Co-Dependent or Budget Savvy: Family Cell Phone Plans, Shared Passwords, Help with the Rent, and Definitions of Adulting

adulting and family cell phone plansWe were talking recently in the Corporette Slack channel about people we knew who were still on the family cell phone plan as an adult — and considering we’ve seen so many news stories about different levels of this kind of co-dependence, from sharing passwords with family members to getting help with your rent, we thought it would be fun to have a bigger discussion about it here at Corporette. Thank you to Rebecca Berfanger for writing this for us — I can’t wait to hear everyone’s thoughts on this topic! – Kat.

Readers, have you ever thought about whether you are independent–or co-dependent–when it comes to your expenses? Is part of your view of “adulting” to be 100% totally financially independent — or do you think it’s budget savvy to share passwords and family cell phone plans? Where is the line in your mind? If you’ve discussed this intimately with friends or partners, do you think you’re normal or on one end of the continuum? Do your parents or other friends or family members still financially support you in some way (mortgage, bills, transportation, housing) or do you always pay your own way? If you’re in a relationship, do you share a bank account? Are there some things you don’t mind sharing, like a family cell phone plan or passwords for your favorite source of entertainment?

In the first episode of Girls, Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath asks her parents for money so she can continue to live in her Brooklyn apartment. Sure, New York is very expensive, but it’s a good place for a writer to live so she can network and land a decent job in her field. Fair enough. Yet even though she seems to have a decent job, it is an unpaid internship with no guarantee of advancement. Depending on your personal situation, that conversation was relatable, cringe-inducing, or possibly both.

Here are few questions to consider:

Who pays your bills? Does anyone other than your roommate(s), significant other(s), Airbnb guest(s), your cousin who crashes on your couch when she has a business conference in town, or anyone else who directly benefits from your home’s heat in the winter and A/C in the summer frequently help pay your mortgage, rent, or other bills (or perhaps help with a significant gift for a downpayment)? Or do you skip that step and just live for free (or almost free) with relatives to save some dough?

Do you share a bank account? We’ve discussed married money management before on Corporette. Some couples have a joint account for shared expenses, some share everything in one pot, and some keep everything separate. Some couples also split up the bills so that ultimately it is (hopefully) equitable even if it isn’t always equal. Also, how committed would you have to be to share an account? If you do share or have shared an account, would you recommend it?

Who covers your transportation? If you are in a city where you don’t need to own a car due to a mostly reliable public transit system, or if you can walk or ride your bike almost everywhere, or if you prefer Uber or Lyft to car ownership, that’s great! But if you rely on owning your own car, who pays the loan? Who pays for the gas and regular maintenance? Have you figured out how you can (legally) be on a family member’s car insurance? Do you share your car or have your own?

Do you share passwords? If you subscribe to a news service or streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, do you share your password, or do you prefer to keep your subscriptions to yourself?

Are you still on family plan even after you consider yourself an “independent adult”? Even if you pay your own bills and mortgage or rent, you don’t share a bank account with anyone, you make your own car payments, don’t ever share passwords, and every time “Independent Women” (or another girl power song) comes on you sing it loud and proud, are you on a shared phone plan with your parents, even if they live two states away?

Ladies, let’s hear your thoughts — how old are you, and to what extent do you receive/want/get “family help” for this kind of stuff? 

Further Reading:

  • Until You Leave Your Family Cell Phone Plan, You’re Not a Real Adult [Huffington Post]
  • Millennials on Their Parents’ Family Plans: It’s Not Mooching, It’s Saving Everyone Money [NerdWallet]
  • Giving Your Boo Your Password Is Dumb. Do This Instead. [Wired]
  • A Secret of Many Urban 20-Somethings: Their Parents Help With the Rent [New York Times]
  • Millennials Who Are Thriving Financially Have One Thing in Common … Rich Parents. [The Atlantic]
  • The Case for (and Against) Spouses Having Joint Checking Accounts [U.S. News Money]
  • Study Finds Broad Range of ‘Independence’ for U.S. Young Adults [NC State News]
  • 5 Charts That Prove Today’s 30-year-olds Are Not Adults [MarketWatch]


  1. Anonymous :

    I grew up in a blue-collar / no-collar town in the NEUS that was immigrant heavy.

    High school included vocational classes in our high school (and there was a vo-tech for more of the same — hairdressing, various childcare licenses, mechanics certification, secretarial certifications).

    People got married at 18.
    People joined the various armed service branches at 18.

    It is so unsettling to be a BigLaw partner and find that so many of my older partners here who have immensely more resources and connections have kids who are still on the parental dole. I mean, for all of the talk of white privilege (which is still totally a Thing), there is a shocking (to me) behind the scenes Failure to Launch of the Top 5% that is making me question everything about childrearing where I live now. I guess you can lead a horse to water?

    [I totally get how phone plans sticky though; I have been married for 10 years and only recently got on a plan with my spouse. I wasn’t on my parents’ plan before that b/c they seem to only have one cell phone and that one isn’t very smart.]

    • Baconpancakes :

      Oh this was one of the first things we did when we decided to get married! So much cheaper to have two phones on one plan than two different plans.

      • I was long distance with my husband till months before the wedding. I was on my family plan still and like the day after I was back from the honeymoon my parents made us all go to the cell phone store to split me off and put me with my new husband. Now my little brother and his wife, they’re both on the plan with my parents. I can’t decide if they are just worried about losing the discount from multiple phones or if they like him more.

  2. This is interesting! I live in a HCOL city and pay for everything myself although I have gotten help from my parents in a few areas.

    I’m on the family cell phone plan, but pay my parents each month (it is just cheaper/economical) and I do use my parents’ HBOGO and Showtime access but pay for my own Netflix/Hulu.

    The other help I’ve gotten is a 0% interest loan for grad school which I will start paying back next year. I know I’m very fortunate that I didn’t have to take out loans and I’m very grateful to my parents for giving me this opportunity.

    I pay all the rest of my own bills and luckily don’t need a car!

    • Also should have added, my parents are loaning PART of the money for grad school, the rest is from my savings and employer reimbursement.

      And I’m in my late 20’s.

    • Dad pays for my phone, but I pay for my mainetenance on my condo, and he pays the morgage. When I move over to the West Side, he will be paying for both b/c I will NOT be able to afford either. I told him I did NOT want a 3 Bedroom 3 Bath (2 en suite), with a wrap around balcony, but he said HE did, so I told him fine, you pay for it, and he said “fine”. But now I have to take 2 MTA BUSSES to work, as I do NOT like the walk cross town. FOOEY! Dad STILL wants me doieng 10,000+ steps a day, so I will have to walk along the West Side Highway! DOUBEL FOOEY!

  3. I’m on the “adult” side of most of these arrangements in my family. My brother and my dad are both on my cell phone plan – my brother because he’s a 30-something in New York trying to teach college and write; my dad because my parents are awesome but don’t make much money. My parents have my netflix password for the same reason. From time to time I also end up sending my brother groceries, rent or car repair money, and plane tickets home.

    I did move back in with my parents for about 6 months during my divorce (early 20s). It’s was a little hard to feel like an adult when my mom was fixing me snacks and doing my laundry, but everything was so stressful then, I couldn’t be bothered to care.

    For myself, I like being self-sufficient, but I’ve borrowed money from my parents once or twice over the years, because it was an emergency and I saved interest on a bank loan, plus I paid them back more than they made in their savings account, so win-win.

    • I’m also on the “adult” side of these arrangements. I make almost 10x what my mom does, and over 6x what my brother does. So, the least I can do is let them use my Netflix account, etc. I’ll also pay for everything when they come to visit, and chip-in when I go home to visit.

  4. anon for this :

    I pay 100% of everything on my own, as I have since I was still a teen. My toxic parent offered to help at one point but the agreement came with strings that hindered my goals, so I turned it down. I chose to work 3 jobs plus school over being indebted and controlled by another.

    I think when a parent/sibling/whomever has a say in your life in exchange for financial support, that’s a tough place to be in while feeling like an independent person. If everyone saves money and feels autonomous, that’s when it’s simply saving money.

    • Completely agree. Both spouse and I were on parental cell phone plan until last year (mid 30s), when the parental relationship went sour in a very bad way. We got our own plan, which costs more, but the freedom from trying to appease the person you are somewhat dependent upon is worth every cent.

    • If you have a family with reasonable boundaries/expectations around involvement and money, then I guess shared plans and the like are reasonable.

      For me personally: I graduated university and spent 4 months living on 20$/week of food and putting THAT on my credit card, instead of asking my parents (high 6-figure salaries) for money. Because 4 months of minor debt and lots of lentils was way, way cheaper than 20 years of hearing about how I couldn’t handle my life and owed them yyz favors.

      Sometimes, the cheapest way to pay for something is with money.

  5. Anonymous :

    I’m 35 and have (young) kids of my own, but I’m still on my parents’ cell phone plan and my husband is on his parents’. I’m not sure what his parents pay, but mine have a deal where the additional lines are $10 a month, so it’s a pretty trivial expense – like sending me $50 gifts at my birthday and Christmas (which they don’t do anymore). It would never occur to me to say I’m not financially independent, but I suppose some people would see it that way. When our kids get cell phones, we will have to get our own plan for our nuclear family, but until then this is the easiest option. We pay all other utilities and our home and auto insurance separately and we don’t share subscription services like Netflix with any of our family members.

    I have all my husbands’ passwords because I manage our finances and need to log in to his accounts to pay bills and do things like benefits open enrollment. I don’t think he has my passwords and some point I need to prepare a “In case of death” binder so he can access all the financial info and my computer if I pass away first.

    • I could have written exactly this. Except that my husband and I use LastPass to manage our passwords, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

      • Blonde Consultant :

        This! Last Pass is the perfect format to share passwords for joint-type accounts… banks, Netflix, hotels! Has been life changing this year!

    • Northern Nellie :

      I am 28 and still on my parents’ plan, but I send them money each month to cover my (greatly reduced) portion of the bill. It just makes financial sense. Although I just moved to a province with disgustingly cheap rates so I’ll probably switch out soon if it doesn’t make their price per phone higher.

      My mom uses my Netflix and Spotify accounts. I mean she gave birth to me, I can let her mooch some Grace and Frankie.

  6. side comment :

    While I’m interested to know how others decide these things, I absolutely hate the consistently used trope that millenials and 30somethings aren’t “real” adults. It’s demeaning and unnecessary, just like when curvy women are referred to as “real women.” People of different sizes or choices aren’t more real or less real, they’re just different, yet no more and no less important/valid as anyone else.

    • Anonymous :


      I forsee a lot of boostrapping and “I paid for my 200k law school education by working 60 hours a week through college” in this post.

      • I’m confused – are you saying that’s a bad thing? Sounds super impressive to me and those people should be proud of themselves.

    • I agree. I also think it helps to remember that it’s never been unusual for one generation to help the next. It seems like our society, or at least parts of it, has become more mobile, so it’s become more common for young people to receive direct financial assistance from their parents. But until recently, it was much more common for grandmothers to live with families and help with childcare and housework, for fathers to sponsor their sons in the union or train them to take over the family business or provide them with actual physical help building/renovating a house, etc.

      FWIW, my parents paid for my education, and now they pay for my kid’s daycare/school. We received help from my FIL for our mortgage (it’s a securities-backed loan using one of his investment accounts). I recognize that that’s a lot of help.

    • Away Game :

      Meh. I get why you’re annoyed (and don’t mean to suggest you should just get over it; it’s annoying) but this happens with every generation. I’m Gen X, and I remember we were all supposed to be slackers living in our parents basement and we were just going to send the world to hell in a handbasket with our zero work ethic and flannel shirts.

      Having said that I do think being financially independent is indeed a marker for adulthood. $10 cell phone plans/Netflix passwords are not a big deal, but parents paying a child’s rent or other major expenses *to me* is an indicator that the child is not ready or does not wish to make his/her own independent decisions and is more child than adult. I do see it as vastly different than the negotiations and financial arrangements one has with an spouse or spouse equivalent.

      Not that anyone on this board or any other should actually give a rat’s behind what I consider adulthood one way or the other. You do you and all that.

      • Agree – I suspect people who don’t want to think about financial independence as part of adulthood are not financially independent.

  7. anon for this :

    I’m 30 and don’t get financial help from my parents. Maybe 200$ for birthdays and Christmas, but otherwise I pay for myself. They paid for everything until halfway through my undergrad, then I got a side job and they paid rent until I had my degree. I think pretty much after that I came off all their insurance plans and that was it.

    But. I had a LOT of things helping me to get there. My parents were stably employed in the last 20 years, upper middle class. I studied in a country without tuition fees, and lived in a LCOL city with cheap public transport. I majored in STEM and got a paying grad student gig right out of undergrad. After that, I got another position with decent benefits. My parents taught me to live within my means and in case of an emergency, they would have had my back. I’ve been sharing living costs with my spouse for some years, although that didn’t make much of a difference back in LCOL city. Now in the Bay Area it’s a big help.

  8. anonymous :

    I am so beyond over the idea that milestones of previous generations should be the indicator of current generations being adults or being successful. Currently, there are more educated women, there is more student loan debt, and there is a focus on waiting over settling. Why does it not show that these generations are MORE adult because they juggled jobs and school, because they choose between student loan payments and health insurance, because they manage in a time when there is no company loyalty, or because they have to save on their own because future pensions can’t be counted on?

    • Anonymous :

      Kids of divorced parents often live like my parents generation now: on your own when you are 18. Many single parents can’t do any more than that (others choose not to).

      What I don’t get is the lifestyle support — the kids who want the bells & whistles and just use parents (instead of work) to accomplish that. It’s one thing if you have no money or your parents need you at home and you pool resources. But if you live at home so you can pay for your BMW, just deal with a used Civic and get your own place.

      I get it if you are poor or your parents are poor.

  9. 33 and single here. I’m on my parents’ cell phone plan and send them a check each month for my share. I’ve shared my HBO password with my mom; she’s shared her Netflix password with me. I don’t consider any of that to be economic dependence. The biggest financial support I get from my parents is probably the ~10 days I spend at their house around Christmas, eating their food and drinking their booze while making only a token contribution in return. :)

    My parents’ financial support pretty much ended when I graduated college, though I was able to stay on their health insurance for free until I was 23. I consider myself fortunate to have a decent job and loving parents who don’t need MY support for their expenses, either!

  10. MyNameHere :

    I’m always surprised to hear an acquaintance is on her family’s cell phone plan. I’m 38, have been on my own since I was 20, got off my parents’ auto insurance, AOL account (really), and AAA by 22. I have also always known that if something came up and I needed help, my folks would do whatever it takes, sell their car if they had to.

    I paid for college and grad school.

    I share my streaming passwords with them and even at my advanced age, half the time I visit my folks they quietly slip $100 into my bag.

  11. Anonymous :

    39, married with child. We pay our own way. Parents did help with school for both of us which gave us a significant leg up as young adults. My spouse is an only child with a widowed parent who gives us the occasional big check as a gift to help with nice to have house upgrades (say to paint a couple of rooms). So far, our parents will be self sufficient in retirement which is nice. I realize that we are fortunate.

  12. 37 and have been married 14 years (no children). Paid for my own college (undergrad and grad) and stopped getting money from my parents once I started college other than car insurance. Got my own car insurance when I got married at 23 while in grad school. My husband and I had cell phones before either of our parents did. We do not get any support from our families and we don’t support them.

  13. 37, single homeowner in a MCOL city with no dependents other than a dog. I had a full scholarship to undergrad and also worked, but my parents gave me some money monthly to help make up the gap between what I earned and my living expenses (scholarship was tuition only). They wanted me to go full-time and finish in 4 years, which wouldn’t have been possible if I were covering my own living expenses. Once undergrad ended, so did that financial support.

    In my adult life, they’ve done one huge thing for me financially, which was to give me a no-interest loan so I could buy a car during my divorce. My ex-husband and I were a one-car family and he took the car; I lived in a city where a car was necessary and our financial settlement wasn’t final so I couldn’t make the purchase out of savings. I was going to take a loan for it, and they offered me a loan instead. It was an enormous help. That was about 7 years ago. But other than that loan, my parents haven’t provided any financial support since my college graduation. In fact, for a long time, they used my Netflix password and were on my phone plan, just because I was more savvy with such things than they were.

  14. Anonymous :

    I’m 37. I haven’t had financial help from my parents for these sorts of things since I graduated from college. I did live at home for 2 years immediately post-college, mostly because I didn’t make enough money to even live with a roommate.

    But, my parents gave me a huge leg up and paid for most of undergrad (law school was 100% loans though).

  15. Anonymous :

    I’m in my early 30s, my parents were extremely generous with me throughout school and my 20s, and they still help me out when I need it (I’ve never had health insurance because of the joy of working on contract, for example, so they help me pay for the dentist). I’m very grateful to them. It doesn’t make me less than of an adult. And I know I’m going to be the one taking care of them when they’re old, so I figure it will all even out in the end.

  16. Anonymous :

    I became self-supporting when I started college at 17. Husband’s parents paid for his college but provided no other support other than a couple of 4-figure cash gifts when he was in his early 30s, plus a few thousand they generously contributed for our wedding. Our position is that the only thing our parents owe us is to fund their own retirement so they never have to ask us for support.

    I think our generation never really accepted that we are adults. When we were kids, our parents were the adults. They supported themselves financially and called all the shots when it came to holiday visits etc. I think my mother called her parents maybe once every three months. Our generation seems to think we are still teenagers. I have a co-worker in his forties with a six-figure salary who uses his parents’ media passwords and had his parents pay for home improvements. Everyone is worried about making their parents happy with visits and crazy holiday schedules. People text and call their parents on a daily basis. My boss recently stepped out of a meeting so he could deal with an airline issue for his 20-year-old son who was perfectly capable of talking to customer service himself. It is nuts.

    • this is just one example of your family’s version of adulthood. We saw my dad’s parents every sunday for sunday dinner right after church, and my grandmother was my parent’s backup babysitter my whole childhood. She also took care of ALL the cousins for one week every summer. We generally saw them at least one other time every week, and all their kids would help out as they aged with stuff around the house or farm.
      My mom’s parents were about 2 hours away but my brother and I spent a weekend most months with them, giving my parents a regular break. And again, I remember my granddad on that side helping us around the house when his health was still really good. As they aged, we provided more of the needed support around the house and with keeping their financials in order.

  17. Anonymous :

    Codependency has nothing to do with sharing a Netflix password.

  18. I’m married with two little kids at 33. We pay our mortgage, utilities, childcare costs, car loans, insurances, etc. ourselves.

    His parents pay our cellphones. It’s technically my husband’s plan, because he used to get a government employee discount, but they pay the bill and it includes my brother-in-law and his wife too. We recently looked at changing plans, and my husband and I wanted a different plan that the rest of his family, but it just didn’t make sense to get our own plan.

    As far as passwords, we use my little sister’s nexflix, we pay for Hulu, we use his parents’ premium channels (HBO, Showtime, Starz), and we pay for amazon prime (though I’m still on my dad’s prime for purchases from amazon).

    Our parents helped us buy our house. It was un-mortgagable when we purchased it because it needed extensive repairs. Our parents loaned us the money with whatever interest they were paying on it to purchase in cash, and then when the repairs were made we got a mortgage to pay them back.

    Our parents have definitely helped us get to where we are financially, but we’re mostly independent now (if we needed to we could pay for everything). Both our parents paid for things for us, e.g., school, but at the same time made us work for spending money. I knew a lot of people in college who parents paid for everything, and they never seemed to know how to manage their money because of that.

    I definitely think we qualify as adults, but we eased into it. For example, I didn’t get my own car insurance until I was kicked off my parents plan when I got married. Then my husband kept his car on his parents insurance until he bought a new car. It wasn’t all at once we’re paying for everything. It was more that we took on our expenses as they naturally shifted over to us.

    • anon for this :

      In my opinion, college would be too late for young adults to learn managing money. My parents gave me just a few dollars a week at some point in elementary school (not sure which year exactly), and I got to spend it or keep it, save it or donate it. The amount gradually grew, at some point I learned to save up some money to buy Christmas presents and bigger purchases for myself.

  19. Married and approaching 30 in a HCOL area. I grew up in an affluent family and my parents were generous enough to support me through college, though I did get an academic scholarship that covered 2/3 of my tuition. I almost always worked during school too, as I was responsible for paying for anything that wasn’t a “necessity” (dinners out with friends, new clothes, etc.). It was also drilled into my head that as soon as I graduated, I was expected to get a job and 100% support myself or I had to move home (which I definitely did not want to do!). Fortunately, I graduated with a job. I vividly remember my mom mailing me my last rent check the month I finished school and telling me the next one was on me – which made me quickly realize I had to find a cheaper apartment/get a roommate! I’ve been financially on my own ever since, and it’s something I’m really proud of (I remember buying my own wedding dress and feeling like Wonder Woman).

    The only way in which I still “rely” on them is that I still drive the car they bought me while I was in college. It’s 10 years old now and still in great shape, though we’re getting rid of it soon because I need a bigger vehicle. It’s been so nice not to have a car payment for the last 10 years, and I’m very grateful to them for that. I don’t think anyone thought I’d keep it so long, but I’m cheap and it hasn’t given me any major problems. However, gas/insurance/maintenance was always fully paid for by me once I was out of school.

  20. Meg March :

    Late 20s, recently married. Mr. Brooke and I are both still on our parents’ cell phone plans, although I send a check to my parents for my portion every month. His parents are wealthier and we do not send them a check for his cell phone. We are going to be getting off their phone plans and onto our own soon — just as soon as we have the time to go set it up. Neither my parents nor my in-laws support us financially in any other way, including for our wedding and a future down payment. They have not since we got our first “real” jobs (ie, not paid internships) out of college.

  21. 30, single, homeowner, MCOL, no dependents. Currently, my mom is on my cell phone plan because my employer’s discount is better; it’s my gift to her. I’m on her AAA membership, and she gives it to me as a Christmas present each year. She’s on my business Costco membership. My dad does minor repairs on a rental property I own in the state he lives in, and just charges me for the cost of materials, and he also shows up to meet contractors for larger repairs (that I pay for directly to the vendor). I consider myself adulting independently, though I don’t think everyone would.

    As a semi-adult, I had a full-tuition scholarship for undergrad, and my parents gave me $500/month, given at the start of the semester, to cover rent/board, food, gas, fees, books, etc. It wasn’t enough to cover everything, so I worked throughout college as well, but never more than 15-20/hours/week. I was on my parents’ cell phone plan, health and car insurance through undergrad, and I had a “family” credit card that was for emergencies only. The day I graduated from undergrad, my parents gave me 30 days to get my own car insurance, and get my own cellphone plan. I had to turn in the family credit card, and I also had to begin reimbursing them for my health insurance until I found a full time job that provided benefits (about five months after graduation).

  22. anon for this :

    For background, both my husband and I came to the US as refugees from different countries as late teens (18+), and neither of us have any contact with any family members. Neither of us really know for sure whether our parents are even alive, though we suspect not. So we’ve both paid for everything ourselves. I’m pretty senior in biglaw, he is a quant, and we live in a HCOL area.

    When I read the title, I thought this topic was going to be more about handling this issue with your own children. That is something I am interested in as a mom of a teenager and tween. I want to take a balanced approach, so that my kids are not disadvantaged by us not helping them enough, but I also cannot imagine any of my children taking an unpaid internship as a 20-something and being supported by us financially. Perhaps a topic for another day or on the moms site.

    Who pays your bills? Me and my husband.

    Do you share a bank account? Not really. My husband and I put our names on each others’ accounts (not credit cards) when we got married, but we still basically treat them as separate. He has student loans to pay down, so he makes huge payments to those every month for the time being and pays his own credit card bill, and I pay for everything else.

    Who covers your transportation? I own one car outright, and another is on payments. I take care of the payments and maintenance. Whoever is driving it when it needs gas puts in gas.

    Do you share passwords? No. We share a home PC because we only have one non-work computer at home between us, so we both know the password to that. I feel no need to know his passwords, or vice versa. I also do not know or want to know my kids’ passwords.

    Are you still on family plan even after you consider yourself an “independent adult”? Irrelevant.

    • I think the two best things you can do for your older/teenage kids are to set appropriate expectations in terms of future parental support and teach them the basics of financial literacy. I remember my mom teaching me about credit cards when I started high school (no, it’s not free money; this is what an interest rate is, etc.) along with some basic financial principles (if you can’t buy it in cash, you probably can’t afford it; spend less than you earn, things like that), and I think it really helped me avoid some of the financial pitfalls that kids can get into when they’re in college/just starting out.

      I would also be very clear with them about your expectations for financing college and life after school. Will they be expected to contribute to their own education in some way? What about living expenses once they graduate? If you expect them to chip in towards college costs or don’t want to finance an unpaid internship in their 20’s, make that clear now, so there are no surprises and they can plan and know what to work towards.

      Lastly, be honest with your kids about life being expensive, especially if they want to live a lifestyle similar to the one they’ve grown up with (I wish my parents had done a little bit better job of this). I had successful parents and grew up in a HCOL area, and it wasn’t until I was applying to college and saw the FAFSA form that I had any idea how much it cost to maintain the lifestyle I grew up with (and we’re not talking a vacation houses or fancy private school lifestyle, just a nice home in a good public school district/expensive area lifestyle). That was completely eye-opening to me, and it made think much more critically about my major in college and employment/career prospects after college, because I knew I wanted a similar lifestyle for my own family one day and my parents weren’t going to hand that to me.

    • Cornellian :

      I think it’s important for kids to have a real grasp on how privileged they are. And I think the kids of anyone on this board are quite privileged for the majority of the world.

      A pet peeve of mine is when middle class people insist they grew up working class or poor, or are a bootstrap success story. Obviously having parents that made 80K when we were kids in the 90s is not the same thing as having parents who made 800K, but it sure as heck is not poor. I don’t think people like admitting that their situation in life is largely chance, and not the result of hard work on their part, so everyone insists they’re working or middle class.

  23. Anonymous :

    I am surprised that this is such a controversial topic – my parents (very generously) gift us some niceties that we could live without (such as paying for a nice family vacation with them) as do DH’s parents (nicer handbag or TV or whatever than we would reasonably buy for ourselves) as well as gifting/loaning us money for a small part of our down payment/a bit of new furniture we would have otherwise waited to buy. I plan to do the same for our children when the time comes.

    If parents have extra money and want to gift some nicer things/experiences to their children, how does this harm anyone? I’m very confused by the controversy over the financial behavior of consenting adults.

    My parents paid for college (I started when I was 16) and then I married after college and got loans for grad school. It was very tight when we were first married and paying huge grad school loans definitely forced me into a corporate role instead of the public service role I hoped for. If I can help my children avoid those choices then I will.

    • Me too. I am “financially independent,” in the sense that I do not need a single thing or cent from my parents; save for retirement and invest from my own income, etc. But, I am still on the family plan and my parents will still buy things for me occasionally. I don’t expect them to do any of these things and I could pay them back. But trying pay them back would make our familial relationship feel transactional as opposed to the sense that helping me out is a form of familial affection/bonding/care. I have always planned on taking caring of my parents in the future to the extent that they need me to and to the extent that I can.

      There’s a big difference between demanding your parents support you when you’ve had every opportunity to get financially independent. Sharing netflix and a family cell phone plan, to me, alone does not have any significant bearing on FI.

    • Agreed. I think this topic skewed off point. Receiving gifts does not mean you are dependent or not an ‘adult’. Early 30s, married, HCOL. My parents still pay my cell phone (they actually tried to kick me off last year but it was cheaper to stay on our grandfathered fantastic plan than get my own), but that’s it. We share the HBO password. I order things for them on Amazon prime since I’m a member and they aren’t. We did our first family vacation this summer in 20 years and my parents paid for about 80% of it. It was lovely and it was a gift. We could have paid ourselves, but going on that vacation doesn’t mean DH and I are less ‘adult’. It means we graciously accepted a generous gift from people who love us. This is cray.

  24. This whole thread makes me a kind of sad. I moved out at 17 without any help. My parents reluctantly co signed my first lease but I obviously paid my own rent. Paid my own tuition. They decided not to help me (which is their right) but when they get old I’ll be making that same decision. My family is very wealthy, like 0.01% wealthy.

    • Anon for this :

      I’m sorry your parents didn’t help when you were so young and in school despite being quite able to help (presumably).

  25. I’m a little younger than most here and will probably be judged for this but here goes:

    I’m 23, in grad school after 1 year of working. My parents pay my rent, health insurance (affordable care act, I’m on their plan), and cell phone bill. I got scholarships for more than half of my masters grad school tuition, but my parents are paying the rest for now. I pay any other expenses with savings from the 1 year I worked/internships before that.

    I know how incredibly lucky I am, but I also know I’ll support them when they are older.

  26. Hm, I’ve been financially independent since college graduation but I’ve almost always had a partner to split expenses with. I’ve never financially depended on my partner, it’s always been 50/50 – though for a time my husband was a SAHD so I supported him financially.

    I’m now at the age of supporting my teenage children (still in HS, still at home, nothing scandalous) and partially supporting my mom, at least until she died recently. No resentment, I felt privileged to be in a position to help.

  27. Anonymous :

    I was employed at 14, and have been on my own since 17. So, I pay for everything and always have. It was really difficult some times. For me, if a parent has the desire and means to pay for some things for their adult children, then that is a wonderful gift to be appreciated by the giver and the receiver.

  28. Cornellian :

    Was orphaned as a teenager so no parental help, but my orphan status obviously got me amazing need-based aid in college so it wasn’t (as much of) a financial bootstrap case at 17. Worked ~15 hours a week and graduated with minimum debt (for an elite private education). Law school was merit aid + working + loans.

    My uncle floated me money to buy a car when I was 22 for like 6 weeks, which was a big help, as I had no credit. My aunts and uncles would treat me to dinner until I was mid or late 20s when we saw each other, although I always offered to pay.

  29. I’ve 40. Parents divorced and remarried (to other people), both sides are upper middle class but grew up blue collar. College was split three ways (Dad paid a third, Mom paid a third, I paid a third. Scholarships got credited to my third.) Paid for my own graduate school and later law school (2008 grad), with some loans that are now mostly paid off.

    I was shocked to discover that many of my law school classmates had their parents paying for tuition.

    I live in a MCOL area with my husband and 3 year old son. At this point in my life, it doesn’t even occur to me to ask for or expect them to pay any of my bills – my parents would gladly loan me money if I asked, but to date I’ve preferred figuring it out on my own.

    Paid my own car insurance since I bought my first car in college.

    Paid my own rent since I moved out of the dorms sophomore year.

    Paid for my own health insurance after college – it was rolled in with tuition in college, covered by an employer or out of my own pocket since.

    They did gave me $5,000 in the months leading up to my wedding; they told me I could use it however I wanted, wedding expenses or other. They didn’t weigh in or make any demands about who should be invited or what my wedding should look like.

    They also contribute $1000 / year to my son’s college fund.

  30. Anonymous :

    28 married in MCOL. My parents and my husbands parents helped out a lot in our early 20’s, money for rent, tuition, etc.- that was when we were both in college/grad school. Once we both graduated we cut the financial ties and are completely self sufficient. However, when we go out to dinner together, they insist on paying. My parents make significantly less then I do, so I will sometimes support them (and my brother) with groceries, dinners, plane tickets, etc.

  31. 33 and married with a baby, living abroad in a MCOL city. My mom buys stuff for us, which we wouldn’t necessarily splurge on ourselves (instant pot, copper pans, nice sheets). She also has basically kitted out our baby or the first year. Sometimes I worry we are too dependent but I guess if i lived closer, she’d provide practical help and this is a way of helping. When she’s here, she cooks and helps around the house, my dad runs errands. My dad is coming over to look after my baby when I go back to work in a few months so we don’t need nursery until he’s a year.

    It’s a lot of help but they do seem to enjoy it.

  32. I actually had my own cell phone plan for 6-7 yrs with a ‘dumb’ phone, but then went back onto my parent’s plan when I got a smart phone because the cost was like half per month compared to being on my own (I paid them my share in 6-month increments). My fiance was also on a family plan for the same reason, but when his parents decided to switch providers and kick him o.ff, I jumped ship as well so we could have a plan together. Because I do prefer not being tied to my parents in that way, it was just a stupid extra expense to have a solo smart-phone plan. While it’s slightly more per line with the two of us being together vs being on their plan (which was 4 lines since my sister was also on it), it’s a more reasonable difference.

    I do sometimes use their cable account to watch some tv shows online, but I wouldn’t be paying money to see those shows if I didn’t have that access (I’d just not watch them, or wait a few months until they were available on one of the streaming services I do pay for).

    I did accept some more financial help when I was in grad school, but that was really mostly limited to them paying for airfare for me to come home once or twice a year (and I could have paid myself, but they offered – I never asked).

  33. Adulting at 33 :

    I share a family plan with my parents. For the first six years of marriage my husband’s employer paid for his phone so it made no sense to switch. Once we got married and I graduated law school and got a job I started paying my portion of the family bill and pitching in extra to subsidize for the rest of the family. My mom covers her portion, my dad’s portion, one sibling’s portion and sometimes the other sibling’s portion (plus her BF’s bill). She pays it out of her social security so it’s basically half her income. Major failure to launch situation happening with everyone except me. (My husband and I also provide the family Netflix and Amazon accounts.) To relieve some of my mom’s burden we pay her car payment. We also pitch in and pay for plane tickets for family members, groceries, gas, emergency money, etc. Basically, growing up with a family in poverty means that I’m stopping with my two kids because I have a lot of other “kids” to help out.

  34. I both provide streaming passwords and use my parents’….we cut the cord over a year ago, but my mom & dad were gracious enough to let us have their satellite TV account login so that we could specifically use a few Roku apps (Comedy Central, HBO Go, etc). In return, I pay for MLB TV streaming and share my login with them so they can watch whatever baseball market they want to (they are huge fans of baseball in general). I also share our Hulu login with my brother and sister-in-law. Otherwise, completely on my own and have been since 18 (now 20 years later).

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