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What Elephant?

When I was growing up, I had a terrible fear of Heffalumps and Woozles. These imaginary creatures plagued Winnie the Pooh's daydreams and nightmares. I was afraid they were going to come after me and steal from me everything I had and now they are showing up in homes across America in the form of our adult children.

Recently, a client said he was angry at his parents because they had enabled him for years. Now as an adult he is experiencing the consequences, "My parents can't come in and save the day anymore." The reality is my generation and generations before desired to care for their children much to their detriment.

The elephant in the room is that parents are still enabling their children to be coddled, babied, pampered, and spoiled to a point that when it's time for them to be responsible for their lives they have no clue how. This has caused young adults to be fearful of "adulting" responsibilities and we are seeing more and more young adults with "social anxiety." Even though they have reached an age appropriate for being on their own more and more young adults are remaining at home with their parents who continue to provide for their needs. The adult children now fear growing up and so they don't. They don't learn, don't mature, and they continue to be a financial and emotional burden on their families well into their 30's, 40's, and even for a lifetime. There is an increasing trend of multiple generations living under the same room as some children never leave their parent's homes. Grandparents are raising their grandchildren, but what happens when the grandparents are gone? What if these adult children are rejected by their family? Will they seek to be coddled by their friends and their families and beg to sleep on couches, spare rooms, or garages? Most often when all support systems are exhausted the unaccomplished adult now must lean on society to support them and they live a life far below their potential.

I suggest that if you are not educating your children on how to become adults, you may end up with an adult "child" living with you at a time when you want to retire and enjoy the golden years of your life. What's that? Oh, that's when someone has worked 90% of their life and they want to relax, travel, and just enjoy the last 10% fruits of their labor. Unfortunately, more and more adult children are eating those fruits and throwing their parents the pits. If you have young children, teach them the value of money by making them earn privileges like a phone and game time. It is not a privilege they automatically should receive simply because they "want" it. Everything has a cost associated with it and parents are paying the price long after the gift has been received. Just because someone was given a gift by their parent (education, car, cell phone, etc) does not mean the child has the right to ruin, destroy, or criticize that gift. If you buy a cell phone for a child who does not treat you or the gift well take it back. Respect for their parents is required and the gifts they give should be given conditionally; teach your children that those gifts can be lost. Imagine not learning this rule as a child and going into the adult world unprepared:

  • You get a job, and because you do not respect your boss's decisions, you lose your job.

  • You buy a car and don't pay for it, don't have insurance on it, and when you want to sell it you've let it fall apart and the value drops. It's now worthless but you still owe on the original debt.

  • You go to university because your friends all go and you waste time, don't apply yourself to learning, and eventually drop out because it wasn't what you really wanted to do anyway. Now you have student loans hanging over your head for the next 20-30 years.

  • Credit companies entice you to go into debt by sending you a pre-approved application. You spend the limit and run out of money to pay it off. The credit card company now is earning 27% interest on your balance compounded annually and you go further and further into debt simply by not paying your bill.

All of these situations are becoming normal in households across America and our young adults are getting further into debt and further away from their dreams. FICO scores still remain the standard measurement of financial competency and it is the one thing that limits everyone from financing a car, buying a home, and can even prevent you from getting into a good apartment. Financial illiteracy is the #1 reason people have depression, anxiety, and poor health. Yet it is not taught in schools where learning used to take place. So, if you want to learn how to become an adult start with your finances. When you can eat the elephant "one bite at a time" you'll soon see the elephant is only your imagination.


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