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How to kick your kids off the payroll

One financial expert says parents should start easing children off the family gravy train before they're old enough to drive.

By Apr 21, 2014 12:22PM
This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site on MSN MoneyThey're becoming adults, they're graduating or they've pointed out they are now 18 and can make their own decisions. And you silently wonder when they'll start making their own money, too.

Young man sitting at a table in front of a laptop holding a credit card © Jack Hollingsworth, Blend Images, Getty ImagesHow long do you support your children financially? For many baby boomers, the answer is unclear. Many report that they are still supporting grown children. Retirement planners sometimes worry about it. But when, exactly, do you start encouraging your kids to be more financially independent?

Author and financial coach Gail Perry-Mason has an answer: age 14.  

First she clarifies that she's not talking about cutting anybody off at 14. "You wean them off," she said.

While they are learning about work and money, parents continue to provide what they need, but not everything they want. Even before they are teens, children should know that they are "financial liabilities," in Perry Mason's words. At 14, when they want something, they should be asked what it's worth to them. "When they ask for any item, ask them, 'How much are you willing to contribute?'"

"They need to be contributing members of the family," she says. And where do they get this money? "If kids need money, they will find a way," she says, whether it's babysitting, chores, mowing lawns or other endeavors. But instead, parents often just give kids things when they ask. "They’re not hungry enough." Perry-Mason says we're raising a generation of impatient consumers who don't understand why they can't have what they want -- now. And she doesn't blame the kids for this.

Better, she says, is for parents to make sure kids "have some skin in the game." If they've had to save and sacrifice to buy something, she says, they take better care of it.

Education is no different, Perry-Mason says. Kids will value it more if they also have an investment in it. Her own children had to find scholarships -- and finding the right ones to apply for, writing the essays and meeting the deadlines can be a job in itself. Other ways to help pay the bills include entrepreneurship or part-time jobs. But if students can't seem to find the time to work or apply for scholarships, parents often put in the time instead, working extra hours or retiring later. And, as many a financial adviser has said, "there are scholarships for college but not for retirement."

Teaching kids to contribute can be counter-cultural. Lots of other parents are doling out money or  paying tuition. But even if you have the means to do it, it's a bad idea, Perry-Mason says. "Warren Buffett made his kids work and earn. Who are we not to?" She added that though he is extremely wealthy, the vast majority of Buffett's wealth will NOT be left to his children.

Financial milestones

Other than age 14, Perry-Mason identifies the major milestones toward financial independence as getting a first credit card (as primary cardholder) and college graduation, though not necessarily in that order.

The first credit card can come with a nudge from a parent who thinks the teen or young adult is ready and can get approved, normally requiring that he or she have an income. You can encourage your child to apply, and if the application is approved, celebration is in order. (If it's declined, you can teach him or her how to appeal and/or find out the reason.) You celebrate this financial milestone and, at the same time, have the young person return to you the "authorized user" card that is no longer needed.

If the application was declined, Perry-Mason recommends getting a secured card, and going over how to use it, how much can be safely charged and the importance of repayment. Then, you have a similar celebration -- one that also includes the surrender of any parental credit cards.

After graduation, it's OK for a young adult to return to live at home for a time, she says, but he or she MUST contribute to the household, whether it’s in services (preparing meals, doing laundry, grocery shopping, lawn mowing) or payment of rent.

She calls these young adults -- and her sons are among them -- Generation Why. As in "Why do I have to put gas in the car -- it's your car? Why do I have to pay rent?"

But if she "flips the script," she says, they suddenly understand why. She tells them when she is old, she plans to move in with them, raid their refrigerators, expect laundry service and take lots of long, hot showers. Because turnabout is fair play.

But mostly because, "I want them to be better than me," in ways that are not limited to financial know-how or credit scores. And she knows that carrying them on her shoulders is no way to teach them to stand tall.

More from

Apr 21, 2014 1:27PM
What disappoints me are the "kids" who bring a life into this world and they can't even financially support themselves.   Its an absolute JOKE!   Poor me, is all they can say.  But no, they can sure sleep around!!! 
Apr 21, 2014 1:43PM
How do you wean 45% of the population from the free ride, by giving them cash for clunkers and free cell phones?
Apr 21, 2014 12:48PM
Growing up in our house, you stopped getting an allowance at 14 and had to earn your own money from then on.  You were also expected to move out by the Sept after you graduated high school.

It's amazing what people can do for themselves when you take away their safety net.  Most people find a way to get by just fine if they have no option but to support themselves.
Apr 21, 2014 2:40PM
Article for the most part makes sense to me.   I grew up in a very poor household living with my grand parents and 3 other siblings, needless to say I couldn't get everything I wanted so I found a way to get it myself.  For me the answer was working a part time job at a restaurant as soon as I was legally able to.   I spent my money mostly on clothes, entertainment and even food for myself.   By the time I was 17 I was supporting myself almost 100% not including rent because my grandparents didn't want to charge me that.   I guess they were just happy enough that I was super low maintenance when it came to spending their money and was even able to go to college using financial aide, scholarships and a little bit in loans.   

Now 4 years after college graduation I'm living at home until my finances become more stable, but I've been paying rent everyday since I came back and helping to support my grandparents financially.   It sucked not having all of the toys, CD players and video games other kids had growing up but it taught me to be more financially independent and to work for the things I wanted.  And to be fair, once I started working I was able to purchase some of the toys I wanted, Cell phone, xbox, Car and things like that, but by working for these items I appreciated them more and didn't waste my money.    

Personally, I think it's ok for a child to live at home and have an allowance into the late teens before graduation as long as they are working hard and doing well in school/sports etc.   If my kids are lazy and don't want to put the effort into school and/or after school activities then they can go get a job at burger king to pay for their toys and spending money.   Guarantee my kids will either be top performers or they will at least pay for their own fun.  Either way they will learn something valuable.   
Apr 21, 2014 1:22PM
If the kids are doing something for the money whats the problem, even as a kid I had to work for the money I got. But I would never hand a kid money just to give them money regardless of age, excluding tooth fairy, B days, or Xmas. An because of laws and or lawsuits there are a lot of jobs outside the home that I did as a kid, that kids aren't hired to do anymore.
Apr 21, 2014 3:24PM
My dad never kicked us out of the house, he just made it so gol derned miserable that none of us wanted to stay.  For my high school graduation gift, I got $50 and a suitcase. I got the message and I'm a better person for it.
Apr 21, 2014 3:49PM
I took my little girl (just about 16) used car shopping this weekend.   She now knows what she can afford versus how much she has saved her whole life.   She does odd tasks for the neighbors but her cash cow is babysitting.   Most her clients have babies and she makes $20 an hour, cash free.   She cannot wait to work this Summer and her calendar is full.   She also has a GPA of 3.995 and is taking classes with college credits.   She already buys her own clothes, make-up, ect.
Apr 21, 2014 2:54PM
who would allow their teen to have a card?  I thought we were talking financial responsibility????
Apr 21, 2014 5:22PM

Great advice. I started earning my own money when I was two weeks shy of fourteen years old. Until that time, my parents gave me enough to buy cafeteria school lunch for six days. The sixth day was considered fun money. It couldn't buy much more than a couple of sodas each week. So I was "motivated" to get a paying job. My parents took care of me, provided almost all of my school supplies and clothing. But I was responsible for gas for the car that was theirs, paying for my own dates, movies, etc. It taught me how to budget. And gave me a sense of self-worth. By the way, I was an honor roll student. Working did not affect my grades.


Parents that have dug themselves a hole by supporting their kids have done themselves a disfavor and have stunted their children's financial maturity. Being independent and self-sufficient is one of the greatest characteristics and individual can have.

Apr 21, 2014 1:16PM
The Generation of Entitlement as it is sometimes called. Most of the X, Y and Z Generations were and are spoiled rotten by a lot of the Baby Boomer Generation. Not all of them but, a whole lot of them were. I know for a fact, my parents generation grew up hard and with a whole lot less than most of us did and they did not spoil us as we did our children. Many of us learned the hard way and was made to make it or break it on our own. In time, it will come back down to that again and they won't be able to give their off springs what we gave to them.
Apr 22, 2014 9:44AM
Standing in front of the house screaming "feed my babies" are the young who will take anything but a job. The "we don't pay" people who don't work for a living and want those who do to pay for them.. What does America expect with 50% on food stamps? Reaping what they sow.
Apr 22, 2014 8:58AM

She calls these young adults -- and her sons are among them -- Generation Why. As in "Why do I have to put gas in the car -- it's your car? Why do I have to pay rent?"

Why do I have to keep supporting your lazy @ss? Get a J-O-B.

Apr 21, 2014 4:08PM
I believe that teaching your children that they need to earn something instead of just meeting their demands i.e., new x-box, new flat screen, new IPod etc., is an important concept.  There are so many options available for children, preteens and teens.  If the traditional job market is flood with adults taking entry level employment, there are lots of other options.  The whole concept is to teach your children that they do not get something just because they want it.  They need to understand how to save for items they want.  There are volunteer programs, chores around your home, babysitting, dog walkers, etc.  Creativity is a key component in finding a way to earn money.  My little 8-year-old granddaughter grew tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and made little pictures and sold in front of her house.  My 14-year-old nephew volunteered at the Senior Center in the computer lab; they were so impressed they started paying him.   
Apr 21, 2014 4:11PM
My father never gave us an allowance exactly , he posted a chores list with a dollar amount tied to each chore, The worse the chore the more money it was worth. So if we wanted to money we had to earn each cent it was never the gimme gimmme gimme..... I wish my sister did this or something like it , instead of giving her kids everything they want.  Ive seen them go ask my sister constantly for money and she keeps giving it to them. 
Apr 22, 2014 12:42PM
I wish it were that easy.  I took my 16 year old job hunting for the last month and last summer and no one will hire him without applying on line.  I think they throw half the applications in the garbage.  Besides, I would rather see a person and give them credit for having come out to meet me rather than be behind a computer screen.
Apr 22, 2014 10:17AM
I think this is a great article and very fair.  All kids needs to learn financial responsibility so that they can be self sustaining when they are old enough to be on their own...which by the way, should be much earlier than many kids in the current college and recently post college generation who are still crashing on their parents' couches.  If it is done with love and oversight, kids can learn to manage their own finances and balance earning against needs and wants, and learn the important lesson of delayed gratification - sometimes you have to wait for something you want, because it takes an investment to get it.  My parents never forced me to get a job as a teen, however, I was expected in return to earn straight A's in school.  My job was my education, they saw it as an investment for college later.  Had I chosen not to do as well in school, I would have been required to supplement my discretionary use of income with my own earnings.  I did, however, get my own part time jobs because I wanted entertainment my parents refused to purchase.  It worked out in the end and I had a very, very balanced view of life and became a very hard working, financially responsible adult.
Apr 22, 2014 1:30PM
Give them a student loan and they want financial forgiveness. Give them a car and they wreck it. Give them free welfare, food stamps, medical and they will vote for you but not go to work. Better to buy drugs for themselves and the kids they have as kids can eat the scraps that fall off the table. The 50% loser and 50% winner society lead by Barako Obumbum is crummy & full of flakes. Big Fat Lazy people who want others to hand feed them for a lifetime just love him. Another unqualified bum who can spend other peoples money while playing the crummycare flute.
Apr 21, 2014 8:22PM

What ever happened to Drugs, Sex, and Rock and Roll?

Apr 24, 2014 1:59PM
My mom pretty much forced me to get a job at 15 (or 16). I started doing fast food during and immediately after high school. The minute I received my first paycheck she cut off the umbilical cord. I remember asking for some school supplies and she replied, "you work now, you're on your own." It came as a shock I recall, but soon after I started liking the idea of making my own money and spending on whatever I wanted, after contributing for at least one utility bill at home. I've supported myself ever since then; I never saw a dime of my mom's money after that. It's been 15 years later, and I've been able to put myself through college and am financially independent adult. I left the nest at 20 and never returned to leech. Back then I thought it was drastic, but today I thank my mom for forcing me to fly out the nest and spread my own wings and hunt for my own food. It taught me financial independence and self-sufficiency. By all means, kick 'em out!
Apr 22, 2014 11:48AM
In many cultures, all the generations live under one roof (it's got to be cheaper).  American culture says, push the kids out the first chance you get to make them "stronger."  I disagree.  If your children are paying their own bills (health insurance, clothing, etc) and doing their own chores, if their income has not improved enough to be on their own, I would not force them out the door if they are trying to live responsibly at home.  
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