Most everyone experiences a downgrade in their lifestyle when they leave the nest.
As children and teens and even as young adults, we are immersed in the lifestyle of our parents. That becomes our baseline. We think that everyone else on the planet lives the very same way.
For most, the unpleasant reality bites when we move out on our own. No longer can we afford the premium cable channels. No longer do we have the wherewithal to have the unlimited cell phone plan or the highest speed internet access. Our housing and furniture suddenly becomes less luxurious than we had at Mom and Dad’s.
In an effort to maintain ourselves in the manner in which parent’s kept us, some throw caution to the winds and take on expensive credit card debt. Others decide they were better off at home and move back in! Some hope or expect that Mom and Pop will continue to help them out with the bills even after moving out. Still others bemoan their circumstances, suck it up and live within their new (much reduced) means.
How can you raise up your kids to handle the move out bump down with grace and financial success?
As Marie Hartwell-Walker, ed.d in Preparing Children to Leave Home says:
“Leaving home isn’t an event, it’s a process. The process begins from the moment children leave their mothers’ bodies and continues until they leave the parents’ home and assume the responsibilities of adulthood. For the child, growing up and, for the parent, letting go, is the central process of family life. Children develop more and more skills and push for more and more freedom. Parents develop more and more trust In those skills and loosen supervision.”
It’s too late for me. My kids are grown and long gone – raising kids of their own. So, here for you, are things I wish I had done to better prepare my own for leaving our nest.
Prepare your child to leave your nest.
Grant independence incrementally.
Teach them how to take care of themselves on all fronts, a little bit at a time. There are so many things they have to learn! From the basics in toddlerhood (like how to use the potty) to complex issues such as maintaining beneficial relationships or entering into legal contracts.
Lynne M. Harper in Preparing Your Kids & Yourself for the Inevitable-–Leaving Home for College, Career and Beyond! suggests making a list of everything your child needs to know on leaving home. Work backwards from the list to know what to teach at which age.
Your list might include things like:
- Dressing themselves.
- Cooking and cleaning.
- Doing their own laundry (including getting spots out and pressing when needed).
- Buying their own clothing and shoes with their allowance or earned money.
- Putting gasoline in the car and doing other simple maintenance tasks on it.
- Waking up to an alarm clock and getting ready and out the door on time.
- Managing their own time to get it all done – working, studying, playing, shopping and etc.
Give them practice making decisions and living with the consequences.
Start before age 6 or right now if your kids are older than 6. Let them choose what they will wear. Advise them, but if they choose shorts in the winter, let them suffer the consequences of that choice. Give them a choice of what to take for lunch. Let them decide what to do with their allowance. But always and ever, make sure you don’t ‘rescue’ them from their choices.
Your goal is to let them learn by choosing and doing when they are young enough to have smaller consequences and learn from them.
Help them understand that they need to choose their own path in life.
Reinforce the fact that your child is not you and does not have to make your choices. Let them explore different geographic areas, think about and be exposed to different lifestyles. Introduce them to others who make a living different ways.
Teach them money values and mechanics.
Give them ever increasing practice with their own finances.
Consciously teach them what money is, how it is used and misused. Involve them in your own family’s financial situation. Let them see you paying for the lights or the water. Show them what percentage of your paycheck is taken away before you ever get the net (taxes, medicare, health insurance and etc).
Teach them many ways to obtain money for projects they want to pursue. Show them the basics of running their own small enterprise, help them get started and then stand back and applaud.
Help them learn to set goals (such as saving up for an expensive toy or their own car). Then help them track progress towards those goals by showing them how prepare a budget for their own expenses and income and help them track to it. As they grow, teach them and provide tracking tools, such as Quicken.
Unveil the hidden expenses of living – things such as house insurance, car maintenance, septic tank clean outs, clothing replacement and other periodic or seldom incurred expenses.
Teach them how and when to negotiate, how to review a contract before signing, where to get legal or other advise.
Discuss your credit card habits and debt (if any) with them. Make sure they understand the fact that it isn’t free money – they have to pay it back. Reinforce multiple times the cost of the interest and associated fees on the card, a debit card or a bank account.
Make sure they know to and know how to protect their identity and secure their personal information.
Keep up with careers and their earning potential and have periodic talks about various careers. They may as well pick one that pays well in addition to being one they will enjoy!
In the year before they are to leave, help them plan to be on their own.
Discuss where they will live, how they will make money, what expenses they might encounter, where they might want to go to church, how they will connect with like minded others, and how they will protect themselves and their things. Help them think through how they will physically get moved, get the lease signed on that apartment, get the utilities up and running, the mailing address changed and all the other minutia needed on a move.
Research with them things such as how to deal with a landlord, what should be done when considering a home purchase, how to get the best loan on a car or a house. Practice with them on such things as interviewing a landlord, walking through a potential apartment or home and finding beneficial loans.
Share your personal stories about your first experience on your own. What was it like for you and what would you do differently knowing what you now know. Let them in on the secret that it took you years and years to achieve the level of living they enjoy now. Clue them in that they will not be able to afford their current lifestyle at first. Tell them how you moved past that – how you managed and grew.
Learn from my mistakes.
I wish my parent’s had covered more of this with me. I married before I moved out. Our first apartment was great, small but with a swimming pool! Soon however we had to move to a tiny, old rental home. We were very naive about taking on loans, using credit cards, negotiating for a better deal and in understanding how long it took my folks to reach the levels I enjoyed while living at home.
I wish I had covered more of these with my kids! I didn’t think to teach them how to read a contract, the bad things over use of credit cards can do to you, what a credit report is and many of the other items listed above.
How are you teaching your child the things they will need to know and do when they leave home?