The Consequences of Not Giving Your Child Any Monetary Control


I think the title of this picture was originally ”This is what $40,000 looks like”.

I have a lot of conversations in the run of a day with many different people. Commonalities are sure to come up. Anytime money comes up, I’m usually game to talk about it. Last week during an appointment a patient had to answer a phone call from her daughter. The daughter is away for university, all of which, according to mom, she and her husband are paying for. One of moms ”biggest accomplishments in her life” was being able to allow her daughter to attend any school she chose, no questions asked. Her and her husband had worked hard for many years stashing money aside for their daughters impending high school graduation. Though they were sad she chose to move literally across the country, they were able to afford for her to do that if that’s what she wanted.

I have no issues with parents helping with their child’s post secondary education, heck, we contribute monthly to a savings account for our daughter too. While we will save until a max goal is reached, if a main life goal of yours  is to 100% fund any desires of your child’s post secondary dream, that’s great too. Where I draw the line is 100% controlling all money.

In this situation, the child has never worked. She’s never earned any money of her own. She knew from day one mom and dad would be paying for school, and focused her efforts on getting good grades, socializing and playing sports. Again, no issues with this at all, if it’s what works for the family, the problem I have is that mom and dad continue to pay all of her bills, at twenty years of age.

If mom and dad want to foot the bill ”100%, no questions asked” (<<their words, not mine), they should at the very least allow her to physically pay the bills. Given that she will be graduating at 22 and have never paid even a cell phone bill, how is this preparing her for the real world? Even if it’s mom and dads money, I’m of the opinion that the money should be placed into, at the very least a joint account, and she should assume responsibility of paying her own rent, utilities and budget her spending money.

During this phone call in my office, mom was writing down the total of her daughters lunch and shopping purchase (which I overheard included a new cell phone). The daughter pays for everything on a credit card, tells mom the total and they pay her balance off. Mom told me ”not to worry” she and her husband could only afford to do this while she was in school, come graduation, she would be ”cut off”.

Sooooo lemme get this straight. Kid is attending a school thousands of kilometers away, all paid for by mom and dad, they pay for all of her bills and she is to rack up a credit card, consequence free since mom and dad pay the balance off immediately? This my friends, is a problem, don’t you think?

When I asked mom why they don’t allow her to manage her own money, by even paying her own rent, she point-blank said, she couldn’t be trusted and would waste the money. Hmm…

Though the parents are trying to help their daughter by paying her way through school, by not giving the child and monetary control they’re doing much more damage than good. The parents here are just considered a wealthy affiliate to their children. I would rather graduated in debt, fumbling my through financial mistakes if it meant I was able to graduate with life lessons learned and my financial head screwed on tighter than the day I started.

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  1. Wow, that’s just crazy! Amazing that they can afford it, but wow. Our goal is to pay for our children’s college education, this will include first computer, tuition, room and board and possibly a flight here or there depending on where the school is located. Any other expenses, ie books, non-meal plan food, computer, etc. I think that working and actually spending the money, learning how to budget and be aware of what is actually being spent is a HUGE part of being an adult. Why would they think that she will magically be responsible once she graduates? Also, how do they know she would just waste the money? She’s never been given the responsibility. A good tip to keep in mind as far as what not to do, if you’re footing the bill.

  2. Ouch, ya, that will not be a good scene when she’s done school. My parents paid for the difference between what I could make and what I needed, aka the bulk of it. That said, it was a monthly deposit and it was my job to manage it. I had to pay my own bills using this system for most of highschool, too, for my clothes, entertainment and paying my coaches.

  3. Great post! I had 3 roommates that were in this same situation in university and I was always of the same mindset as you. My parents helped me a little, but I always had to work and budget my money. Needless to say, I was much better prepared for the real world than they.

  4. My in-laws paid my brother in law’s full tuition fee, allowance and dorm. But when the time that he graduated, surprisingly they are still paying his bills and they even give them an allowance!

  5. Ohhhh….that’s scary. I agree- they should let her physically pay the bills. She’s going to have to learn sometime!

  6. The real problem will be when she graduates and still relies on mom and dad to do this for her. Even worse will be when mom and dad oblige and continue to stay enmeshed with her financial life. There has to be some separation and learning on her own at some point or this could get ugly.

  7. The parents are going to regret this and they only have themselves to blame. I made lots of mistakes with money when I was younger but I learned from them and I’m now better able to manage my finances than this girl will be when she’s older. Of course, she’ll probably look for a bf/husband who will take care of everything if parents actually do cut her off (which is unlikely). Better to be self sufficient than dependant on anyone, I think.

  8. Ugh. I truly feel sorry for this girl because she is going to have a horribly rude awakening after she graduates. And the worst part, the part that absolutely kills me, is that her parents believe in their hearts that they are doing the right thing and giving their child an incredible gift. Like you, I’m saving money for Lauren and Taylor’s college education and we hope to fund the majority of it too. But we also expect the girls to apply for scholarships, to work and to handle their money responsibly. And I wish I could tell you this girl was an anomaly but the sad part is it happens more than you think.

    • Catherine says

      Rude awakening is right and yes I do feel bad for the parents too because like you said, in their hearts they’re doing the right thing.

  9. Wow. Great story, but so so frustrating! I have no problem with parents paying for children’s college, but how do these parents possibly expect her to function after school!? Of course, the fundamental problem is that they don’t trust her to manage her money. Well, whose fault is that?

  10. What a scary situation! I worry about my younger brother sometimes: his school is completely paid for by the company for which he signed a contract to work after graduation, he lives in a dorm-like situation which the company pays for, my parents pay his vehicle insurance, he has no vehicle payments, no living costs, no cell phone payments (my parents pay for it) and has NO IDEA what things cost. He too will have a total wake-up call when he finishes school and has to pay his own bills.

    • Catherine says

      Being his sister is there anything you can do to help him get a grip of reality?

      • IDK, I’ve tried talking to him about it, I even went so far as to tell him approx how much debt I’m in and told him about my blog. (He’s the only person IRL that knows about any of this.) I guess all I can do is put in a word now and then about it and not hound him because hounding him just ticks him off instead of helping the situation.

  11. Yikes, I see a rude awaking coming to this person when she graduates. I remember my freshman year in College….my grants and scholarships were paying for my tuition and room/board but I had to come up with my own spending money. I thought I had saved up enough from my high school job, but about 2 weeks into school I came to the realization that I either a.) had to stop spending so much or b.) get a job. Two days later I had my first shift at the dorm cafeteria.

  12. As you said, if it works for the family cool. Unfortunately, that girl is going to come into a rude awakening when it’s time to start paying bills. I think my dad taught me a great lesson as I was growing up. If I needed it, he would buy it, no question. But, if I didn’t need it, I had to make the money and buy it myself. That included a cell phone. I’ve never ran into any real problems paying my bills and I give my dad a lot of credit for that!

    • Catherine says

      That’s a pretty good balance I think. I have no issues providing necessities for our child but if, like you said, she wants something she’ll have to earn it somehow.

  13. Oh my, there are so many problems with this. I just feel really bad for that girl. She’s so used to getting everything handed to her, and once she graduates, she’ll be on her own? Yikes. It’s a bit ridiculous the daughter has to call the mom to report what she charged. It doesn’t sound like they set any limits, either, if a new cell phone was purchased. How do they know they can’t trust their daughter with money if they’ve always paid for things? They could have at least let her try.

    • Catherine says

      Yup, I mean I don’t know the entire story just what mom told me during the appointment but still seemed like a bad situation!

  14. That is a red flag for me. There has to be more balance, not all or nothing. They really should give her a monthly amount and let her manage it. She will make mistakes and they should not bail her out. Easier said than done, but it needs to be done.

  15. Definitely sounds like an accident waiting to happen with a scenario like that, though it’s all too common.

    We are teaching our children about money and spending now and they are all under 10.

    One thing we do that involves them spending their money is this: If we are at a restaurant and they want to order some crazy food that they have never tried, we let them do it and if they eat it eat, great. We will pay for it. But if they don’t eat it, they know the money will be coming out of their funds. This works well for holding them accountable and not spending money aimlessly. It’s just one example, but we are teaching them the value of money and that’s the important part.

    Great article. Thanks for posting!

  16. Oh my goodness gracious, how terribly sad. They are setting this kid up for HUGE financial failure. One thing I’m glad for about our tight budget is that this kind of a lifestyle is simply not an option. But even if it were an option, we’d never let that happen. She thinks they’re doing their kid a huge favor, but in all reality they are messing her up big time. How sad.

  17. I’ve read a couple of books written by a couple who are generally considered the most fugal of all frugal living writers. They mandate how their kids spend the money they receive whether it be from jobs, gifts or allowances. I know they would say they are teaching their kids their family values for money but when you dictate how much goes to charity or savings it is an invitation for the kid to rebel. There just seems to be a more middle of the road approach while still teaching your kid your personal values.

    • Catherine says

      Yes, I agree! Kids need to have say in how money gets utilized even if it is a mistake, they need to learn.

  18. Whoa. That is a train wreck waiting to happen. I don’t even agree with the fact that she’s never actually had to work.. even if her parents could afford whatever she wanted, that doesn’t mean it needs to be handed to her on a silver platter. Especially if it has nothing to do with her education! Lunch out and shopping with ZERO financial consequence? Wow, what a great lesson to teach your kid!

    Yeah, I’m totally with you on this one. They are pretty much setting their daughter up for failure once she has to FINALLY grow up, take care of herself, and deal with the real world.. unless, of course, they’re planning on footing the bill for that, too.

  19. Kathy from CT says

    So very sad. One of my son’s friends is in the same situation. Even worse, this friend’s father made a call last year saying “my son needs an internship for the summer”, which the kid got but it was a unpaid one! Mommy and daddy paid and managed his expenses in another city while he worked the internship. He graduates next week, starts a job in a month clear across the country (again with daddy’s contacts), and I feel so sorry for him re the rude awakening he will get.

  20. Such a sad story really. I’m sure the parents think they are being kind and loving when really they are doing tremendous harm to their daughter. Really very similar to enablers. They’d never finance their daughters cocaine habit no questions asked. Yet, by robbing her of the dignity and experience of learning to walk on her own two feet they are really accomplishing almost the same thing.

    And in a couple years they will wonder why either their daughter is living in their basement or else not speaking to them because they refuse to continue to bail her out. And pity the poor fellow who marries her someday.

  21. Slowly working my way through your blog, Catherine, and this post really stood out to me because… well, I was exactly that girl, and those were exactly my parents. I went to a very top-tier, expensive school, paid in full by my parents (in cash – they dipped into their long-term investments wtf!!) They paid my credit card in full month after month. They paid for my off-campus apartment because my mother believed I could study better outside of the dorms (that’s not an incorrect statement, but it was also an expensive city so that was a terrible excuse for my $2000/mo rent).

    The worst thing is that I didn’t really grasp the gravity of my parents’ decisions until I graduated and started racking up debt myself. I mean, for me, credit cards were always “buy now, figure out how to pay it later” sort of deal. I didn’t even know how to make a credit card payment for the first couple of months! I had good credit because my parents opened a card in my name (the one I was using and they were paying off), so after I graduated and they cut me off, I got a TON of offers in the mail. And I applied for each of them. And racked up about 40k in credit card debt in three years.


    I love my parents and I appreciate that they were willing to take care of my financially so I could focus on my studies. At the same time, I wish they had given me some responsibility – perhaps they could have paid for my tuition, but made me work to pay for personal expenses and rent. I don’t think throwing me into the fire right away would have been good either, but slowly easing off and teaching me responsibility would have helped a lot.

    I’m now in my mid-20’s and staring at about 100k in debt (student debt from grad school, credit card debt, personal loans). If I had had better training at a young age, this would never have happened. I’m taking responsibility for it though, and slowly paying it off, but damn…. some days it’s hard.

    Thanks for your great blog and sharing all your stories with us.


  1. […] The Consequences of Not Giving Your Child Any Monetary Control […]

  2. […] over at Plunged in Debt shared with us a tragedy-in-making with her post, The Consequences of Not Giving Your Child Any Monetary Control. Standing on the outside, I bet you can see this parent’s well-intentioned mistake. The […]

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