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When Parents Should Stop Paying for Kids’ Cellphone Plans

It’s not easy being a 20-something nowadays. Between landing a full-time job, paying back student loans and building credit, it’s hard to be financially stable. But are young adults solely to blame for their financial troubles? Or does it also fall on the shoulders of parental units (parents) who are reluctant to see their child take the final step into adulthood?

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that more than 2 in 5 parents of 18- to 35-year-old children pay for their kids’ cellphone service, and 29 percent do so after their kids have moved out. Seriously? I know student loans are expensive and pretty much unavoidable for families these days, but come on.

Standing on My Own Two Feet

As a recent college graduate, I feel pretty proud of myself to say that I stand on my own two feet without any help from my parents. Chalk it up to good savings habits, a college job and the luck to land a job after graduation, but I have been supporting myself for a while. However, I do know that this is not the case for all, as many still live at home, have parents who help pay their bills, or are still on their parents’ insurance policies.

Perhaps I got lucky landing my first job in a different state than my family, because I was forced to move out and pay rent. With that comes learning how to balance a checkbook, budget money, and overall financial responsibility. I was lucky enough to have parents pay my way through college, including rent, so post-college was the first time I was paying my rent myself. It was a huge wake-up call, but I really learned where my priorities were in terms of spending.

Other friends had the luxury of getting hired in their hometown, which meant they could stay at home with their parents while they saved money to move out. However, I wouldn’t change anything from my experience because I have seen how comfortable they have gotten and know it will be a shock when they move out for good.

Sure, it hasn’t been exactly fun having to use some of my savings on “real-life” purchases such as furniture for the apartment I share with my boyfriend, but I also know that I am now investing in my future with each big purchase I make.  I also know that my opinion is not shared by everyone, as some feel that parents should provide for their children as long as they are willing. To them I ask, isn’t that the point of college? To earn a degree, learn how to take care of yourself, and move on to support yourself and break away from your parents?

Learning their Lessons

When I asked some of my co-workers about their own experiences, I received mixed reactions. Bill Fay, a father of three boys, said he and his wife had agreed on a two-part plan. The plan consisted of saving for college for their sons long before they were 18, and sharing college expenses with their sons until they graduate or turn 21, at which point they are on their own. His two sons in college earned partial scholarships to get there. “The lesson for all of them – it hurts to spend the money you had to work for – has been rewarding for all us,” Bill said. “They accepted responsibility. They watch their money closely. They want to be financially independent. They’re growing up.”

Al Krulick, a father of two girls, said he and his wife pay the portion of his oldest daughter’s college tuition that is not covered by her scholarship. Both of his daughters have part-time jobs and pay for data usage on their cellphones, but most other expenses are covered by Al and his wife. However, once his daughters graduate from college, they are on their own. “Except for continuing health insurance coverage till age 26, the gravy train screeches to a stop,” Al said.

Children Won’t Be Ready Until They are Forced to Be Ready

Other co-workers who do not have their own children yet all seemed to agree that children should be financially responsible when they are “ready.” However, that leaves one large question: Will they ever be ready? That is setting the stage for students to take advantage of their parents long past college. If parents never force their kids to be responsible, they never will be.

My co-workers also agree that children can stay on their parents’ various plans if it is cheaper, but if the parents want them to pay their portion of the bill then they should. However, if they think that children shouldn’t become responsible until they are “ready,” then they may not ever be ready to pay for their phone bill or insurance. Just sayin’.

Moral of the story? Children need to become financially responsible as young adults. While parents may think they are helping them out by paying their way for life post-college, in reality they are doing them a disservice.

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].

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