Is Mom still paying your cellphone bill?

An online survey indicates that many parents continue to pay for their adult children's cellphone bills, clothes, cars and rent. Are they really helping their kids?

By Karen Datko Jun 1, 2012 11:23AM

Image: Man filling up car with gas while on cell phone (© moodboard/Corbis)For millennials -- those born between 1980 and 2000 or thereabouts -- having a smartphone is a must-have, an essential, we've read.


We've also read that 59% of mothers of adult kids are paying their offsprings' cellphone bills. According to the same online survey (.pdf file), 53% of mothers are covering their adult children's living expenses to the tune of $5,000-plus a year for each kid, Michelle Singletary of The Washington Post pointed out.


We don't mean to sound like a harpy, but we can't help but see a major disconnect here.


Millennials, The Fiscal Times wrote, are the fastest-growing segment in luxury purchases such as fashion, jewelry and travel services. But they're a generation plagued by unemployment, underemployment and education debt.


We have to wonder: Why are they spending the way they are and seem content to let Mom and Pop pick up the bill? And why are their parents doing this? Do parents really feel they're passing on a message of financial responsibility? (Post continues below.)

Vibrant Nation, a website for women over 50 years of age, shared other information about what its survey of readers revealed:

  • Re the astounding 59% paying for the cellphone -- "Shockingly, that percentage remained consistent whether the adult child is 19 or 30."
  • 53% pay for the adult kid's insurance.
  • 39% pay their rent.
  • 36% pay for clothes.
  • 33% pay for the kid's car and computer.

Many possible explanations have been offered. We were impressed by this one -- one of several offered by Larissa Faw on Forbes:  

In the past, individuals just had to keep with up the neighbors, but now Facebook has taken this competition to a global level. A nonstop feed of updates tells Facebook users what their friends are buying and doing. Plus, the influx of "just like us" reality TV personalities conveys to millennials that these lifestyles are achievable. It took one year for the Jersey Shore's Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino to go from living in his mom's basement to owning a Lamborghini.

Maybe the millennials would be better off if they had to post on Facebook who paid for the purchases they share with their online friends.

When I left for college at age 17 in 1972, that was the end of financial support I got from my parent, and it seemed perfectly normal to me. It was hard, but it turned me into a saver who lives within her means. So what Linda Lou posted on Vibrant Nation about when parents should stop paying the cellphone bill resonates:

The bottom line is, you're not doing your kids any favors; they need to grow up and take responsibility. If they want something, let them save for it; let them work for it. They'll have a much greater appreciation of what they have. Let them experience tough times; they'll develop coping skills.

Should parents continue to pay for their adult children's cellphones and other bills? At what point should they cut them off?


More on MSN Money:


Jun 1, 2012 2:58PM

I keep my daughter on my family share plan and she reimburses me the $30/mo for her line and she's on our auto insurance and she reimburses me for the share for her car. It's cost prohibitive for young adults to get their own plans, and I don't mind sharing so she can receive a discount, but I stopped paying her share when she graduated and found a job.

Jun 1, 2012 12:44PM
Hey I'm in my 50's and wondering what parent is going to pay for all MY stuff???  I promise to keep your basement clean...while I'm laying around down there.
Jun 7, 2012 12:49PM

I guess it depends on how you define "adult child". My 18 year old is just starting college and works a few hours a week for her spending money. Yes, I pay her cell phone bill and car insurance so she can commute to school. My 22 year old daughter graduated college and is now working full time. I kept her on our cell ohone plan but she has to reimburse me for it each month. She pays her own car insurance and other bills.

I think once you are out of school and working full time, youy should be able to pay all of your own bills. That's a good reason to NOT spoil your kids by giving them things that they will not able to afford once they are on their own.

Jun 1, 2012 2:11PM

My mother to this day pays for expenses for one of my brothers.  They won't talk about it to me so not sure exactly how much.  But I would estimate $400-$800 a month.  My mother is 90 and my brother is 57 and single.  He is a school teacher in texas and makes good money, about $60k/yr in SanBenito Tx.  Probably in the top third of wage earners for that area.  The only reason I know about it is that I help manage my mothers investment accounts and about 4 years ago she kept needing these $1000-$2000 extra payments to her checking account from time to time from her investment account.  My mother was 85 at the time.  Goes nowhere, pays minimal out of pocket medical as she has medicare and very good Part B coverage, has no car and lives in a fully paid off modest home in an adult community.  When I asked my brother and mother for explanations as to where the money was being nothing but "butt out, it is none of your business". 


 My other brothers would not stand behind me, in fact some of them said it was fine.  So I just dropped it.  But it did really screw up my relationship with that brother.  There is no doubt he is taking advantage of my mother.

There is a major difference between needs and wants. I can agree that a cell phone is needed in the event of an emergency. That need can be solved by purchasing a cell phone form Ebay for $10 then buying $10 worth of minutes, good for one year, which if used for emergencies only will expire before being used up. I have been doing this for several years. Anything else is a want or luxury.
Jul 2, 2012 11:57AM
We have a 22 year old daughter who is now employed an a very good field making a whopping $11 an hour.  She is still in school and with another year and a half of education will be at $16 an hour.  She does pay her own cell phone (her calls are none of our business to be on our plan) and she pays for her vehicle payment as well as auto insurance and gas.  A couple of Starbucks are mandatory daily and minor food purchases.  She insists on maintianing two horses (which she cannot afford) or should I say she has ownership while we care for them.  The remainder of her burden financially is ours. Oh...a great hard working kid who will pick up extra shifts almost weekly.  But is unable to figure out what $100 is and how to make it last. I blame her plight on a group of friends who come from much wealthier families who can "have it all", an education system that does not teach the basics in finances and financial management, and an society where even good entry jobs such as EMT, fireman, or other public servant jobs hardly pay minimum wage. And please do not shoot me...I am the fustrated step-parent.
Jun 3, 2012 1:21PM

With the number of mental health 'afflications' on the rise, the working class shouldn't be criticized for keeping their children afloat. Greater numbers of single moms are being struck down now more than ever and being required to go on govt SSDI welfare, medicaid and paying half their checks towards medications for relief from their mental suffering. A return to multi-generational families is the only way to survive sometimes. There is no point for p-poor return-kids to pay their own auto insurance and cell bills when all can be combined to save money for survival reasons.


For the longest times, the children of the wealthy have flaunted their lazy **** lifestyle leaving their parents to pay for help around the home and yard instead of having their lazy **** kids help out. Many keep spending on their parent's credit cards, drink and drug themselves into a stupor. Many do not work and pay NOTHING towards the home upkeep, utilities or food despite parents who retired from working early in life and are trying to see their investment moneys last through to their own deaths. These kind sometimes tolerate children who are predators upon the poorer peoples (such as womanizing) just for the sport of it to keep their brat busy.


Mind your own business and bother the lazy bumbs who deserve the criticism.

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