Adult Child

How Much Financial Support Should I Provide My Family?

Queue the Huggies jingle. It took a few years in the workforce, but I finally feel like a big kid now.

Maybe it’s the pain of filing my taxes every year. Maybe it’s having a few years of steady income under my belt. Whatever the reason, it’s a wonderful feeling being a financially self-sufficient adult.

It’s comforting that I can rely completely on myself to survive in this world. I remember a time when that wasn’t the case, when as a college grad I was struggling to make ends meet and doubted whether I could pay my bills in the near future. Now, I feel provided for, like I finally have my financial sh*t together.

Am I a Big Kid Now?

And yet, despite the grown-up feeling that comes from a bi-monthly paycheck, I’m still technically an “adult child” – half adult (in action and deed) and half child (especially if you ask my parents).

I’m at the odd age where, despite my ability to buy my own groceries and pay my rent, I still get offers from my parents to buy me clothes. I’m at the point where even though I earn more money, my parents still take me out to dinner when I’m home. I’ll consider it the mark of complete adultness when I no longer receive holiday cards with money inside. But for now, I look forward to getting a lovely Valentine’s card with a few dollar bills stuffed inside.

But I Don’t Want to Be the Adult Here…

Adult ChildDon’t get me wrong. I love being taken care of and coddled by my family. I love that they think of me and want to take care of me. It’s the other side of the equation that causes the stress and anxiety: financially supporting my family.

A dear friend of mine and I were lamenting about our similar financial situations. Our stories are nearly identical: we’re both responsible twenty-six year-old women and we’re both the most financially successful person in our families. With our great financial success comes great financial responsibility, and as we watch our families struggle with money, we both feel the heavy burden of a financially stable adult child.

While we enjoy relative comfort and luxury as young professionals in a bustling city, our families are dealing with unpaid bills, a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle and unrealized financial goals.

So naturally, we’d like to help

It’s a personal debt that we owe the ones that have raised us. It’s a personal responsibility of a sister to support her brother when no one else can. It’s the pressure to help subsidize our families’ basic necessities.

More than anything, it’s finding ourselves in a good (a blessed) financial situation and wishing our families the same.

But how much do I support them?

How much responsibility do I have to  support my family when I still feel like a child?

What is My Financial Responsibility to My Family?

So as I sift through the checks I got for my birthday, check my online account balances and bask in the glory of young adulthood, I feel like I have my financial life in order. But my family, my elders, my siblings … they do not. And I know at least one other twenty-six year-old in the same position as me.

I consider my personal financial situation a glorious combination of luck, genetics, encouragement from my parents and a lot of hard work and hustle. I still have financial issues (read: student loans), but they pail in comparison to some of the financial needs of my loved ones.

I’ve essentially “made it,” and now it’s my turn to play the role of parent, adult, and financial provider … but it’s a little before I’m ready.

I find myself asking so many questions that I haven’t found the answers to…

How do I balance responsibility, obligation and love with my own financial needs? How do I provide a better life for my family when I feel like I’m just a kid?

One thing’s for sure: growing up is tough.

I’m curious: If you’re a twenty-something supporting your family, what do you feel your obligation is toward your family’s finances? If you’re a parent, how would you expect your adult child to support you if you were having a tough time?

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5 thoughts on “How Much Financial Support Should I Provide My Family?

  1. Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom

    This is a really interesting dilemma. I think first off I’d politely suggest the gifts stop. You seem to be doing OK, and they are struggling. To spare their feelings I’d come at it from the same angle you did in this post. You’re a big kid now and want to make it on your own! So please let me buy my own clothes, and we’ll take turns paying for dinner.
    Good luck!

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Thanks Mandy. I actually convinced my family to do a no-gifts Christmas this year. It was incredible… until my mom sneaked in a gift 😛 Still, I think we’re making progress.

  2. Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget

    We’re in a nearly identical situation. Our families’ financial wellbeing stresses us out wayyyy more than our own. They’re “past the age” (or so they say) of wanting to learn how to manage their money (or lack thereof) and we’re sorta stuck. We help where and when we can, but they’re stubborn with accepting anything from us.

    So yes, the feeling of obligation is absolutely there. But for now, not much progress is being made.

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Glad to know I’m not alone. It’s difficult, especially when you’re dealing with reluctance or avoidance.


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