Sunday Conversation #12: Shifting Financial Responsibilities to Teens

Welcome to Sunday Conversation #12!  If you would like to participate in next week’s Sunday Conversation, simply ask your question in the comments section of today’s post and I will respond next Sunday. Remember, any subject is on the table (but keep it family-friendly).

When your teens leave the nest, how and when do you shift financial responsibility? I think college is a great transition period in life. You are away from home for the first time and take on new freedoms and responsibilities. Financial responsibilities just naturally start to shift because mom and dad are not there to take care of you anymore. But what about children who do not go away to college? My husband and I have an 18 year old at home who is going to the local junior college. So now the question is when and how do we start shifting her finances from our responsibility to hers? Should she be paying for her own cell phone now? What about medical bills? Car Insurance? What would you do?

– J

I can answer your question from a variety of angles, as I went off to school as a traditional student for my first two years of study, then returned home and lived with my grandfather while attending school and working part time, and finally finished up by working full time to put myself through school.  Each of these experiences taught different lessons, and they were all important.  As a parent, I have some ideas on how I’d like to see my own children’s educational plans go, but I’m all for allowing them choosing their own path.

In your situation, with an 18 year-old living at home and attending a local college, I think it is fair to begin to shift some of the financial responsibilities to her, starting with luxury items such as cell phones, subscriptions, extra clothing, etc.  I personally would not go so far as to charge rent to an adult child living at home while attending school, but if they decided to leave school to work full time I would like them to make some contribution to the household (unless there are extenuating circumstances such a divorce, illness, or financial hardship).  I would also continue to cover college-age children under my own medical insurance plan, as long as the provider allows for it.  Auto insurance may have a similar allowance for college kids, but if not I would offer to help with insurance assuming a car was required to attend school and/or work.

When I attended school as a traditional, on-campus student for my first two years I racked up a bit of student loan and credit card debt simply from living beyond my means.  I had worked part time jobs since my sophomore year of high school, so I was used to having a small amount of “fun money.”  However, the freedoms of a college lifestyle away from home introduced new opportunities for “fun,” so I spent in excess of my part time wages.  If I had it to do over again I would have attended a local school first, lived at home, and saved money and attended a larger university to complete my four-year degree.  Then again, I have no regrets because I met my wife at school during those first two years.

Ideally, I would like for my kids to be able to attend school without the additional burdens of a job.  I was raised by a single parent, and received no financial support from my father.  While my mom was able to cover room-and-board, and help with tuition, she didn’t have much left over for living expenses.  I worked part time to pay for gas, food, and when I moved to an off-campus apartment, a few of the utility expenses. There were some advantages to working, particularly later on when I worked full time to pay my own way.  I certainly appreciated the experience more, and paying my own tuition added to the incentive to earn good grades.

If your daughter works part time consider beginning to transferring over the responsibility to her for paying small bills.  If she does not work, consider providing a monthly stipend for her to live on, and out of that have her pay her own bill(s) such as the cell phone.  This will at least get her used to the idea of living on a budget, and begin to reinforce financial responsibility by allowing her to manage a finite supply of cash each month.

What is your favorite thing about running this website?

– Luke (@Money and Fitness Blog)

I touched on this briefly in my latest roundup post last Friday.  My favorite thing about running Frugal Dad is receiving emails from people who have been inspired to take control of their financial destiny. Unless you are famous, or have access to someone famous, or have access to a lot of money for marketing and self-promotion, it is hard for your ideas to have much reach.  Blogging has introduced a relatively inexpensive way to reach others and share ideas.  The thing I most enjoy about blogging is that I know every time I click “publish” nearly 3,000 people will receive my content.  In some ways that is a little intimidating, but I have embraced it as an opportunity to inspire others.  Maybe someone will learn from my mistakes.  Maybe a young person will avoid the same traps I fell for.  Maybe a seasoned financial expert will rethink their position for the better of their family’s financial future.

For others, Frugal Dad may just be a source of entertainment. I’m happy with that, too.  After all, we could all use a little comic relief these days!  Whatever your reason for visiting Frugal Dad, I’m glad you’re here and I hope you’ll stick around to follow me on this journey.

The calendars have been flipped to August, the beginning of a new month full of opportunities.  Make it a great one!


  1. just wanted to share my experience here as well, if i may do so 🙂 i graduated and moved out my parents house a month later to live with my boyfriends (we’d been together for 3 years at that point and both had jobs, full time). we were both full time college and paying all of our own bills (rent, utilities, phones, car insurance, and all that comes with living on our own!). had we needed help, i know my mom would’ve been more than willing to help because she was proud that we were making it “on our own”.

    my sisters, on the other hand, didn’t get jobs until they were 19 and lived at home until around the same time. they aren’t going to college and they struggle to pay their bills. i don’t think they’re responsible (nor mature enough) to really handle being “on their own”.

    i think that having a college student living at home would be a great time to start teaching financial responsibility. i know some parents who charge rent, i know some who don’t. my mother never would’ve charged rent, but we paid for our own cell phones and car insurance from day one. those were luxury items that my mom wouldn’t pay for, and i know that’s reasonable.

    the only things i wish i would’ve been taught was to save better…not to spend every dime i made. those are invaluable lessons in responsibility. 🙂

  2. Since I discuss the various aspects of “helping vs. enabling” grown children so much on my blog, I would like a little more information regarding what you mean by not contributing to the household due to “extenuating circumstances like divorce, illness or financial hardship”. Serious illness is one thing, but divorce? And if you could define what you mean by “financial hardship”?

    From the emails and comments I get from parents struggling with adult children still living at home, not following any of the “agreed upon” rules and expectations of even helping around the house etc, more often than not having grown children living in the parents’ home has had extremely detrimental effects on both the parents and the “kids”.

    Such as many grown adults who “planned” on only staying for a couple/few months because of one reason or another, are still living with the parents and not working at all, but are sleeping until 2 p.m. and not making any attempt to find/keep a job, help around the house, pick up after themselves, help with meal preparation etc, and parents write to me or comment about these high frustrating situations and ask what they should do.

    These same “kids” manage to buy expensive cell phones and other techie gadgets, spend their money on fun and entertainment, are not paying any of the agreed upon financial contributions to the parents, and have saved zero dollars towards getting out on their own.

    @Tiffanie, I must respectfully disagree. Waiting until children have reached the age of attending college to teach financial responsibility and money management is many years too late. From the time children are very very young, kids need to begin being taught the basics of money with more information built upon year after year, so that by the time kids are able to earn money on their own they’ve already come to an understanding about managing their money and making wise financial choices/decisions.

    Then, when they are adults, they need to have full responsibility for their own spending/saving habits (and natural consequences for poor choices) rather than parents paying their adult child’s bills etc.

  3. FD
    Thanks for posting my question and offering some great advice! My daughter started her first job last week and will be starting her first semester of college in about a month. I think the first bill she will be taking on is that cell phone bill, as well as a portion of her auto insurance. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks again!

    Lin – Your site sounds very interesting and you have mentioned some issues that my husband and I face. I’m very interested to see what other in those situations are doing.