You’ve worked hard to gain financial independence. You have beaten the odds and created real wealth, even though it might not have been handed to you. You have forged a path to build generational wealth.
Now, you want to make sure that your wealth is stewarded well, even long after you are gone. Like any parent, you desire your children to carry the wisdom you’ve gained into their own lives and futures.
However, you may worry that your children are becoming too financially dependent. They have grown up with wealth being a normal part of their lives. Now, their behavior and money habits might be telling you they rely too much on your financial assistance. You don’t want your children growing up feeling dependent on you for financial support whenever they want it.
The good news is that there is a different path. If your children have become too financially dependent, or even if they are favoring that behavior, you can still instill in them financial independence and responsibility with the right approach.
There are four steps you can take to undo financial enablement and guide your children toward becoming financially responsible adults.
1. Assess the situation.
Just like creating a plan for building wealth, you must get clear about your family’s current situation. Then you need a clear plan for the future and the desired outcome you wish to achieve. What behaviors do your children display that signal they are enabled or dependent or are becoming that way? When did these behaviors start? How do you contribute to or enable those behaviors in them?
An old saying states, “the more you give your children, the more you take away.” Yes, you desire to be a good parent and raise your children to be responsible and productive adults, but learning how to do that without enabling them to always rely on you is a challenge. It’s not wrong to want to give to your children and support them. You don’t want them to struggle, right? However, there can be a fine line between healthy support and enablement. It’s easy for your desire to support your children to override wisdom. And know, if you ever do think this way, you’re not alone. There is a path forward.
Obviously, parenting is much more nuanced than financial planning. However, the old adage rings true: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Assess where you are and what you want the future to look like for your children in regards to handling money and managing wealth.
2. Determine what financial independence and responsibility looks like for your children vs. enablement and dependence.
Now, you must get specific. What exactly does financial independence and responsibility look like? What makes it obvious to know if enablement and dependence exist? Let’s look at some comparisons of each:
Responsible and Financially independent: Enabled and Dependent.
|Earns money by providing value. (Job, career, commission)||Asks for money whenever they need it.|
|Saves money for the future.||Asks for money to make big purchases now.|
|Is patient and satisfied with what they have.||Lacks contentment and always wants something better/newer.|
|Gives to others/causes.||Hoards money/thinks only of themselves.|
|Understands how to build wealth.||Thinks only about now and looks to you as their future source.|
Do you recognize any of these traits in your children? Even if it’s not so obvious, enabled children often have developed thoughts and beliefs about how the world works and their role in it. Although it may be subtle, they can act as though the world revolves around them. Their focus may lean more toward finding pleasure and immediate gratification instead of contribution and personal growth.
Understandably, you want your children to be successful, self-sustained, responsible adults who use wisdom in their financial decisions and plan for the future. However, that takes intentionality. Most parents simply aren’t aware that they are causing dependence in their children until it becomes obvious later. But, there is a way to be a catalyst for change in their lives and their behavior – to be intentional now.
If you recognize some of these traits in your children, or already realize their need to learn financial responsibility, then it’s time to have a plan of action.
3. Determine what actions you can take going forward to guide and promote the desired behavior.
Before starting any plan to change the behavior of your children, you must be aware of the most important trait to exhibit during this journey:
If there is a lifelong pattern of enabling behavior, it is going to take time, and lots of patience, to change this and to promote the desired behavior. Start small. Build the foundation one brick at a time.
Perhaps the best place to start is simply by talking with your kids about your values and the meaning and purpose of wealth to you. Let them know your concern and the patterns you recognize in them and acknowledge your role in shaping them. Help them understand where you came from and the journey it took to build wealth.
Then create a plan for specific situations in which dependent behavior takes place.
Example: Have you routinely been giving money to your children whenever they ask? Have you been known to help your children when they get into financial trouble? If so, instead of just cutting them off completely, start by:
- Asking more questions before you give them money.
- Limit the amount of money you give them.
- Limit the frequency of which you give them money.
- Help them make a more responsible decision on their own.
One of the best ways to teach financial responsibility is by giving your children the opportunity to earn money from you. Instead of an allowance, give your children the opportunity to earn it. Call it a commission instead of an allowance.
Finally, help them create a budget to fund their current and future life. Show them how to plan for purchases and to appreciate how hard work and patience leads to gratification down the road. Show them how to set aside money for giving as well, so they can learn to contribute to causes that are bigger than themselves.
4. Set boundaries.
As you go forward, set boundaries to encourage the new behavior you desire from your children and to disable the old behavior.
Let your children know that things will be different from now on. Create boundaries for when you will give them money, how much you will give them, how often, etc.
Start small and do this gradually. Begin with one boundary (how much money you give them, for instance) and let it become a normal expected behavior on your part. Then increase this boundary and add more boundaries over time until your children learn to become dependent with their own finances. The goal is not simply to free them from relying on you for money but to teach them to be personally responsible for their financial situation.
Again, this process will take time and patience. Go into it with the long game in mind and hold fast to the boundaries you set.
This will likely not be as smooth a transition as the few paragraphs above might allude. If you consider your children to be too financially dependent, just remember that this behavior was not created overnight. Therefore, it cannot be undone overnight.
A tremendous amount of persistence and patience may be needed. However, the effort is worth the reward if your children can be the stewards of your hard-earned wisdom and wealth and will carry on your legacy.
If you would like professional financial guidance as you navigate the road ahead, talk to us. Schedule a consultation today and secure a solid financial future for both you and your children.