Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Family Contract - Managing Expectations

The cost of higher education has pushed many folks to work past normal retirement age to finance their children's education. Either through home equity line of credit or co-signing for loans parents mortgage their retirement for the sake of their children

After the 2008 financial crisis where many graduates could not find employment, they naturally moved home. Even when they found a job, the "rent free" lifestyle persisted. The additional cost of food, utilities, cell phone, car insurance thwarts retirement plans and savings. Young people do not realize the parental sacrifice unless someone enlightens them.

Sharing a home includes sharing responsibilities. Putting those responsibilities in writing clarifies the situation for everyone. Some parents might have the means to continue supporting their children but is it really fair? Earning, saving, spending are all financial realities of life. Denying children those lessons helps no one, hence The Family Contract.

List the expectations AND the consequences.
Put it in writing and have all parties sign.

For example:
Son/daughter may live at home until June, 2017. During that period he/she will:
1. occupy one bedroom and use one bathroom, keep them neat and clean them (scrub/dust/vacuum) once every two weeks.
2. grocery shop once every two weeks to purchase favorite foods, replace essentials (milk, coffee, eggs, laundry detergent) and pay for such items.
3. refill the gas tank when borrowing the family car.
4. pay their own car insurance (if applicable).
5. do their own laundry.
6. assist with house upkeep (e.g. mow lawn, take out trash, walk the dog, etc.)
7. pay $200 a week to cover utilities and other household expenses.

Parent(s) will:
1. pay utilities and mortgage/ rent.
2. provide heat, hot water and A/C.
3. provide simple meals
4. make car available for occasional use (could be specific days/times).

Consequences should also be specific such as:
1. loss of car privileges,
2. an increase in weekly "rent",
3. finding another place to live.

If you feel uncomfortable charging "rent" realize your child must allow for rent in their future budget. You are not helping him/her live independently by providing a cushion. If charging rent truly bothers you, put the weekly money in a savings account and give the money to them after they move out.

Yes, they are your children. Yes, you love them. Your goal is to raise healthy, social, independent, responsible human beings. A Family Contract facilitates respect and growth for all concerned.

Be $ Smart - Make your children welcome but not so comfortable to jeopardize their future or your retirement.