketing are actually preparing their kids to become financially mature when they have finished college and or are in the work force.

    Most young twenty-somethings actually want to be financially independent – they grew up listening to their parents tell stories of how they bought their first house at 25 or started a family in late twenties. Today’s “twenty-somethings” actually believe that by the time they reach 25, they’re in a “quarter-life crisis”. They want to do as well as their parents, but today’s financial environment makes that very difficult for them. It impacts their confidence and self-esteem.

    In the end, financial education – whether by instruction or by example – is the best thing we can do for our kids to help them to become financial independent.

  6. Michael says:

    @Abigail: Indeed, you’ve got to be the type of person who wants to get off the dole.

    @BRB: Without a financial education (classroom or real world), you never learn the basics, like needs vs. wants. Great point.

    @Dan: You’re right in that the majority of 20-somethings want to be financially independent. Unfortunately, many conclude it’s not possible. Sometimes it’s because of poor facts (high student loans and low incomes) but often it is because the house they want to buy at 25 looks not like the home their folks owned at 25, but the one they graduated HS from.

    Furthermore, housing prices continue to be out of whack in large parts of this country when compared to incomes. I personally don’t believe we’ve seen equilibrium yet and I’m not sure the folks in DC want to see it since it just might be too scary and risky.

    Great comments, all!

  7. Nora says:


    I agree that choice is involved in both offering monetary help to a child and that child accepting the help. Right now, for example, I am living with my widowed mother. I pay her a nominal rent. Where I live, Los Angeles, CA, I could not afford to live in an apartment by myself on the salary I make (I have had roommates in the past). When I’m out on my own again I’ll be glad that I was able to save some money by staying with my mother for a while.

  8. Stephan says:

    I am a recent graduate and it is very easy for me to relate to this post. I wish i could move out of my parents house and pay for all my bills myself, but its just not realistic in this economy. I cant find a decent paying job and have been trying for close to a year now. I save as much as i can with the job i have now so that when things do improve i will be ready to leave the house and start my own life.
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