What is "parental financial assistance"? - NYTimes article


@Smacky: I think it also depends on the kid and what they’re doing. Kid is in pre-med or doing other intensive program? Help them not go insane with free board if you can, or keep a tally for later when they’re finally making money. Kid is working full time, expanding their collectible figurine collection and going to concerts? Market rent.


In my experience in my small, mixed up corner of the world, cultural background influences the kind of help and the cost of being helped far more than economic background.

My parents were from two different backgrounds (race, birth country, religions, socio-economic, country they grew up in). Both sides helped their adult children. But with some things in common and some different. From my mother’s side, children’s jobs were to study and be good children. From my father’s, children should work under the table asap and then work as many hours as possible as soon as they can legally work. My mother won the battle to keep us out of work until it was legal (except for babysitting and paper routes).

In my neighbourhood we had/have families from many backgrounds and what I see in common with the ones who provide help to the kids is that they help as much as they can without hurting themselves - in a lot of families in my building that means adult children living at home in a shared bedroom and getting rides to work if there is a car and maybe a packed lunch. Behind the scenes there is an expected reciprocity - there are things that good children do. In many cases adult children do help with bills. In others, they are in charge of saving so that their parents have elder care.

There is another world where children and parents and elders don’t help each other at all. My experience with those cultures is limited.

It’s only in the past few years that I have tried to view the second world through a non judgemental lens. I don’t do a great job of it. I seek to understand, but I would not join that family style.

Part of my obligation to my family is to not refuse their help too often.


In contrast, I present Intern at work. He’s 28, two bachelor’s degrees in unrelated subjects and a master’s, did all his school abroad (free school admittedly, but flights make up the difference) so couldn’t work on the visa, only had 3 internships, none of which could have paid well. Somehow still had money to visit every continent other than Antarctica and wears Canada Goose.


Yes… The other point I wanted to raise but didn’t want to get ahead of myself… Is that for people in cultures who do help kids, some of them don’t seem to have figured out when to turn off the taps.


This is taking things off topic, but…

My hope is that when my kids are adults I can retire and go do the things I want to instead of the things I have to. I’ll sell my rentals and travel a lot. I can’t do that if I have kids still needing me to cover their costs. They get my care and attention for 18 years, and I’d like to be done after that.

Possibly the younger one, who has a disability, will need support as an adult. I’m hoping I can figure out a compromise where he gets what he needs but I get to live a little selfishly.

As a kid I was left on my own pretty constantly, and parental involvement ended when I became an adult. I’ve done a lot better with my own kids but I don’t want to give them my whole life.


I agree that this is one of those NY Times articles that presents white, upper-middle class people as the norm. When you start talking about grandparents helping people pay $30,000 per year tuition for children to go to private school, you’re already drawing from a very narrow pool.

@Smacky - I don’t see why turning 18 should be treated like a magical moment. The law draws bright lines for some things, and in those cases where it does make turning 18 mean no more ‘child’ support (e.g., kids aging out of foster care), the consequences are pretty dire. I agree with @tardis that you have to take the context of what the kid is doing with their life and why they would benefit from continued support.

I think it’s healthier to help kids grow up with increasing responsibilities and financial sense, as works for each individual. My family instituted an expectation that if I wanted to buy ‘luxuries’ beyond basics, I was responsible to work for this money and/or save from typical gifts. That started long before I was 18! Living at home meant pitching in because that’s what it means to live there and be part of the family. My brothers lived at home throughout college without owing rent, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t have labor-based contributions to the household. And if money was tighter, they would have been expected to chip in. Paying for your own car or transit, your own possessions, contributing to household food purchase or preparation - there are lots of ways to slowly roll out ‘adulting.’ There is definitely room to figure out what makes sense in a way that allows adolescents to launch and parents to not be supporting them indefinitely.


I feel exactly the same way, thank you for putting it into words.


I wish there were a term for people who do get so much help, but earn regular salaries, not that it’s a bad thing at all, just to differentiate and clarify, like “family money with regular salary” or something? I feel like so often I come across someone IRL or online who describes themselves as a low earner or average earner, makes what I do or less, but then travels like crazy and has a great house, doesn’t seem worried about an EF, has no debt, etc.

Then it all makes sense when you realize they didn’t have to pay for college or save a downpayment or worry about a big emergency in the future because they have a massive safety net. It seems like it’s common among these folks to consider themselves independent, and I notice they often don’t like to “count” the $ or help they’ve gotten as part of their worth, but it totally is! Like if you’re handed an asset (whether it’s a house or a car or a degree or an inheritance) for free…that counts! It’s like it makes them uncomfortable to count it? So they don’t?

But then that skews the whole conversation amongst earners who have similar salaries, because even if both technically make the same amount, they don’t REALLY make the same amount. If you’re getting thousands of dollars a year, and know for a fact your family will give you a downpayment or cover an emergency or whatever, hitting a 25% savings rate isn’t really the same as someone with the same salary who has less of a safety net or no safety net at all.

I definitely don’t think there’s anything wrong with family generosity, I just think it’s a liiiiiitle bit misleading to think of yourself as average or even a low earner when you have access to so much family money. Am I making sense here?

It’s like, the issue isn’t rich people getting help from their parents, because that’s been a thing since forever, it’s people getting tons of help but thinking of themselves as fully independent and presenting themselves as mostly average earners. I think that’s what pissed people off so much about Frugalwoods, not that they earned so much money, but that they presented themselves as low-average earners when they weren’t.

ETA: I did get help from family paying for a surgery when I was 25, and some other medical stuff, and honestly without that I would have sunk into serious debt. Not trying to portray myself as separate from this issue! Medical costs are the #1 cause of homelessness, and the only reason I was never homeless is because at various points (not now, but when I was much younger and less financially secure) I had someone paying for my medical insurance (through age 23, in fact).


I’m going to push back a little bit on this, because family generosity isn’t some fund. It’s my parent’s money. It’s not my money and I am not entitled to it.

For example, my parents will not assist with a down payment (no loan or gift) on a house for my brother-- they consider this overstepping and if my brother and his wife cant afford a certain house then they simply can’t afford a certain house.
But, they are helping with infertility treatment payments for the two of them. Because they want grandkids.
My parents believe in equity between children and I was also told that if I wanted assistance having a baby it would be available. XD This is hilariously literal, and I have informed them it is not part of my plan.

What I’m trying to get at, though, is that they’re choosing what to do with their money and where to put it.
The decisions my parents are making are extremely generous, but they are their decisions, not mine or my brothers.

That does not, in any way, negate the fact that we have and had a huge leg up. Money makes life crazy easier, and generational wealth has a whole host of ethical issues that come along with it.

ETA: I think there’s also a difference when talking about “family money” and Trusts and stuff like that where a person has expectation of future wealth/inheritance and acts accordingly, and just like, parents who saved up and spend some of that money on their children after they have become adults which is what I felt the article was talking about.


That’s a good point, you don’t have 100% control over how the money is distributed. I think that’s why there should be a distinction between someone who is independently rich (because they make a huge salary entirely on their own), someone who is an average earner and must plan accordingly, and someone who is an average earner but also has family wealth.

Even if you can’t decide when the family wealth is distributed or exactly how, it’s still there, and I’m guessing you could reasonably assume you’re not going to be made to deal with a catastrophe alone, right? Like even if they won’t give a downpayment, they’re also not likely to let you go without a desperately needed medical intervention or allow you to live on the streets if you lose your job or can’t work.

I guess it’s tricky because there are so many scenarios when it comes to money, and maybe labels are just more confusing and alienating. Probably just being open (like we are here) makes the most sense. I just did sometimes feel on MMM that help was downplayed a LOT, or made to seem like not a huge factor in priorities and approach to money, and future fear versus short term decisions. I think that happened a lot around salary #s too though, with people making six figures considering themselves average due to the HCOL areas they lived in.

Interesting stuff!


I also think this has shifted in recent generations as certain things (childcare, college, homeownership) have gotten inaccessible and financing has become more available (post 1974 Fair Lending Act). It used to be if you came from the “wrong” neighborhood or “wrong” skin color or “wrong” church or weren’t born male, there were no options for financing things; no student loans to be taken out, no mortgages to get. That meant that family either had to help or you had to save.

My dad’s parents were both immigrants who had 6th and 8th grade educations and didn’t speak English until their 20’s. That being said, they grew up in the depression, didn’t trust banks, and scrimped and saved and bought a 4-unit apartment building in Queens in cash in the 1940’s - things that obviously are not accessible now to anyone with their level of education or income. But there weren’t mortgages back then, especially not for someone like them.

All 5 of their kids were expected to get a full ride to college, and did (which was more of a thing in the 70s and 80s than it is now) - but they paid for all their kids to go to Catholic school (which required re-baptizing the kids since they weren’t Catholic originally) because it was the best education they could get for the kids in Corona without a long commute into the city. Because of their emphasis on their kids’ education, full rides to college were possible for all of their kids, which put their kids in a totally different socioeconomic class than they were.

My dad got into MIT and got a full ride through the US military, but his parents had to come up with the first years’ tuition before ROTC would reimburse them (in case my dad ditched), and they hemmed and hawed about whether or not this was a thing they should do. In the end, they actually called into a financial radio show where the host said “your son got into MIT; he can get a job anywhere, do it if you can make it work.”

Budgeting and money are about access to resources, generational wealth, but they’re also about values. Family priorities are different across backgrounds, and like everything with budgeting and resources, values are a factor. Across the board, however, it’s harder and harder to afford things that have federally-backed financing available (college, houses) because the costs have gone up relative the access to available credit.

Sorry, this is my macroeconomic rant. In reality, there’s simply not a level playing field, ever - which is why comparing your own financial circumstances to others doesn’t ever usually feel great. We’re all at different places.


my kids are 14 and will start high school next year. I can’t imagine that at 18, I would withdraw cooking services or charge them rent (unless they aren’t doing anything to improve their futures). That being said, the older they get, the more I expect them to help the house run smoothly. At 14, they get their own breakfasts (and clean up afterwards), they help with laundry (whatever needs to be done) as well as the other chores. They willingly do whatever we ask. On Sunday, one of them made dinner for the family (vegetarian chili), for example. We’re not a family where chores are divided – we all help out. Instead of 18, I see 22 or after graduating from college as the time when I expect my kids to be more independent, but I fully expect they will need some help after college. I actually hope they don’t move back to the Bay Area after college. While there are a lot of good things, it is so expensive to establish yourself – I don’t want them to have to struggle that much.


This is absolutely true! The safety net of having parents who are not just financially secure themselves but able to lend a hand is incredible. And I totally agree-- I think there are people out there who genuinely don’t realize that this isn’t something everyone has.


I hope I didn’t come across as sour grapes, because honestly I feel like I’ve had a realllllly easy ride and a ton of help!!! My life is absurdly cushy. And honestly, the playing field isn’t all about money either! IQ and attractiveness and age and talent and so many other things impact finances too. I think the extent of family help just surprised me the most when I first started hanging around PF places online (and talking with friends about $ IRL). Honestly, once I realized how much help some people were getting it made me feel WAY better about myself, not worse!


HAHAHA same, actually (despite having a cushion myself).

Though I had to stop participating in the “race to $XX,XXX” net worth" threads on the MMM forums because with my income level, it made me want to cry to see people’s net worth go up by $5,000 a month. Like, I’m proud of what I’m doing on my income level, but it does wear down on me to see someone spend more on their 2nd car than I make in 2 years and still have a higher savings rate than me :frowning:


I feel you on this. I make a very cushy five-figure salary, with paid-for health insurance and access to a 401k, but I regularly feel so, so small in some of the threads there. And it’s ridiculous, because I pretty strongly believe that I’m living pretty damn high on the hog.


This is why I’m one of the more against using “savings rate” as a metric than most of the people I meet via MMM, Choose FI, and so on. The denominator matters a lot more than people want to admit, because the marginal utility curve of money (nor of the relationship of money to happiness) simply doesn’t count each $1 the same! Everyone needs to pay a certain amount minimum for housing, food, proximity to employment, and so on.

The only thing “savings rate” is good for is comparing you to yourself, and it’s hardly the best way to do that.

This. When my (Boomer) parents were choosing to go to college, something like an Ivy education or MIT was simply not an option due to costs and quotas. However, they had high quality university/college options that were academically competitive and publicly funded. My mother still has a protest button from when they instituted a fee for the first time, instead of it being entirely free (“Our position is no tuition!”).

Of course, that same opportunity wasn’t available to everyone. But for people who “won” the Boomer lottery, their path to college, home-ownership, and pension/retirement funding was something that no longer exists in the United States.


Related to college costs: I feel like community college is so often overlooked though, don’t you think? Some states have deals where if you do well in community college you get a full or partial scholarship to in-state 4-year schools (after you earn an associates) and even without that it’s a great way to get credits at a lower price. NY state also recently made CUNY and SUNY college tuition free for middle class students! I think a couple of states even offer free technical college to residents.

I don’t contest that tuition has gone up wildly (I used to work at a college) but I think part of the equation is the way we look at purchasing education now. I feel like in the past the idea was IF you were getting a degree at all you would either be gifted (in some way) enough to get a scholarship, were rich and had parents who would pay for everything, or you would go to the most affordable place possible. While some people with crushing student debt really had no other option I feel like a whole lot more went to expensive out of state schools and incurred a ton of extra debt by choice. I think part of the problem is being taught that ANY investment in education is always good, when that’s not really true. And definitely high school kids should be better prepared to make an informed decision.


Ugh, community college isn’t very affordable out here anymore. I say this as a former community college student. It was $30 a credit when I was going; nowadays it’s $111 per credit, adding up to after lab fees, school fees, and books it gets to around $10K a school year. Then you transfer to a state school and you’re dealing with the same issues but compounded with higher costs.

The other issue is that community colleges have so many low-income students that there’s a lot of competition for need-based aid. At my community college if you didn’t apply in early January on the FAFSA (usually the first day) for the following school year, you wouldn’t get any work-study or other need-based, limited aid (like pell grants, state opportunity grants or Perkins loans) because it’s first-come, first-serve. And that’s if you have parents that will agree to fill out FAFSA if you’re under 24 y/o.

For a lot of the “trades” - community colleges can’t offer programs for the trades due to state laws that ban government institutions from competing with businesses so they’ve been replaced with for-profit, often scammy, expensive institutions. You see this with dental hygienist, hairdressing, autobody, etc, in many states.

And often the more competitive programs at community college (for nursing or dental hygienist for example) will be so competitive to get into that students who get a single B won’t be able to get into the program after taking foundational coursework, so they’re just delaying educational time and money doing pre-recs to qualify.

I went to a $50K a year school and graduated with no debt because they have MUCH bigger pockets and had a sizable endowment - and agreed to meet your full financial need after EFC (estimated family contribution, mine being $2,000 a year which I paid for using my AmeriCorps ed award) - I wish more low-income students were given the information that the sticker price means nothing for private schools. I try to spread this word at least to the homeless youth I teach.

ETA: I do think the middle class of my generation had a ton of emphasis put on “dream school” and “school fit” and not enough put on “overall cost of attendance”.


This is absolutely a thing. People often assume that expensive education = better education, which simply isn’t true. The best education is the education that you get the most out of.

I have pretty high student debt (graduated with $42k in loans), but I also got an Ivy League education and connections for essentially the cost of four years room and board. It was a good calculated move for me on a financial level, and an amazing one on a personal level.