Reader Case Study: Is it Okay to Subsidize my Spendypants Adult Children?

It has been a good while since we’ve done a reader case study here on MMM, but that hasn’t stopped them from arriving in my inbox. And since 2022 is becoming a year of interesting financial changes, it’s time to spark things up again, go back to our roots, and start covering some of the many subjects that are cropping up in this latest incarnation of our economic world.

Today’s case study deals with family wealth, rapidly rising house prices, and a desire to be generous. What would you do in the following situation?

Dear MMM,

As long-time readers, we have seen quite a few case studies written up here, but never one addressing the rather common issue of helping out family members.

I am a retired, married Navy veteran living in beautiful (but expensive) San Diego. While we are no great example of financial success, we do own a nice home, have a reasonably sized investment portfolio and receive a solid pension income. We are also fortunate to have our grown kids (and grandkids) living nearby. Which also brings up the problem/question:

Our eldest son is married with two very young children. He and his spouse both work in demanding careers that can sometimes lead to 12-hour days, which means that paid childcare is part of the equation, on top of the child care we are able to contribute as grandparents.

They were living in a very small condo and wanted to upgrade with the arrival of the second child. With house prices in this area skyrocketing, this was an impossibility for them. That’s where we came in.

 My spouse and I offered to co-sign a mortgage and contribute a portion of the mortgage payment ($500 per month) until they can manage on their own. Fortunately, that small condo had almost doubled in value such that there would be equity to help with the purchase. So far, so good.

What we didn’t know was: 

1. They had taken out a line of credit and spent a good portion of the home equity over these past few years.

2. Instead of transferring their equity from house one to house two, they were planning to spend the rest of it on renovations to the new house. Which means their new place will be almost 100% borrowed money, leaving them vulnerable or even underwater if we see another housing market correction.

Here is the main problem: their lifestyle is pretty much an exact opposite of the MMM way. They consume restaurant food, on average, 7 days a week. They spend thousands per month on daycare. They buy new stuff almost every day for the adults and children alike. I could go on, but in short, for the last few years they have probably been spending even more than they make.

I have tried to speak with them about financial planning, but they really do not want unsolicited advice – particularly from their parents. I should also mention that they are very intelligent, kind and wonderful people.

So, are we crazy to try and help? Thoughts?

Concerned Captain 


Dear CC,

First of all I hear you! I can imagine your situation perfectly and I can see how frustrating that would feel.

 If it’s any consolation at all, you are in very good company because a similar story plays out across the world thousands of times every day. In fact, it’s so common that there are several age-old pieces of wisdom which address it:

Never Lend Money To A Friend (or Family Member)

If you do lend money to someone, think of it in your mind as a gift and kiss that money goodbye in advance.” You can still structure it as a loan and encourage repayment, but this way you won’t throw away the relationship along with the money in the event it doesn’t happen.

Did you ever notice how banks will only lend you money after they carefully verify that you don’t really need it?


With all that in mind, let’s dig into your situation a bit more.

First of all, as Mr. Money Mustache I may need to set aside my own opinions because they won’t help in this situation. But just to get them out of my system:

“WHAT?!? I can’t believe these people are buying anything other than potatoes, let alone doing $100,000 of renovations and living like multimillionaires in a situation where they are in multiple layers of debt and getting help from retired parents to pay the monthly bills!?


AAAUUUUGGGHH!!! With all due respect CC, why did you get into this arrangement in the first place? Adult children don’t need money from their parents except maybe in the case of severe medical emergencies!!!”

Okay, whew. That’s just me, and it’s one of many reasons I don’t even talk about money with friends and family members unless I know they already have the same philosophy as I do: that debt is an emergency, and thus you don’t spend money until you’ve actually got it.

On top of that, I’m a big fan of the idea of preparing for parenthood in advance, if you are young enough to have this luxury. In other words, do the 12-hour days and buckling down and hardcore saving in your 20s as a gift to your future self. That way, when you start a family around 30, both parents can afford to work part-time and share the burden of the real hard work: babies.

With all that off my chest, now for some more practical ideas:

In reality, your situation is not the end of the world, because everybody is going to be just fine in the long run, and family relationships are much more important than a few dollars here and there. On top of that, you’ve made this gesture from a position of love and generosity, which is the best reason to do anything.

What it really sounds like is that the two sides have a difference of expectations. You expected a certain level of military-inspired discipline and efficiency, while your son’s family – perhaps feeling stressed and overloaded by kids and work already – is trying to make life bearable and fun. And for many people, making purchases is a way to try to get that feeling.

So this difference of opinion creates tension between the Saver and the Spender. The Spender feels the judgment of the Saver, even if it is not spoken aloud. 

And because of this, they will often try to hide their spending, or justify it based on life’s hardships, or emphasize their frugality – “look I got these baby clothes on Craigslist!” – whenever they do score a good deal on something.

The tricky part of this situation is that as the Saver, you have little to no control over the situation. You generally can’t guilt or shame the Spender into submission – he or she will just fight back. Any change generally has to come from their side, but it’s also entirely possible that it will never come at all, and that is something we Savers need to learn to live with. Or in some cases, live without if you choose to separate your financial lives.

What both sides can do is simply share your feelings in the least threatening way possible. For example:

Parents: “We are proud of your work and happy that we had the chance to support you. But to be honest, I am a bit concerned that you didn’t tell us about this line of credit until after we bought the new house.

Were you afraid that we would judge you and perhaps not help with the deal if we had found out?”

Son: “Yeah, we feel stressed too – I know that I have disappointed you with this support arrangement, but I am stuck between two immovable objects here – my parents, and my spouse and the wants of my family I am raising. Perhaps we could come to some sort of agreement or compromise?”

Parents: “Yeah, that’s a good idea. I want all of your family to know we love and support you, which is why we came up with this idea in the first place. Maybe we could agree that the this financial life support will continue for two years while you get up on your feet in the new house, and then you’ll be on your own. Then, after that period (February 2024), we can end the support payments. And you will have the goal of refinancing the mortgage so that we are no longer co-signers in it?

For our part, we will learn not to judge your lifestyle and spending or compare it to ours, and I hope this will show in the form of less tension between us.

Son: “Yeah, that works for our family, if you and Mom can handle it!”

As long as everyone is an adult in this situation, I think it might give you the best outcome because you are focusing on trust, responsibility and some concrete financial targets (an eventual end of the support and a refinancing), which you can both live with.

A chance to get ahead

On top of this, the great news is that it sounds like there is plenty of room for improvement in your son’s lifestyle. Cutting out restaurants and home food deliveries alone can make a difference of $1000 per month in some food budgets, and other discretionary things can add hundreds or thousands more. In other words, if they choose to read and implement a few things from, say, the MMM Boot Camp series, they can end up with much more money even after cutting out the support money from Mom and Dad.

A Cautionary Tale for Everyone Else

Situations like this happen to almost everyone: you get into a business or financial arrangement with someone, and it turns out you have vastly different expectations.

And people like me are bound to have the worst surprises: as a natural “optimizer” of everything including money, I tend to notice waste a lot more than other people.

Leaving the window open on a winter day or a car idling on the street for half an hour are completely normal for some people, but to me they would feel like !!!BEES JAMMED UNDER MY EYELIDS!!! – it would be hard to even concentrate on anything else before I sprinted over to shut the damn window and turn off the damned car.

So if you are an optimizer, you need to work around this situation. Either don’t get into a relationship with someone on the opposite end of the scale in the first place, or learn to chill – which might be an even better outcome because chilling out is the ultimate life skill for people like us to learn.

License to Chill – What’s the Worst Case Scenario?

One thing that has worked for me is to set aside the buzzing bees of emotion and replace them with some cool, calm numbers. I’m often surprised at how things aren’t as bad as they feel. A few examples:

The open window feels like an emergency, but in reality how bad is it exactly? My calculations indicate that leaving a medium-sized window open for several hours is only about as expensive as choosing to drink one of the beers in your own fridge*.

I used to feel great frustration and rage whenever I saw a car left idling (sometimes even empty!) So I did the math on that too**. And as it turns out, even a full hour of your dumbass neighbor unnecessarily idling his car is only as bad as dumping one beer out onto the driveway. Sure, it’s a  big dumb waste, but it’s not worth digging out the sledgehammer.

And back to CC’s situation: sure, you are subsidizing a lifestyle that is less efficient than your own. But $500 per month is still only $6000 per year, or 12 grand if you continue it for two more years. 

I’m guessing that $12,000 over two years is not a catastrophic sum to you, and even if we stretch this example out for a decade, $60,000 sounds like a lot of money, but it’s probably only the amount that each your own house and your retirement stock portfolio will increase in value in a single year in the current market conditions.

So the worst case scenario is still not all that bad. Which means it’s not a huge emergency, which means that while the whole family does need to talk things out and come to an agreement, it can all be done from a position of strength and the emotions really don’t need to run all that high.

So, good luck Captain, and please let us know how it all turns out!

In the comments: do you have any similar situations in your own family? How have you been dealing with them? Do you have any advice for the Concerned Captain or would you do things differently?

*Open window vs beer calculation: Leaving a window open in winter will roughly double your home’s energy loss for that period it is left open. Since heating a house in a cold climate costs about $4 per day, the open window is actually only wasting about 17 cents per hour of heat! You could leave that sucker open for six hours and you still have only wasted the same amount of money as choosing to drink one of the beers in your fridge.

**Idling car vs beer calculation: If left idling, a mid-sized gasoline car burns about 0.3 gallons of fuel per hour, which is about $1.20 at today’s prices. Electric cars do much better still, keeping you warm (or cool) and entertained for only about 10-20 cents per hour, mostly for the climate control.

** Update: many people asked, “but it’s not just money, what about the environmental effect of idling cars?” – the answer is that a gallon is a gallon, whether you burn it standing still or driving on the interstate. At highway speed, a car burns about 2.5 GPH – 8 times more than idling. In other words, choosing to drive less is FAR more important than choosing not to idle.

Although idling a car engine near a school is an especially dick move, because you are concentrating the toxic fumes right in the lungs of the children. And it’s enough to measure directly with any cheap air quality metering device. So don’t do it.

  • Mark January 27, 2022, 2:35 pm

    The letter reads like it hasn’t been closed yet to me, so I would recommend that you make it conditional – you can have the co-sign, however all the equity from the first property goes into the second and you forego the Renos and do them with your son yourselves. Great bonding experience and you learn something along the way.

    The other option is – give him the $12k up front. You’re prepared to provide a fixed amount of support over the two years, but so there isn’t any financial concerns or ongoing issues, just give them the money and tell them that there wont be any more coming.

    • P January 27, 2022, 3:27 pm

      As an adult who needed a parent to co-sign on a house so that I can live in the city where I’m attending professional school… I firmly agree with the give a lump sum advice. Financial strings are awful. Don’t co-sign on a house unless you can actually cover the debt in an emergency (fortunately my parents can). It’s a murky situation because you have to decide if you’re co-signing as the emergency financial backup, or if you are actually treating it as your own real estate investment. Obviously I recommend the former. Sign the paperwork, be prepared for financial catastrophe, then step back and let the offspring do what they’re going to do. Being embroiled in the month to month or year to year is unhealthy and leads to either financially controlling behaviour or codependency.

      • Babs January 28, 2022, 12:00 pm

        If the 12K is given outright, the kids will treat it as a windfall and it will be gone almost instantly.

        We know this because their behavior has been to drain every bit of equity they have so far, and spend absolutely everything they have.

        Lump sum payments are appropriate for people who are actually able to manage money well. Giving lump sums to people who can’t do that in the hope that it will magically transform them into responsible financial managers will only disappoint the giver and strain the relp further.

        • Meg February 17, 2022, 1:57 pm

          I agree that expecting the couple to “magically transform” with the lump sum isn’t a viable option. I have a soft spot for the grandparents wanting to support their son and furthermore their grandchildren, the relationship dynamics definitely make this a more challenging discussion to reach a resolution on.

    • Rachel January 28, 2022, 8:40 am

      I *get* this advice, BUT…. learning how to manage debt and money IS a skill, and takes time, just like all new skills. Just changing the mindset doesn’t erase years of habit. In other words, giving them a lump sum would NOT be a beneficial “gift.” Yes, it may un-tie the parent from the strings that bind them together financially, but if you’re teaching a kid to ride a bike, you don’t just let go and walk away. They’re going to learn, and it may include some bumps, but walking away with a single big push is very, very likely going to end in a big crash and ZERO ability to fix it. As they need help in the first place (or perceive that they do) they’ll need a bit of time to learn a new lifestyle, new ways to make judgments, new values, new decision-making, and NOT living on the edge constantly. It takes time to develop those new habits. Giving them that two years is a great steady hand that will keep them from blowing it all, and having no way to fix those errors. Giving them time to change is JUST as important as that final deadline and the financial padding that’s there. This is from a teacher who’s seen that it takes us all a while to acclimate to new habits, even if we truly believe in the value of them. (Have you ever watched a lecture, felt you completely understood it, felt confident in the info, then bombed the test? If you don’t do the homework, and work on the various ways of applying the new information…it’s not enough to just understand the concept. We all need a chance to practice and work on new skills.) Just my 2cents.

  • Ted Bendixson January 27, 2022, 2:37 pm

    This article is an excellent example of how you have matured.

    • Sisto January 27, 2022, 5:47 pm

      Yes, this is exactly what I was thinking. I’m also have very similar eactions as Pete about waste. I’m a bit older than him and have also matured. I try to chalk it up to don’t sweat the small stuff.

    • Troy January 27, 2022, 5:58 pm

      You know, I miss the days of a good old-fashioned face punch 👊.

      • Laura January 28, 2022, 7:41 pm

        I was pleasantly surprised by his advice to chillax! The benefits of all that stoicism, circle of control reading. Setting a good example for me to be less judgmental of the spendy spenders around me.

    • Cb January 28, 2022, 10:21 pm

      Way to go for life long learning MMM. Feels like you’ve been in therapy and working hard on the pursuit of happiness. Love it.

    • George January 29, 2022, 6:09 am

      Same observation – I liked/needed “cranky MMM” in my 20s and I’m grateful for the guidance to do the hard work early. Nearly ten years, a marriage and child later (wow, I’ve been following MMM a while now), this seems like guidance that fits this life stage. Pete, thanks for helping us grow and for growing with us!

    • marcelosb January 29, 2022, 3:39 pm

      Exactly! I have a lot of friction with my family because of my excessive saver mentality. I’m trying my best to improve my chillax muscle.

  • BC Kowalski January 27, 2022, 2:39 pm

    Great advice! I’ve taken the approach of keeping silent unless asked about how I do something financial. And then I’ve learned to be prepared for exactly none of my advice to be followed. Because 9 times out of 10, it’s not. And be pleasantly surprised when someone actually listens.

    Of course here in Wisconsin you’d be arrested for pouring out beer like that. Beer abuse is no laughing matter.

  • Jessica January 27, 2022, 2:41 pm

    On team ARRRRRGH! for sure here. There is no way I’d subsidize anyone dining/ordering out 7 days a week. We only do it maybe once a month, not because we can’t afford it, but because it’s so much cheaper to cook at home and healthier for you as well. It’d be easier to help people who were at least trying to make good financial choices. It sounds like the $500 will turn into $1,000 and keep escalating. I guess if you have the money and it doesn’t bother you, so be it. It’d bother me and the only thing I’d be purchasing would be a book on budgeting and making better choices. I’d be willing to bet (and I’m not a betting person!) that it doesn’t stop at take out food. They probably also have the latest phones and cars and designer clothes, etc. They need to learn to live within their means and teach their young children the same.

  • caryatis January 27, 2022, 2:43 pm

    >They spend thousands per month on daycare.

    Well, they do have two young kids, so what exactly do you expect? Daycare is a necessity. And hopefully that cost will decrease in a few years. 12-hour days plus two young kids are likely contributing to the high restaurant spending too. I think the retired grandparents probably aren’t really grasping the level of stress the young couple is living with.

    The bigger issue is that the young couple don’t seem to share the older couple’s values, and that’s not something the letter writer can change.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2022, 2:52 pm

      Whoa, Waaaaiiit a minute here. Restaurants are NEVER a convenience-boosting source of food. They are purely a luxury.

      If you need convenience, you buy expensive, awesome pre-packaged meals from Costco that you can pop in the oven for the family whenever they’re hungry. This will still quadruple your food costs (maybe $15 for a family of four vs $4-$6 for home cooking), but restaurants are closer to $60 (10x more expensive than home cooking), AND they take longer than the cook-at-home option.

      So they are only for treating yourself when you feel extremely rich. And there’s nothing wrong with that – I do it plenty myself as do many other readers here. But we wouldn’t do it while simultaneously struggling with debt payments.

      As for mandatory day care: if you get control of some of the bigger money leaks, in many cases a family’s expenses will drop so much that one or both parents can afford to work less and share the work of home care – at least half of the time, then you use partial daycare as a nice break for the parents to catch up on work.

      It’s not easy, but then again we generally choose to have children because we want to spend our time raising them, right?

      Once you cut the amount of time you are paying for that care, you get all that money back into your budget as well, which is a further boost making the whole thing even more feasible.

      • Marcia January 27, 2022, 3:23 pm

        I agree that the stress is contributing to the restaurant bill. That probably is directly related to the pre kid lifestyle.

        If they were used to eating out, then it becomes their default easy thing. I assume with COVID it’s takeout?

        Eating out with kids is a complete, utter, pain in the behind. Especially daycare aged kids. What surprises me is that they haven’t opted for the Costco premade meals instead. However, it depends on if they know how to cook and plan.

        I’m a good cook and a planner, but I’m still struggling right now to come up with meals besides salads, pizza, pasta, and bean burritos. Mid week is busy (dh does the mid week cooking), and weekends I’m still pretty burnt. I can’t imagine if my kids were still daycare age!

        • JoDi January 28, 2022, 9:21 am

          The good old crock pot is your friend! You can find great recipes online including meals you can prep and freeze in a bag to dump in the crockpot. Many meals normally cooked in your oven can be done easily in the crock pot with almost no adjustment – ribs, roasts with vegetables, soups, pulled meats, etc. all come out great in the crock pot!

          • MarciaB January 28, 2022, 12:07 pm

            My thoughts exactly – but that perhaps when the grandparents are providing care they put stuff in the crockpot at the same time?

          • Captain FI January 31, 2022, 10:06 pm

            Haha yes, here in Australia we call them slow cookers but they are awesome. I’ve been using mine quite a bit even after hitting FIRE, it’s just so convinient to pop on a heap of veggies and sometimes I’ve even let things like beef rendang go for a couple of days (switched off at night) *drool*

          • Marcia February 8, 2022, 2:19 pm

            Yeah, but then I have to buy meat. And plan enough ahead to do that. I joke, but only a little bit! COVID has changed my shopping habits, for sure, and I’m hoping when Omicron fades away they will return to normal?

            I used to use the crockpot a lot. When my 2nd kid was a baby, it was “Wednesday crockpot day” (which made 2 days of leftovers). I also cooked 2 big meals on Sat/Sun for leftovers. Now I have a teenaged boy.

            I have a tendency to use the Instant pot more these days. At least one big bean meal on the weekend and one mid-week. Maybe I should make grocery shopping on Weds a thing, after kid dropoff, and then start up the crockpot while I’m making my oatmeal. And before I start work.

            I’m pretty sure that 90% of my difficulty these days is that DH does most of the mid-week cooking, but I’m the one who plans it. It’s exhausting. Most days of the week, I have meetings until 6 pm with Asia. Sometimes I say “screw it” and let him figure it out. But that’s how we end up with so much pasta. Also, he doesn’t actually feel like starting to cook until 6, which means dinner at 6:45 or 7, and I go to bed at 9. So…that’s late.

            Sigh. I just need to keeping adding new meals to the rotation. BBQ chicken, and Impossible burgers are both regular items now.

      • Amanda January 27, 2022, 6:44 pm

        Umm…you can do everything this couple is doing and still end up rich. I am living proof. You just has to be smart about it.

        We eat out probably 4 to 5 times a week, a couple lunches and a couple dinners. But pizza at Costco is $10. Dinner at Freddy’s for 5 is $35. Lunch date with my husband is $20. We just have some tricks that keep it almost as reasonable as eating in. Always drink water, soda is horrible for you and completely over priced. Buy bigger items that can be shared. Look for deals. Save sit down restaurants for special occasions without the kids (while a grandparent babysits). So we mostly avoid tipping, but when we do tip, we tip well.

        Also quality childcare is worth every cent. I always knew I did not want to be a stay-at-home mom. I am a structural engineer and I love it. I told my husband he could stay home with the kids if he wanted and he chose Rocket Science, because Rocket Science. At one point we were paying $3400/month for 3 kids in childcare. But that was still much cheaper than one of us not working. That is only $40k a year, starting engineers make more like $70k. And the crazy thing is childcare only gets cheaper as the kids get older, so every year there is more money to save.

        We are about to have 2 kids in middle school (out of childcare) and one who just needs afterschool care. So from $3400/month to $500/month. And we both have power careers to show for it. Our wealth has snowballed and we could retire now if we wanted to live on just $5k/month. But we like living large (remodeling the house and traveling for the most part) and we like our jobs (check out the new train stations at Honolulu International Airport and at Pearl Harbor, those are my babies).

        Any lifestyle can be optimized.

        • Suzanne M January 28, 2022, 8:17 am

          Amen, from a fellow Mom and structural engineer!

        • TXmoneymom January 28, 2022, 3:12 pm

          I work in finance and there is also a fair amount of ageism. Sitting out for my 30’s and most of 40’s would not lead to a lot of career opportunities when ready to jump back in approaching 50. My kids were 19 months apart – that high expense fulltime nanny lasted only about 6 years and then we could get by with after school sitters and summer camps.

        • KatherineW February 1, 2022, 6:34 am

          Yes! I’m an engineer and mom to 3 kids under 5, and this is exactly where I’m at: $3500 per month in daycare expenses, but with the benefit of making so much more money doing something creative and exciting. It’s important to have the long view on this. If I left my career now to go part-time, I’d miss out on fun projects and cut my future earning potential significantly. Once you get off the train, it’s hard to get back on.

          To your point about starting engineers making $70k, note that’s only a starting salary. If you just stick it out, your salary grows while your daycare expenses decrease…allowing you to save more. Cutting out those future savings for a problem (daycare costs) that resolves itself in a few years seems short-sighted.

          • Kellllly August 17, 2022, 6:04 pm

            Late to the party, but also an engineer mom here. I would LOVE to go part time, but I also like what I do and feel it is value-added to the world. Also, how easy is it really to find a part-time engineering job or any part-time job that pays well?

            Amanda, I drive past those stations every day! So cool! Now, get them up and running so I can use them, please!

        • B March 7, 2023, 5:22 pm

          Cool comment! from another angle, appreciated

      • Caryatis January 27, 2022, 9:28 pm

        Actually, no, not everyone wants to be a stay-at-home parent, and there’s no indication that the young couple we’re talking about does. Children do best with happy parents who have lives outside the home! Daycare absolutely is a necessity in those circumstances.

        And if the LW’s attempts to give financial advice betray any hint of their weird belief that daycare is a form of luxury spending, rather than, you know, the thing that keeps the kids alive, then no wonder the young couple isn’t receptive to their advice.

        • rosaz January 28, 2022, 9:56 am

          Agreed. And if the couple is still quite young, in the long-term one of them stepping back temporarily from a career could be the much more expensive option.

          People who disagree with us tend to focus on the weakest part of any argument we present. Leaving out the daycare bit will make anything else LW says sound much more reasonable.

        • Eric the Bicyclist January 28, 2022, 10:50 am

          It makes sense that not everyone wants to be a stay-home parent. But if a person doesn’t like being around children often and would rather avoid them in order to work a job, I would advise that person not to have children. Kids aren’t mandatory. To me it seems untrue that kids do best with parents who are made happy by being absent. Children do best with parents who like spending time with them.

          I know this isn’t helpful advise to people who already have children. Sadly, I don’t know what to tell people who have children and also don’t like to be around children. For them I have only well wishes.

          To all the would-be parents who could never willingly stay at home with their kids: Please think about what you really want! It’s miserable to be a kid with parents who don’t like spending time with you, and it looks miserable to be a parent who has kids they don’t like being around!

          • TXmoneymom January 28, 2022, 3:17 pm

            Not happy being absent. Happy also having another form of engagement and interaction with adults and providing for your family. I love my kids and I like the work I do. I have taken time off and reduced my schedule when needed and my husband has also done that. My best advice is to work with people that also enjoy seeing their kids. The dads I work with trade off on school/childcare pickup and people work from home when they need to.

          • Amanda January 29, 2022, 10:22 am

            Just because someone does not want to be a stay-at-home parent does not mean they don’t like spending time with their kids. You should never assume that. I love spending quality time with my kids. And because my time with them is precious, I don’t watch TV during that time, I don’t take them on mundane errands, I always sit down and eat with them, I have energy to play board games and teach them how to ride a bike and ski. I am their scout leader and cookie mom.

            And this whole stay-at-home situation is damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You are a horrible parent if you don’t stay home for the first two years and then immediately you are a horrible parent if you don’t have them in pre-school and potty trained at 3. I have friends in social working and really the only thing kids need is loving parents that put their needs first. Stay-at-home and daycare can each be wonderful or horrible depending on the situation. But loving parents will find the good fit for their child and their family.

            • Eric the Bicyclist January 31, 2022, 11:05 am

              I think that we can all agree that not wanting to be a stay at home parent isn’t the same as not liking to spend time with kids. The careful reader will note that I never said they are the same, and I’m sorry if my word choice implied otherwise! I don’t mean to denigrate parents with jobs. After all, I am a parent with a job. My issue is with having kids and not wanting to be around them. Or having kids while knowing that staying home to parent them would be torturous to either parent. It’s one thing to reluctantly leave one’s family each day to go earn money. It’s another thing entirely to believe that children do best with parents who seek their happiness away from those kids. If there is any evidence this is really best for the kids, I’d love to see it. Everything I’ve learned about raising kids suggests the exact opposite.

              I feel very fortunate that my family is able to make things work on only one income. I know this arrangement isn’t typical. I’m the one who bicycles to a work place most days while my spouse stays home. But it would really be nice if we could switch some times. I could very easily see myself being a stay at home dad if my spouse could support us financially. Even better would be if we had enough money neither of us needed careers anymore. Then we could both be stay at home parents or could take turns doing interesting things like volunteering or dabbling in starting a small business.

              But that’s why we’re all here on this site, right? Because we share the dream of throwing off the shackles of financial dependence. For me a big part of that dream is the chance to spend even more time with my kids. I want to be the scout leader and the cookie maker too. I want to be there to help with more homework and to provide the shoulder to cry on as needed. When I have enough money stashed away, I want to happily thank my employer for our partnership and walk away without ever looking back.

            • Amanda January 31, 2022, 5:13 pm

              We could afford to have someone stay home. At this point we could afford to both stay home. But we don’t want to. And it’s not because we don’t like spending time with our kids. We like spending quality time with our kids and then also building awesome things at work too. And our kids are amazing and thriving and so are we. My point is that no size fits all. It is nice to have my FU money if I ever want to walk away.

          • kuk February 7, 2022, 8:36 am

            It’s really sad you have to choose between 12h workdays and stay-at-home parenting. Or to skip all the interesting and career growing projects if you opt to work less than 12h. Even the 8h we, in Europe, consider as full time!

            I would be the happiest parent if I could work ~20-30 hours per week. I’m working ~35h per week because of financial reasons, and I can’t imagine working more and actually not seeing my kid.

        • Lex January 28, 2022, 10:34 pm

          @Caryitis—please cite source indicating children do best with happy parents who have “lives” outside of the home. Your approach is insulting to those who choose to stay at home and raise their children. On the edge of my seat..

          • SpeedReader January 29, 2022, 5:34 pm

            @Lex — Lives outside the home, to me, could mean engagement in any activity beyond parenting: your church, gardening group, theater troupe, volunteer work, etc. I don’t think it was meant to be insulting.

      • Suzanne January 28, 2022, 8:14 am

        Thing is, most daycares don’t do part time. Or if they do, it cost about 2/3 of full-time. I live not too far from where they are and a daycare that you can feel good about leaving your kid at can easily cost $1600 / month for an infant. And another trap is that you expect that to go down each year as they get older and ratios of caregiver to number of children change, but then they raise the price each year. But with 1 year long waitlist, even if you find another place, you are still stuck for quite a while. As for food, most Costco prepackaged food is terribly unhealthy and doesn’t work well in some cases as when there is food allergies. I’m not saying there aren’t some things will work, like grabbing a rotisserie chicken and cutting up some raw veggies, but restaurants truly are faster if you do takeout and time it right. And my son was actually allergic to chicken so we couldn’t do that. I don’t work 12 he days and I love to cook, but I can very easily see where this family is coming from. They work 12 he days and can’t buy a house where they grew up? So the only other option is to move far away from their family support system? I’m not saying the adult kids don’t have some work to do, they surely do, but it is not as clear cut as you make it sound.

        • Renee January 28, 2022, 12:26 pm

          I very much agree with Suzanne that it’s not as clear cut as it sounds, but I was a child in that environment (two parents with big/important jobs). After years of attending the best daycare and private schools, I realized in high school that my parents didn’t like spending that much time with me.

          Now a parent myself to three kids under 5, my husband and I both work from home in order to be with our kids as much as possible. We are third party sellers on Amazon and work as much or as little as needed to cover our lifestyle. Thanks to optimisation, it takes about $2200 a month to maintain our lifestyle, including a 10% tithe but not including savings/investments. Big or unexpected occurrences are covered by savings, but that is the optimised budget for day-to-day maintenance. That does not mean that we make that much, but any extra goes to savings and we can slow down as needed. We both had COVID in December of 2020 and have taken extended slow work periods after having each child. When we need time for ourselves, we take a few hours to shop alone or go out for coffee with a friend. We also each go out to alone to buy inventory while the other stays home with the kids, which is also a little break.

          I very much respect your work and the value that you have added to the world with your designs, but kids can understand when their parents would rather be away from them than with them. There are only so many hours in the day and to fit a full-time job, social time, and quality time with a husband and then quality with kids is a tight squeeze.

          My parents are now both retired and are trying to recapture the missed quality time with their kids with their grandkids. We are not very close as we didn’t spend much time together to become close. My mother told me that she could never do what I do (stay at home) and that her and my dad decided that the money of two careers would be best for their children. Their parents were first generation Americans who had factory jobs, and they vowed never to be poor. The money made our lives better to a point, but some of the relationship was lost in the middle. I imagine it like dating a millionaire who sent you expensive gifts but never had time to talk about your day or go for a walk. If you could take a sabbatical, why not do it for a year and travel with your kids while you can? What your children need most of all is you, and there is no substitute for that. The rub is trying to maintain yourself financially while doing that, but some of the strategies from MMM have really helped.

          • Michael February 15, 2022, 5:22 pm

            Thank you for sharing that, Renee. I do think that you reach a point where actions DO speak louder than words and a lot of times “quality time” has a kind of forced quality to it to make parents feel ok about prioritizing careers over time with kids.

          • Dee April 3, 2022, 5:17 pm

            Thank you Renee. You said everything that is in my heart about a very volatile topic, I just could not have been as erudite as you have been. Thank you again.

      • Kylie January 29, 2022, 6:59 am

        Disagree on your thoughts re daycare. If they’re both passionate about their careers, one of them dropping to part time or writing for a few years to do the child care is a career killer.

        If you want a high flying career after the kids are older, you pretty much HAVE to pay for the child care when they’re young.

        • Eric the Bicyclist January 31, 2022, 11:27 am

          I see a few false dichotomies with this way of thinking. Here are four that I see:

          (1) For sure it can be damaging to spend years away from a career. But a career killer? To me this sounds like a pessimistic take on things. I see it as more of a setback. It’s almost never all or nothing.

          (2) If both partners are far more passionate about having careers than about staying home to parent, it’s ok to not have kids. They aren’t mandatory. If either partner is more passionate about parenting than about having a career the other partner can still prioritize their career over parenting.

          (3) There are many people who have high flying careers after their kids are older but who also didn’t have the kids in daycare. I am one of these people. If you ask around, you will discover many more of us.

          (4) There are lots of forms of child care that don’t involve pay. Such as partnering up with another family to swap kids as needed. Many parents I know get lots of free child care from their other relatives. The kids spend the day with their grandparents or their uncles and aunts for example. I see how helpful those arrangements are and wish I’d been able to live near more family so I could have done this too.

          • Charlotte March 1, 2022, 2:22 pm


            (1) I agree. Time off won’t necessarily ruin your career. I took a year off at age 30 to travel, then worked for a few years. My husband was a stay at home dad when our child was born for 2 years while also working part time. Then I was a stay at home mom for 3 years until our child started kindergarten. In my early 40s I became the Director of Engineering at my company. I personally felt the time off benefitted both my family and my career. I think the diverse worldview of traveling and the family-oriented experience made me a well-rounded individual. Also when you are making these intentional choices, employers see you as a confident person. YMMV

            I have experienced both being a SAHM and a career woman and not one is better than the other. We should not judge others but I don’t like the all or nothing way of thinking. Overall, everyone should do what is best for their family.

    • Kyle January 28, 2022, 6:29 am

      Perhaps the cost of daycare and their spendy lifestyle actually makes it feel like they have to work those 12 hour days to pay for it all? Often times it creates a cycle. Your stressed from work and find it easier to pay for food rather than cook. You buy stuff thinking it makes you less stressed and happy (it doesn’t). The increase in spending results in needing to work more to pay for it all. A lot of folks are stuck in this cycle.

    • LennStar January 29, 2022, 3:51 am

      I was born in the “horrible” socialist Eastern Germany. There it was a matter of fact that both parents worked. And while getting food was not as bad as many in the US think, if you wanted e.g. bananas you could easily waste an hour waiting in line.

      NONE of those families eat out all the time. (You know, for me THAT would be a lot more stressy than making something at home.) They all managed to go shopping basically daily and make a meal at home.

      Back to the present: My cousin has 3 kids. Both parents work. Of course they cook at home. My other cousin has two kids. Of course they cook at home.
      Me, I don’t have kids and I hate cooking, but I still would not go to a restaurant daily even if I liked eating out and there was no Corona. I might get a 3-5€ takeaway from a super tasty vietnamese place once a week that is basically 2 meals, but that’s it.
      btw. Delicious cheese or salami bread (sunflower bread) is less than 1€ a meal, done in 5 minutes and doesn’t even leave a lot of dirty dishes. Great stuff, good bread. (Can you hear the German?)

  • Sarah S January 27, 2022, 2:45 pm

    Concerned Captain, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES do you co sign a mortgage for your kid. You stand to lose everything if they don’t get their act together financially. If they go under the bank with look at you to cover the whole debt.

    Help with a down payment, even the monthly stipened for an agreed fixed time, but NEVER Co-sign a loan.

    Good luck, it’s time for tough talk with these family memebers.

    • Hop1984 January 27, 2022, 5:09 pm

      I agree. DO NOT CO-SIGN this mortgage. Give them a lump sum to help them with the costs/transition to this new house and be done with it.

  • Dave D January 27, 2022, 2:46 pm

    One quibble with MMM’s analysis. If the only thing on the table was $500/month then it’s as MMM says but they also said co-signing the mortgage. That would seem to add a very considerable additional risk should the son’s family not improve and go belly-up financially.

    How do you price that?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2022, 2:54 pm

      If they were co-signing something like an apartment lease or a truck loan, I would agree: the risk is complete responsibility on the part of the parents. But in the case of a house, the underlying asset is very likely to hold its value and appreciate. So in the worst case, you can sell it and everyone gets their money back.

      As long as there are no more sneaky lines of credit taken out on this new home. If that happens, you are right – the debt could rack up and leave the owners underwater even after selling it.

      • Matt January 27, 2022, 7:04 pm

        It can still ruin your credit if they fall behind on payments!

      • ava January 28, 2022, 7:36 am

        The “you can sell it” argument is very flawed. As a cosigner on a mortgage, you can’t sell it. The bank could, though and that would be a disaster.
        We did what my father did for me. We bought the house ourselves, and charged rent to cover the mortgage. When they are in a position to take it on themselves, we will sell them the house at cost. If they go off the deep end, we can sell the house ourselves, no legal issues.
        Co owning would be a safer bet than just being on the mortgage, and they could force a sale. But just signing for the debt does not give you an ownership interest in the property.

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 28, 2022, 11:26 am

          Good clarifications Ava, and thanks for sharing.

          And yes, over the past year I have helped TWO different friends to buy houses on my street – one next door, one six doors down. It is great and we all love the arrangement. But to keep it clean, I bought the houses solely in MY name initially, rented to the friends while they got their own mortgages in line, with the verbal agreement that they would buy from me (at the same price) when ready.


          It’s working out great – first friend has already completed the purchase from me so I am paid back. Second friend is close behind on the same path. But if they changed their mind, it would be easy for me to simply sell the house – for a nice profit in this market – if they decided not to go through with the purchase for any reason.

          Simple deals with a clear outcome are the best!

        • Dashers January 29, 2022, 4:26 am

          I’m not sure how things work where you live, but in Australia if you buy a property for say $600,000, rent it to your kids for a year or two and the price of the property rises to $700,000 – if you decide to sell it to them for the original cost price it will be considered a favorable sale and you will be required to pay higher taxes.

          • Captain FI January 31, 2022, 10:09 pm

            Hi Dashers, really interested to read more about your comment on favourable sales, do you have any links to articles or anything from the ATO about it? Cheers

      • Sully Augustine January 28, 2022, 10:15 am

        I would certainly hope it isn’t possible to take out a home equity loan without the consent of the co-signer. . . and that the parents at least made it clear that they will never agree to a Home Equity Loan on the property.

      • George January 28, 2022, 12:52 pm

        That only works if BOTH co-owners agree on selling. If one of them decides not to sell (like the son), then the other co-signer (parent) is still on the hook. The fact that they did this “sneaky” line of credit on the condo and not tell the co-signers (their own parents) about it then to me it shows general lack of respect. Seems like son & co. are saying “hey don’t tell me how to run my finances, but hey put up your finances so I can ratchet up my lifestyle”. No thanks.

        • Rachel February 11, 2022, 11:15 am

          Exactly. Agreed on all points.

      • Rachel February 11, 2022, 11:12 am

        What if the kids won’t agree to sell or don’t agree that it’s necessary? It seems like they have a very different take on their own finances than their parents do. I would also not trust that they wouldn’t take another line of credit in the future. After all, they didn’t find it necessary to disclose the fact they had pretty much spent the equity in their current home. I would never cosign anything with a child and definitely not in this case.

  • Brian January 27, 2022, 3:00 pm

    $6,000 a year for 10 years is $60,000, not $120,000!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2022, 4:27 pm

      Aha, I KNEW that more errors would get weeded out after I posted this – will fix it now, and thanks!

      • SimpleYoung January 27, 2022, 5:41 pm

        Also, two years away is February 2024, not 2026. (Or did I miss something in there?)

  • nicoleandmaggie January 27, 2022, 3:04 pm

    Yeah, a decent daycare is minimum 2k/mo per kid in cities in California. That’s pretty non-negotiable unless you’re willing to do 12 hour days of grandparent care.

    In terms of renovations, a lot of those CA houses need things like termite tenting, which are not really negotiable.

    I dunno, after finding out about the home equity etc. stuff I wouldn’t feel comfortable co-signing. And I’m nowhere near MMM levels of anything. I’d rather have their money habits be their business and not be on the hook for whatever mistakes they make. It’s not going to kill them to live in a condo. Hopefully you’re at a point where you can back off.

    • catbert January 28, 2022, 10:54 am

      Termite testing is done during escrow and resulting tenting is done by the seller. Can’t get a mortgage without the termite eradication being done.

    • Michael February 15, 2022, 5:32 pm

      “It’s not going to kill them to live in a condo” was exactly what I thought. Most people don’t re-evaluate their lives unless they are under pressure to do so. Take the pressure off, as these parents have, and the adult kids will just keep doing what they’ve always done.

  • Leo January 27, 2022, 3:09 pm

    Maybe CC and his partner could do some batch cooking for the young couple and stock up the freezer. Sounds like the young couple probably eat out due to the time demands of their jobs. A stocked up freezer wouldn’t cost too much but could save thousands of dollars in restaurant spending. I’m sure the young couple would appreciate it and it could strengthen the bond between the family whilst having the side affect of saving money.

    • Michael February 15, 2022, 5:35 pm

      That’s much more practical and much cheaper. I also find this tactic works with healthy eating as well. You can lecture people all day about eating healthy. But it’s better to actually make a fairly easy and healthy recipe, serve it to them, and give them the recipe after they’ve enjoyed eating it.

  • Patrick January 27, 2022, 3:18 pm

    As soon as I read “co-sign” I cringed. Never, I repeat, never co-sign anything for family or friends unless you’re ready to take over complete financial responsibility for whatever is being bought.

    In CC’s case, please skip the co-signing and stick with $500/month for a pre-determined (limited) amount of time. If they cannot fully qualify on their own for the loan, they have no business getting the house/loan.

    They’ve proven their unwillingness to balance their spending to their income (by using their current condo as a piggybank to support a lifestyle their income cannot support) and unfortunately that’s probably not going to change until something bad happens (like losing the house to foreclosure). Life’s financial lessons become more expensive the older one gets. Your “help” may prevent them from learning that lesson until much later in life.

  • AAA January 27, 2022, 3:33 pm

    CC is vastly underestimating how MANY of his son’s peers are receiving exactly this same kind of financial boost from their living parents. And “until they get on their feet” ? nonsense. Is that until the mortgage is done? Two years seems totally arbitrary too. I realize both parties agreed to this because they didn’t want to discuss the details of the arrangement, but they need to clear this up immediately, and really, $6,000 hardly seems worth this much hand-wringing. It should be a gift.

    • sadiesortsitout January 28, 2022, 5:42 am

      Agreed. I work in a financial planning office and we see this kind of “generational wealth transfer” so much that we developed a system for tracking family loans and we now do the “administration” on these loans (sending bills, balance updates, and often times the parents end up paying our financial planning fee for their kids. It is especially common, but not limited to, expensive cities.

      My takeaway is: invest time in teaching your children everything you know about earning, spending, managing, and saving money.

    • DC Mustachian January 28, 2022, 3:07 pm

      Agreed. I’m 28 and recently bought a small starter home in the DC area (I pod $632k; which is relatively modest for this market). I had saved over $100k for the down payment; my (generally very frugal) parents generously gave me another $50k that I put toward the down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, and my emergency fund. I realize it’s an absurd privilege and a massive gift, but that’s why I feel the need to be transparent about it – I wouldn’t want a peer to look at my home and wonder why they couldn’t afford the same thing, what they’re doing wrong, etc. It’s generational wealth! It’s the reason I’m going to have a smaller, PMI-free mortgage that’ll put me even further ahead! It’s all kinds of screwed up, but it’s also the reality. Very very few people are doing this without any help (and I have nothing but respect for the ones who are).

      • Mr. Money Mustache January 29, 2022, 10:04 am

        Great example DCM! thanks for sharing that because it was educational to me as well. It’s a great attitude of gratitude towards family sharing.

        Just for an interesting contrast: In my own circle of friends here in a similarly expensive housing market, I don’t know many people who received help from wealthy parents. Part of this might be an East Coast vs. mountain West situation: most of us moved here alone from other less wealthy places like small towns in Wisconsin, Canada, etc.

        In fact, for many of us including my family the money flows in the opposite direction. Because my parents were small-town farm folk, while my siblings and I all ended up as engineers (and one well-paid teacher), all of us having kept the small town farm folk level of DIY and spending.

        Still, in this extended circle of family and friends, many have still ended as multi-millionaires by the time we creep through our 40s, some with expensive houses and even more with modest ones.

        And it kind of makes sense: a gift from wealthy parents, even if it’s $500,000, is TINY over time compared to the difference between a typical American professional earning and spending profile, compared to a moderately more efficient one.

        Typical: Earn $180,000 between two people, spend $170,000 -> net worth after 10 years = 100k plus whatever investment gains
        Mustachian: Earn $180k, spend $60k -> net worth after 10 years = $1,200,000 plus investment gains.

        Both paths are great as long as we feel good about them. But I do like to reinforce the narrative that generational wealth is FAR from necessary if you are trying to live a wealthy and free lifestyle. Here in the USA, it is pretty much *raining* money and if you have the personality type that is prone to harvesting and optimizing it, you will tend to accumulate it very quickly.

        • Kevin February 17, 2022, 2:27 am

          Indeed it seems like raining money if you look at it from a German point of view. I earn quite okay as a production planner (automobile industry). That leaves me with 58k€ per year – about 2.900€ net per month. For few people it is possible to reach 6-digit income. We have less to be afraid of (like health care, etc.), but also never the chance of making that much money. My investments are at little over 70k (at age 31) and I do not tell many people about it, as it sounds like a LOT of money for them.
          My only chance to earn more money would be self-employment next to my current job. Still thinking about ways, but next to a 45h-week plus 15h driving there it will not be easy that way.

          Still glad that in the US, more people are able to achieve this wealth!

          • Effie February 28, 2022, 1:46 am

            Hi Kevin,
            The situation is very similar here in the UK, the typical salaries are lower and taxation much higher especially once you reach 6-figures so inter generational wealth transfers and preservation of family capital is increasingly important. In particular house prices are extremely high here compared with average earnings (multiplier of 10-12x in areas with higher salary jobs is very typical for a starter home). This is leading to growing social inequality. It’s not fair but unfortunately is deeply rooted in UK society for 1000’s of years so I am not expecting this situation to change within my kids life time. Thus I am saving now in order to transfer a significant chunk of cash to my kids when they are in their mid-twenties pre-death duties (we have 40% taxation on inherited wealth). I am already preparing them for this (they are now 6 & 10). This behaviour is quite typical here in the UK and is called the ‘ bank of mum & dad’.

        • JJ May 3, 2022, 2:51 pm

          Earning 180K between 2 people is NOT typical. The median HOUSEHOLD (not individual) income in the USA as of 2021 is about 80,000, according to HUD.

          On the last page, there is a breakdown by state and metro vs. non-metro areas.


          • Mr. Money Mustache May 4, 2022, 7:44 pm

            I definitely agree JJ – did not mean to imply that these are average American salaries, and thanks for sharing a government source. My comment was on typical higher-income professionals, and how even THEY still end up spending most or all of their money. Everybody has the same stories about how life is expensive and you need XYZ dollars “just to get by”.

            But the funny thing is, while this may well be true for a single parent raising kids on $25k per year, it’s definitely NOT true for someone earning eight times as much. Which is of course the whole purpose of this blog – explaining how to make your money go further.

            • JJ May 6, 2022, 9:47 am

              Thanks for the reply. For what it’s worth, my wife and I are now high earners who feel our money should be going farther (maybe I will send you a roundup of my financial situation).

              There are times when I agree with what you have to say and times when I disagree. Either way, I like the revolutionary attitude and the deep optimism that you have for what people (individually and collectively) are capable of.

              I look forward to continuing to read, without becoming part of the cult :-).

  • Jason Depew January 27, 2022, 4:05 pm

    MMM, an entire post on this topic without a single face punch!? Wow! I’ve loved reading your work over the past few years and watching your personal philosophies evolve. I simultaneously love and hate how MMM has changed. Well done. This is good advice, and I love the context your calculations provide.

    I also hope CC sends this article to his kids, so they see the outlandish reality of their ways and fix themselves.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2022, 5:03 pm

      Wait a minute, don’t my paragraphs in bold with the word AAAUUUUUUGGGHHHH count as a face punch?

      But you’re right, I was definitely trying to be gentle here. Maybe I’m getting more mellow in my old age.

      If this case study involved the Captain describing his *OWN* crazy spending, and trying to figure out why life is so hard, I would have pulled no punches. Because in that situation, a reader came directly to me asking for advice. And MMM specializes in telling you what you actually need to hear!

      But since we’re talking about a second-generation situation where he is hoping for advice that might actually help resolve an issue with a third party who is NOT asking for advice, we have to be gentle and realistic here.

      • Kara January 27, 2022, 7:02 pm

        Your response is fantastic. Kinda mellow for sure. 😀This couple is going to keep paying for a long time- the kid is used to that money now and they may find themselves helping out their other kids too…to be fair.
        I think ordering in food is very common in some places in California and NYC. I don’t think they’ll give that up!😅

  • Woofer2609 January 27, 2022, 4:05 pm

    Where loans are involved with the end goal of NOT trying to get rid of somebody, whatever you do, write it sown on paper so there are no vagaries of expectations down the road.
    Sounds like the family could use someone to cook for them as well. One consideration might be for the grandparents to cook enough food to also feed the children and grandchildren. This alone would equate to well over $500 in savings vs. eating out if the grandparents handled only 2 meals per week. Since the grandparents are mmm’ers, they’re already cooking for themselves. Doubling or tripling a recipe doesn’t cost much more, and takes very little more time. Just a thought.

  • Another MMM (My Initials) January 27, 2022, 4:13 pm

    Instead of taking a piece-meal approach, it is important to step-back and look at the problem from a different perspective. The real problem here is that the son (and his spouse) have bad financial and behavioral habits that they justify with excuses under the cover of long working hours and child care needs. While long working hours and childcare are important and will remain something they have to address in the short and long term, there is a need for Our Captain to guide his son (and his spouse) to slowly untangle their bad habits and teach them how to make small, measurable progress towards some realistic goals (financial and behavioral). These habits can be small to start with and specific to certain areas to begin with. Example…cut down to-go dinners on wednesday to start with and instead make some home-cooked food. Get a head-start for the upcoming week by preparing some home-cooked food over the weekend. Next eliminate to-go dinners on Monday and Tuesday by preparing home-cooked food. Next go after the loan refi…and next parents should cut down mortgage payment to $250 instead of $500 and put the onus on the son and his spouse to figure out how to fill in the remaining $250. These are just examples. Finding a job with better salary also will not address the core problem. The key is for Captain to gently guide his son and his spouse to develop some good habits – behavioral and financial. Our Captain has more than enough discipline, expertise and financial acumen to make that happen, but he has to step up and be decisive. Since Captain loves his son and his family, he has to do whatever it takes to make his son and son’s family successful….and teaching them good, productive habits is one of those ways. His son will thank his Dad for it many years later.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2022, 4:53 pm

      Those are kind thoughts MMM – except we don’t know the full details of the relationship between these parents and their son. After all, remember we are talking about adults here rather than small children which can (sometimes, if you’re lucky) be strongly influenced by parental guidance.

      In some cases, they are open to suggestions and guidance. And they might respond well to a parent being “decisive”. And if so, great!

      In other cases, trying to tell your adult offspring how to live their lives will just lead to defiance, anger, or having them shut you out of their lives. So you have to tread very carefully – you can OFFER help, very gently, but not push it on them.

      Human beings are a funny thing. There’s no guarantee that you’ll end up with a friend or ally even if you make your own from scratch and raise it with love. But you can hope and try your best, and be grateful for any happy moments you and your kids enjoy along the way.

      • dwasch January 28, 2022, 4:25 am

        “Human beings are a funny thing. There’s no guarantee that you’ll end up with a friend or ally even if you make your own from scratch and raise it with love. But you can hope and try your best, and be grateful for any happy moments you and your kids enjoy along the way.”

        Amen brother. I’m a child psychologist and I’d like to put that on a flyer and hand it to every parent who walks through my office door.

        • Linley January 29, 2022, 6:13 am

          This was my response also, Amen brother!

          That said it took me more years than it took to raise my kids to come to terms with this idea. I just couldn’t believe how it turned out after putting my greatest effort into raising them, I was brokenhearted for quite a while. I had approached parenthood with the mindset that if I tried hard enough I would succeed, silly me!

          And if dear reader, you’re feeling satisfied as I once did, with how your children seem to be turning out, wait until you throw in the wild card of who they partner with.

          Fortunately having children themselves has enabled my children to see me in a different light, and I get to see how to raise children properly :)

  • Al January 27, 2022, 4:16 pm

    I think CC really knows the answer to all the questions. I don’t mean this in a harsh way, but why subsidise spendy pants delusional behaviour? If you need financial help from parents, you can not afford to live a lavish lifestyle! The bigger issue is how do you keep a good relationship with someone after you’ve cut the umbilical cash cord.

  • Trisha January 27, 2022, 4:22 pm

    I so relate to this post! As a single mom, and a
    person who’s always been a savvy saver and been very careful with my money, I brought up my kids to understand its value. I always told them that I would help pay for school, and have just finished paying for both of them to have braces.
    When my eldest decided to stay downtown while going to school it was with the understanding that he wouldn’t have rent to pay. He was staying with his gf because the university is four subway stops away from the apartment. But all of a sudden he was late sending me payments for his cell phone and kept telling me money was tight. I sat down with him and asked what was going on with his finances because he was also working while going to school. It turns out that after a few weeks, his girlfriend had asked him to pay half of the expenses, which was not their/our agreement. (her parents pay for many of the expenses already) I explained to him my budget, and that I could afford to help him to a certain extent (tuition and books) but not more. That living at home was free, and that even though it would take him about 40 minutes longer to get to school it was a smarter move financially to come back home and save his money. I asked him to sit down with his girlfriend and explain our original deal and see what compromise we could all come up with because she did not want him to move out. I let them find a solution and we worked it out. I think it’s important for kids to see your budget and understand that money can be a limited resource, especially when it’s not yours! I also ended up sitting down with the two of them to look over their budget. They have since stopped eating out, and she even makes an extra portion of everyone of their meals to sell to a friend who lives alone, which covers the cost of all of their groceries.

    • Frogdancer Jones January 27, 2022, 6:02 pm

      As another single mother of adult children ( I have 4 sons in their 20’s) I think this story is terrific.
      You taught both your son and his GF some valuable lessons (including the very important one – that Mum isn’t cut out in the shape of a doormat!)

      • Chris March 20, 2022, 10:54 pm

        Single parents (mothers or fathers) are worthy of the highest praise. Any of you who make it as far as this site (or as far as you have, FJ — I’m a big fan!) deserve to be elevated to status of gods.

  • Patricia January 27, 2022, 5:09 pm

    This not ok! Are you kidding me? The parents ask themselves why the adult child is like that. Well look in the mirror! The parents are enablers! Absolutely ridiculous. Parents, let child know (emphasis on child) that you are cutting them off in 3 months, period! That is the only way they will change! They need to face their own consequences!

  • Peter J Stock January 27, 2022, 5:11 pm

    this question but especially MMM’s reply – or even CHOICE to reply – makes me sooooo angry that I am going have to sleep on my screed.
    back tomorrow.

  • Macc January 27, 2022, 5:19 pm

    There’s no way that Sonny Boy cuts his own hair like MMM. My favorite video on the whole damned site.

    I agree on the limited payment idea. But the request for co-signing must be because the kids won’t qualify for the mortgage on their own. Huge red flag, no?

  • Bill Stuzd January 27, 2022, 5:19 pm

    Methinks your “Open window vs beer calculation” may be too simplistic…

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2022, 5:34 pm

      Well, I definitely agree that it’s a big simplification. On the other hand, as a housebuilder and engineer who measures all of my buildings with all sorts of nerdy wi-fi thermostats and flow sensors and infrared gadgets all the time, I would still wager it’s not all that far off.

      And sometimes, that’s all you need to get the job done – in this case, allowing oneself to chill about minor “wastes” in life so that you can get on with enjoying life instead.

      More on the value of quick approximations here: https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/06/24/when-the-back-of-the-napkin-can-be-worth-millions/

      • Mark January 28, 2022, 3:02 pm

        How much is the car running killing the environment though that would more my concern.

        • MKE February 8, 2022, 11:42 am

          Thank you! It’s depressing and telling to see that it took this far down in the comments to point that out. The first think I thought with the dumb car-running analogy was “who gives a @#$% about the money?!!!”
          I live near a school. Parents with HUMONGOUS motor vehicles arrive every day, all year round, between 30 and 45 minutes before school is out, and they run their vehicles nonstop. If it’s 70 degrees with a soft breeze and soft clouds, they shit their lives away and ruin the earth and bring down the neighborhood with their stupid choices.
          It has become so normalized and expected that the idea of uselessly running a car for 30 minutes, which constitutes the minimum daily amount for some people, does not even get noticed.

  • Joe January 27, 2022, 5:23 pm

    Always loved the case studies, happy to see another one!

  • Olaf, the Mile High Finance Guy January 27, 2022, 5:30 pm

    Incredibly well put, and as another reader already said, it shows how your views have changed over the years, MMM. I, too, used to look at things granularly, seeing things as emergencies that must be dealt with then and there. However, more often than not, they were not emergencies. Notably, I am still learning.

    CC, while certain habits may seem ludicrous to someone who has achieved FI, it isn’t our job to tell others how to live their lives. Instead, lead by example, and if they don’t want to observe, there isn’t much we can do. Though I doubt they won’t become more disciplined with time since you said they are intelligent people. Best of luck!

  • Megan January 27, 2022, 5:47 pm

    I found this to be an incredibly kind and measured reply. I really like putting emphasis on both the financial and relational aspects of this situation. Money can be a powerful gift sometimes and I don’t think it always leads to bad outcomes; it is a risk though. I would love for the OP to come back and tell us if they had the money conversation with their relative and what the logistical and emotional outcome of that conversation was. What did they learn about each other?

  • Matt January 27, 2022, 5:54 pm

    Dad should file a mortgage on the new home behind the new first mortgage so that the son and wife cannot go and load up the new house with a home equity loan behind their back (if and when it appreciates such that they could do that, although who knows…banks used to finance 120% of home value not too long ago!).

  • Sisto January 27, 2022, 5:55 pm

    What a great post! I’ve been in similar situations many times. I definitely agree with the advice you gave. Communication is key as well as knowing the details up front. The details part ship has already sailed, so your advice about how to start a conversation is great. The most recent situation I have been in was handled with a lump sum. It was done originally as a loan and gift combination for our son for a house down payment. Later circumstances allowed us to gift a very large amount over 2x the original plan. So when we sat down to discuss repayment options things went super easy. To me we have been very fortunate and we would rather help now while we are alive and hopefully we will have some grand kids soon now that housing is nailed down and our son lives only a mile away.

  • Z January 27, 2022, 5:59 pm

    The adult kids lost their right to decline financial advice from the parents when they accepted the financial help.

    The kids clearly need to get their finances right and not buying the new house (if they haven’t yet) seems the obvious first step. I’d like to know how small “really small” is. If it’s 800 sf or more it’s plenty of s pace for a family of 4 (many 1st world countries average about this much space/family). They might need less stuff instead of more space (and it incentivizes buying less junk!).

    • Dee February 1, 2022, 12:49 pm

      Amen. I’m team hardass here. Money and emotions should never mix. I’ve seen parents completely stuck when there is a divorce years later of adult children and what you gave the couple is lost. It’s great to have good intentions, but if both of the parents are shopping every single day for comfort crap, and eating out all the time, they absolutely do not need that 500 bucks a month because small economies will get them there – and the only way for them to learn it is to have no other choice. And if it were me, I’d tell them I’m sticking the 500 per month in an investment product for the grandchildren’s education or house downpayment in due course, which would be such a great lesson to them, and the right thing to do. Do not co-sign, it’s everyone’s downfall waiting to happen.

  • Clover January 27, 2022, 5:59 pm

    My mom has never been very good with money, but she’s worked hard her entire life and was working at a really stressful job, which didn’t help her depression and anxiety. My family lives overseas (outside the US) and my sister, her only other child, lived about an hour away, so it wasn’t a very easy commute for her to see her grandkids that were within driving distance.
    My husband and I wanted to help and decided to pitch to her that we would buy a small house near my sister for my mom to move into and live rent free, and retire. We would co-sign with her, but would be 100% responsible for all of the house-related payments and expenses (if we could do it over again, we’d likely just leave her off of everything entirely, but plan to have her taken off eventually).
    She still struggles with anxiety, but now has more time to address it, can exercise, sees family regularly and is involved in her neighborhood and community. She’s still finding her groove and adjusting to not working, but does pretty well budgeting her social security every month and adding more to her savings. She kept what she received from selling her house and used it to pay off her car and invested the rest.
    Ultimately we feel it worked out pretty well, with her getting an increased quality of life and us gaining an investment property in an area that’s seeing a lot of growth. We have had to learn to let go of trying to control others’ spending and focus on our own relationship with money and making it as healthy as possible, which definitely hasn’t always been easy.
    It’s felt good to be able to essentially change the life of a loved one because of being smart and implementing wise financial practices early on (been readers since we were newly married, back to 2008/09!).
    We typically never mix money and family, but felt like this was sort of a workaround. So far, so good.

    • Rebecca January 28, 2022, 4:17 am

      This warmed my heart, thank you! This is truly a win-win situation for everyone.

    • Fred January 28, 2022, 11:37 am

      Heartwarming story and a great way to honor your mom. I love hearing stuff like this.

  • Technojunkie January 27, 2022, 6:34 pm

    I’d ask the daughter-in-law to figure out her aftertax income, subtract the cost of childcare, restaurant meals and other employment-dependent expenses from it, and decide if what’s left is worth it. It might not even be a positive number. The value of full-time motherhood is immense and it’s not taxed. Raising more children and homeschooling them become possibilities versus rolling the dice on government schools or paying serious aftertax $$$ for private school.

    Another option is for parents and adult children to share a house or duplex. Obviously not for everyone but the efficiencies are immense and it’s a lot less stressful to care for an ailing family member when you’re right there.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2022, 6:57 pm

      Yep, great points TJ – and although the Mom in this case may well have great reasons for working that particular job, in general MANY second parents effectively end up working a second job for zero dollars without realizing it. Because childcare is expensive, and a long car commute with related car/life expenses can cost $1000 per month, even while you might think you are only buying “a tank or two of gas per week”.

      And as luck would have it, we did a case study on exactly that almost ten years ago!


    • Dina January 27, 2022, 8:06 pm

      Shouldn’t the son perform the same calculations as well? The value of full-time fatherhood is immense and it’s not taxed.

      • Mr. Money Mustache January 28, 2022, 7:30 am

        Definitely! I quit my own job in 2005 specifically to contribute my own half of full-time parenting, and I would highly recommend this to any Dads, Moms, whatever. Kids are hard work, but also worth it if you are ready for that step.

        • Dee April 3, 2022, 5:52 pm

          MM, I am so glad you wrote that, because many parents aren’t prepared mentally or emotionally to do that. They aren’t even prepared to be “parents” and all that entails.

          Children are not a check mark on your bucket list. I was a checkmark for my high-flying, career minded parents. Caused much confusion and anxiety to me in my youth, however, with concerted effort to make my ‘rents own up to that fact, the fact where I was really, merely a check mark on their collective bucket list? I am totally ok with it. And no, they were and are wealthy, they never offered, nor have I ask them to fund schooling, housing or anything else after I left home at 17. They are happy with their lives. I am settled with mine.

          If you decide to have children? Make sure you both want to, for whatever are your collective reasons, and do make sure you count the mental, emotional and economic cost of doing do – both to you and your child.

    • Allie January 27, 2022, 8:41 pm

      I’m all for taking a good hard look at the total cost of a second job, but I’d strongly advise against the in laws asking their daughter in law if she thinks her job is worth the money. They could ask if it would make sense if *either* one of the parents should consider alternatives and maybe help their kids crunch some numbers, but to focus on the DIL is a bit misogynistic, almost guaranteed to sour their relationship, and a disservice to fathers everywhere.

    • Working woman January 28, 2022, 2:44 am

      It’s 2022, man.

      Maybe the daughter-in-law earns more than her husband. Maybe she doesn’t want to be financially dependent on someone who might leave her in 10 years’ time. Maybe she’s not ready to sacrifice years of career opportunities, earning potential, and retirement points so that her husband can pursue his. Maybe she (like me) would go batshit crazy if she had to do nothing but childcare and housework for years.

      Perhaps doing the math would be useful for this family, but money is only part of the equation. And the casual assumption that it must be the mother who puts her career on hold is incredibly jarring in this time and age. I’m very glad my in-laws had the good sense to never suggest anything like this to me, and so should they.

    • Suzanne January 28, 2022, 8:29 am

      Why the DIL and not the son? In my family, I take home the greater share and it would make more sense for my husband to stay home, if the decision were purely a financial one. But neither of us are cut out to be full time stay at home parents and not every job allows part time work. And, depending on the career, getting out of the job force for a few years means never getting back in which could have longer term impact on finances, especially as most (not all) side hustles don’t make as much as a professional career.

      I certainly agree on the advice of a lump sum method vs co-signing.

    • faithlessworld January 28, 2022, 9:54 am

      it’s 2022, didn’t think I’d see anyone suggesting that of course the woman in this situation should just give up her career as childcare will be expensive for a couple of years. That’s a massive hit to lifetime earnings and pension for a short term issue. You very rarely can take several years out and re-enter at the same level.

      Childcare is a JOINT expense, from a risk spreading POV if they wanted to do that, it would make more sense for both parents to go part time, without anyone giving up their earning entirely.

      We pay a fair whack for childcare, but those large expenses are only for a couple more years until school age, and it’s out of our joint budget, my husband will probably choose to drop a day or 2 when we have our second kid, I might drop one depending on the situation when I’ve finished the promotion programme I’m on. I’ve no wish to be a full time stay at home parent, my career is interesting and fulfilling.

    • Leigh February 17, 2022, 6:57 am

      I’m sorry but why should the DAUGHTER-IN-LAW be the one to calculate her income less childcare and not the SON? Sexist comment.

  • Glenn January 27, 2022, 6:37 pm

    I love this article, looking at things from all sides. Of course we all understand that spending cannot exceed income, period, and the sooner people change their lives to reflect this the better. Getting family there is no easy task as MMM eloquently stated.

    One perspective I haven’t seen yet? We don’t know the full picture here (age, financial status, etc), but it seems Captain is someone who lives responsibly, well below his means, and as such is likely to leave assets to his children upon his passing?. It might be helpful to think of this as giving some inheritance now while everyone is around to enjoy it? Might help the medicine go down.

    • Reba January 27, 2022, 7:04 pm

      The ‘early inheritance’ idea can be a good one if done correctly. My parents (80’s) have come to this point for the reason that they’ve financially supported my brother and family a whole lot over the years (to the point of unhealthy enabling but that’s another topic) and realized it’s diluted the inheritance for their other two kids and want to be fair. So now when they send him money, it’s a non-interest loan against his inheritance (written up legally), which accomplishes both goals. How much better though it would have been to lay down boundaries a few decades ago about living within your means…

  • Emm January 27, 2022, 7:05 pm

    I’m in the reverse situation – late twenties and planning part of my long term goals around my parents’ inevitable need for help when they are older. Explicit numbers and clear expectations are the only way I know to keep family finances from getting too emotional. And always gratitude for being in the of having plenty to share. Life is too short.

  • MBS January 27, 2022, 7:06 pm

    One thing left out is that our Captain says he has multiple kids. I wonder if each one of the children are getting $500 a month? Another potential pitfall is that responsible siblings see their spendy brother getting a cash payment, while the responsible ones grow resentful. A potential to add to family drama despite all the good intentions. (based on personal experience!)

    • Mel January 27, 2022, 10:06 pm

      Very much this. The possible options (and consequences) sound like they need to be explored more. Communicate any issues and maybe ask the son to come up with some ideas as well. CC needs to be proactive and ensure that whatever steps he and his wife choose to take will not result in favoring some offspring over others; not allow his son and DIL to siphon money out of the house; and not permit he and his wife to become enablers. Help responsibly.

    • LLH January 31, 2022, 4:51 pm

      Completely agree and in a similar situation where my sibling is getting 2K plus more a month of help, which has caused a lot of resentment.

  • Karen January 27, 2022, 7:28 pm

    My first thought reading this is Elder Abuse. This could easily become an elder financial abuse situation if the behaviors are not changed soon. The parents may not be that old now but as they age and their savings become depleted, if the kids keep coming for money it will cause a lot more pain later on down the road. The other siblings will be right in the middle of it if they have to protect their parents from the eldest son. I hope the couple take your advice but even better if the son and wife turn themselves around.

  • Ryan January 27, 2022, 8:05 pm

    The part about learning to chill out really hit home, especially living with a spouse who is middle of the road spendy by nature. I’d love to see a future blog post on how to chill out and tone down the MMM gene. It would really help lower my stress level and I’m sure my wife’s as well!

  • FireSeeker January 27, 2022, 8:28 pm

    I’m involved in a couple family deals:

    1) My wife and I bought my father-in-law’s house and rent it back to him. This allowed him to pay off about 30k in credit card debt that had been killing him, we dropped the rate by 2%, and turned maintenance costs into a business expense. Dad is now debt free and prepays his cheap rent, which still covers the mortgage easily and his monthly went way down (hint: IRS will require rent be 80% fmv in the situation). As luck would have it, the house has appreciated about 80% (someday I’ll gift the equity pro rata to wife’s siblings). Win all around.

    2) I hold a promissory note on my sister’s house. This one is more of a subsidy – they have low income, bad credit, and I don’t love their spending choices… for example, they will take vacations on credit (AGHHH). I’m paying more interest than I charge them, and made it more affordable by doing 10 years with a 50k balloon. Will she be able to refinance in ten years, or save the balloon? I’m not sure.

    That said, it’s a modest house I arranged a great deal on (instant equity), that they couldn’t have financed on their own. Yes, this deal will cost me money, and if she can’t pay the 50k at rent years I’m going to write it off and give her the house anyway. She’ll have modest savings through work, but a paid-off house. And by doing it now, her kids (my nephews and nieces) can grow up in a proper house. I’m worth about 1M at 40 (thanks for the inspiration MMM), so I can afford to help out.

    BUT – I had to ask myself, “Am I willing to straight up buy my sister a house, without being resentful or trying to change their ways or control things afterwards”? Turns out that was an easy ‘yes’. Being poor is hard as f$!k… I’m blessed to the hilt financially, and helping gives me joy. It’s just critical to get your mind right before you do anything like that. Because adults don’t change drastically… they might slowly mature, but spendypants family will always drive you a bit nuts ;)

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 28, 2022, 7:52 am

      Great stories!

    • Dave Newgard April 14, 2022, 7:04 am

      Just when life gets you down, you find pretty much any MMM article to remind you how normal your life is compared with some of the situations in the comments section. Another winner MMM! 🧐

  • Alex January 27, 2022, 9:27 pm

    It seems the limiting resource for the adult child and spouse in this case is actually their time, not money, which is ultimately the root of the extreme childcare costs, restaurant spending, and overall stress for their household. Perhaps a better and more impactful way for CC to contribute and support his children and their family would be in the form of his time instead of a monthly cash payment. CC likely has a greater excess of time to give in retirement compared to his discretionary cash anyway, and the support in the form of childcare, meal prep, etc., would be a cash equivalent magnitudes higher than a flat payment each month. Not to mention the relationship benefits he would yield in spending more time and energy with the kids and grandkids who he clearly loves and cares about.

  • George Choy January 27, 2022, 10:19 pm

    Thanks for the post MMM. It is food for thought as we have kids that will be flying the nest in a few years. I think gifting or loaning a lump sum to children is far preferable to any kind of financial entanglement – particularly if they do not share your mindset. They will get there – but it can take some experience. Helping them to buy their first or a larger home when they have children is a great way of transferring wealth in a family at a useful time, rather than when they are 60/80 and don’t need it any more. The gift would be perhaps given to the solicitor during the buying process though if there was any possibility that it may be spent on anything else bar the deposit!

  • Libby January 27, 2022, 10:26 pm

    Sadly compared to my in laws this seems tame. My in laws support my sister in law (their daughter) to the tune of thousands every month for the past 9 years. Her husband does not work (keeps getting fired) and is supposedly renovating their house to sell while they have moved in with my in laws but has not renovated a thing in 1.5 years. Sister in law and husband spend $25 a day at Starbucks alone. She buys hundreds of dollars in clothes every month and her parents pay the bills. She makes right at 6 figures but saves nothing.
    My father in law mentioned needing to get a job ( he’s retired) to keep up with the spending and I thought my husband was physically going to punch his sister at Thanksgiving. He also apologized that they couldn’t support us like that too and my husband said “we are adults, we make our own money and we live on less than we make and save for the future. We don’t need your money but we’d certainly like more time with you.” (In response to them not being able to visit because then sister in law would not have after school care)
    For Christmas in laws got sister in law and her kids a $3500 dog (my kid didn’t even get a phone call).
    My husband has almost no relationship with his parents or sister anymore because of the anger he has at his sister and his parents willingness to support her lifestyle. He is genuinely concerned that she is going to put them into severe financial distress or cause them to divorce over disagreements with money.

    Also, particularly for many careers, leaving a job to stay home with kids can have significant impacts on long term earnings and individual mental health. Quality day care is expensive but for many of us, absolutely worth it for our wellbeing, financial goals, and the well-being of our kids.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 28, 2022, 7:49 am

      WOW! This is an extreme story but I am thankful that you are sharing it – many people including me would not even know that such things are possible in adult relationships.

      However, I have seen (even among some of my own friends/family), lighter versions of the same thing. It is remarkable how some people can become leeches upon others, without even realizing they are doing it. In my mind, everybody should keep a mental tally in their mind of this sort of give-and-take, and make sure they are keeping at least a neutral (preferably POSITIVE), rather than negative balance of sharing goodness in the world.

      To let somebody just give you money repeatedly over time while you just spend it? I would find that completely demoralizing and stressful.

  • Michalis January 28, 2022, 12:22 am

    The millionaire next door book had a chapter or two on supporting your children financially. The gist of it, if I remember correctly, was to not do it because the children don’t learn to stand on their own two feet. That’s my default response too, though I’m a young father and not in that situation.

    I’d rather cook form them for a month or two to show them that they can save X amount of money if they do it themselves.

    Also, if you can’t afford a new house, suck it up and stay where you are until you can. Or rent.

  • Joshua January 28, 2022, 12:43 am

    I’m surprised that so many people are paying thousands of dollars for daycare when an au pair is only $800 per month + room and food + agency costs.

    – day care tailored to your needs
    – Cultural exchange
    – Au pairs can take care of specific needs the kids might have
    – they could prepare food for kids and might even agree to cook some more for everyone to eat
    – kids can learn a second language

    • catbert January 28, 2022, 11:11 am

      But then you need an even larger house! Seems doubtful to me that you could get an an au pair for $800 a month in San Diego.

    • Abigail January 31, 2022, 12:25 am

      I am an introvert and I like/need my privacy.

      My parents had au pairs for me and my siblings. While I liked the au pairs as individuals, even as a child I felt stressed at that extra person being in our home.

      Ironically, I went on to do my own time as an au pair. And I put it out there as a gap year option for my kids when they were old enough. They declined, but I’d have backed them if they chose it.

      But when my kids were little, for my own home, we needed our privacy and peace and ability to just be alone with our own family. My kids went to daycare. Then they came home. And we shut the door and were home alone with just us. That suited all of us better.

  • Barbaneros January 28, 2022, 1:16 am

    Hey MMM, the “BEES JAMMED UNDER MY EYELIDS” really got me laughing out aloud haha :)

    I’ve been thinking about how giving money affects relationships and friendships in the last few weeks.
    I’m 31, married, pretty much FI and thinking about how and when to quit. Being generous to my friends plays a role in this calculation: since I’m slowly shifting from scarcity to abundance, I’d love to invite my two closest friends to special occasions every now and then. They are (just like me) too frugal to buy this for themselves, for example a sportscar driving event etc. But I have the feeling that this could negatively affect our friendship: maybe they’d feel guilty or ashamed, just as I feel guilty and ashamed when I get such presents. I even thought about faking that I won the tickets haha…any thoughts on this?

    • Ann June 25, 2022, 7:34 pm

      Hi Barbaneros,
      I know you asked MMM for advice and not me, a random reader, but it seems to me that you should discuss this problem with your friends. Sharing your own guilt and shame with others is likely to bring you closer to them and might lead to a discussion about how they might accept your generosity with grace. They will easily find a way to reciprocate the gift in the future.

  • Allison January 28, 2022, 2:31 am

    Great ideas. I would just add that the conversation should also include expectations for the future and other big things that might come up, at least if you don’t want to become an ATM. They’re married, so you’re past the requests for help with a wedding, but what about stuff the grandkids “need,” like private school, specialty activities, or college? I’m generally not a fan of anything that Thomas Stanley calls “economic outpatient care” to adult children, but I think precedents and expectation management are key if it is going to happen. I co-signed my son’s college loans but have been making it very clear since he started high school exactly what I will contribute to a wedding, that I won’t contribute to a house, and that if he ever falls on hard times and needs to move back in, I will impose oppressive rules so that he’s motivated to get back on his feet. We’re all different and take different approaches, but if everyone knows what to expect they can at least make plans accordingly. And hopefully without resentment.

  • Eliza January 28, 2022, 2:35 am

    First, I’m VERY grateful to MMM and many commenters who have guided my journey to abundance. Thank you!
    I wrestle with the world on fire/my place/my family and friends. I feel SAFER but not bullet-proof in my disability-induced early retirement. A friend’s former safe home is now a shooting gallery … how to help? Im considering a lump sum gift that would cover travel, one months rent, $1k in Vanguard.
    My adult son does live within means but the means are not great. I’m considering the $1k in Vanguard to kick off retirement and hold back on $$ until he has kids, which is a tough time financially for everyone.
    I don’t want to be an enabler, but I do love these folks and the world is a crazy place. What experiences/advice does the MMM hive mind hold for me? I’d appreciate your take.

  • Vess the Best January 28, 2022, 3:06 am

    Hey all I know this situation well from a slightly different angle. Sounds to me like the case study author has only one child who feels entitled to Mom&Pop’s money. Here’s another story of 2 siblings one of which is MMM-like and the other feels solely entitled to Mom&Pop’s money.
    Since I’m writing on this website, you already guessed that I’m the MMM and my sibling is like the in the case study. My parents pour money into that black hole and I’ve never taken a cent. Sibling and partner both work high-end jobs while my partner was jobless for 2 years and I went on a 10-year career break to change fields and do a PhD (during which I lived off my scholarship AND saved money). Yet we’ve never been on minus. Sibling’s partner had multifigure consumer debt satiating a collecting hobby. Sibling and partner have signed a mortgage located on the outside of the edge of what they were supposed to get. We’ve decided we don’t want to be enslaved by a home. We rent a tiny studio whose rent is about 10% of our income. They know all the best restaurants in town. We optimized by moving from canned beans to dry long ago.
    One day Mother feels some existential guilt after realizing that when she passes, the inheritance would be split in half between me and Sibling. So she announces that she wants to give me equal to what she had already given to Sibling to even things out. She also reminds Father that he sold his inheritance from his parents and gave all the money to Sibling and asked him: “do you have enough to make them even”. He’s like: “I’ve never even thought about it”. And Sibling erupts in anger of the sort “but V doesn’t NEED the money”.
    So I’m being punished for being frugal and sensible, and implied to be greedy, while Sibling feels *entitled* to all the money mooched off Parents. Didn’t even ever say thanks.

    • Vess the Best January 28, 2022, 3:23 am

      hyall, I just want to stress how much worse off everyone is from the situation: Sibling feels ripped off (thinking of all the money they were supposedly intending to give to me I guess) and perhaps even envious (the money poured over years into a black hole is invisible, but given as a lump sum is quite visible). Mom&Pop feel ripped off (financially and emotionally because of the ingratitude and resentment) and probably even sad and disillusioned because of the conflict they inadvertently created out of wholly good intentions and MANY sacrifices to save that money for their kids (neither of them poops money and my dad is still paying his own mortgage). I feel sad that I’m resented by my Sibling when I’ve done nothing at all. If anything, when Mom made this announcement my first reaction was “just give it to Sibling, she NEEDS it more than me”. I’m no angel, I had simply been conditioned for years to live in this narrative…

      • Clover January 28, 2022, 5:53 am

        I’m sorry you’re in this position :(. I watched money issues similar to the one you’re in between my grandparents and my dad and his brothers. The grandparents have passed and my dad won’t speak to any of his brothers, nor they to him. The bright side is it has given me extra motivation to do all I can to avoid this situation with my kids in the future. Money has so much power to destroy relationships if we let it (or even don’t let it, since can’t controls what others do with it). Good for you for being wise with your money and making those sacrifices. Sometimes I have to step back and be grateful for all the money stress I avoid and not think about how much I could help my parent/sibling if I could control their finances (or if they’d just actually implement any of the advice I give them when they get desperate enough to ask for it!! Gah!!). Good luck.

    • Northern Fire January 28, 2022, 6:56 am

      The Captain says this is his eldest son so there may be multiple siblings. In that case it’s a question of equitable transfer of intergenerational wealth, cause you can’t take it with you. Not knowing the numbers but if the Capt’s house is worth 1 million, and they have another 1 million in investments, a conversation with both children could be had that explains any payout given now, comes out of that sibling’s half upon death of the parents.

  • Chris January 28, 2022, 3:32 am

    Thanks, MMM!
    Where can I get that cool Eagle at the top of the page?
    Asking for a non-mustachian friend. :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 28, 2022, 7:38 am

      That’s a super-fancy Liberty Puzzle from the prestigious local manufacturer just over in Boulder. Some good friends gave it to me as a very generous thanks for hosting them for a week here at my house. People around here give them as gifts and then trade them back and forth, they are almost like a form of local currency :-)

  • Emma January 28, 2022, 5:44 am

    This letter actually gives me anxiety. The problem, as I see it, is they know they have a safety net by way of the parents. And, honestly, if they’re not willing to review their spending habits as a condition of the co-signing + monthly payments, that, in my opinion, is just disrespectful on their part. Plus, what if the bubble finally does burst in the next two years and now their mortgage is worth more than the house? This is a huge risk for the parents, in my opinion. The suggestion by someone for the parents to pay a lump sum loan up front, no co-signing, sounds like the best option. A bit of “tough love” is reasonable in a situation where both grown adults are professionals, employed, and living with a higher standard than the majority of the population. Something has to give.

  • Steveark January 28, 2022, 6:13 am

    I can’t believe I’m disagreeing with the master on this one, but I am. Cap agreed to cosign already, without doing the due diligence of getting all the financial details of the kids’ lives. That’s careless. But his word is his bond. You can’t just change your mind and reneg on the deal. Sure, it was a stupid deal to make, but he made it and if he’s an honorable person the discussion is over. The only out is if his kids lied to him about their plans. Assuming he was just too lame to ask the right questions it is totally on him.

    • Jane February 8, 2022, 8:30 am

      the way I read it is that the co signing has not yet happened- I imagine the details of the line of credit/ proposed use of equity etc came out when they started talking to the bank about the amount of the loan as opposed to value of the house.
      I don’t disagree that Cap should have asked some questions or maybe just said something like “maybe we could help out, let’s run some numbers” before agreeing to anything- but if the agreement is just in principle within the family I don’t see why they can’t pull out

  • fredericka January 28, 2022, 7:05 am

    Giving advice to my son and wife is a sure thing that they will do the opposite. I am 70 and I pretty much listened to my parents on financial advice. I co-signed on a mortgage for them several years ago, and they made every payment. When they decided to sell, they made a nice profit. They then went on the road (in a new camper) with 5 children. I was divorced and living alone in a 4 bedroom home in the DC area. After 6 months on the road, the phone call came in, “we can’t continue living in the camper”. I extended the olive branch without any rules in place, for them to come and move in my home. Unexpected issues have come up such as 2 of the kids are on the autism spectrum, and 1 is very dyslexic. And my daughter-in-law is homeschooling them. She works part time and my son has his own business, that he just started and it’s good because it gives him time to drive kids to outside activities at times plus he cooks most of the time. Between schooling, work, laundry for 8 people, shopping, cooking and dishes, there’s not much time for discussing plans or the future. I grew up in a 5 generational home on a farm in NJ. My great-grandmother, grandparents, parent (mom), my brothers, and my niece. I don’t see anything wrong with pooling money and doing things together, but my son says that their friends don’t understand them living with me, and it makes them feel kind of bad. It’s hard.

    • Fireseeker January 28, 2022, 11:08 am

      Fredericka – as you can see from my comment above, I’m pro helping out… that said, your situation sounds like it’s lacking direction. Does your son’s ‘business’ make any money? Is there an agreement on rent contribution or timelines for how long they are going to be camping out at your place?

      Respectfully, don’t have time’ for these conversations is a cop out. You should definitely establish boundaries and timelines.

      Otherwise you’re going to be enabling this scheming and dreaming indefinitely. Don’t mean to sound mean, but you have a right to set some boundaries here. And your son might need to get the notorious J-O-B while he grows the business on the side (again, assuming it’s not profitable, if he’s killing it, great! Charge rent.)

      • fredericka lane January 29, 2022, 7:09 am

        His business is making money. But it take time to build a business. And it’s a learning process. And we do have an agreement about paying bills and taxes and they are making repairs to my house. They just paid for a 50 year roof. But we haven’t discussed them leaving because right now, they just can’t. In addition to paying high taxes for the not so great public schools, they have to pay for homeschooling books, and curriculum. It’s not inexpensive. I am glad they are able to live in my home and I like sharing everything, but sometimes we clash and it’s a little uncomfortable. Thanks for your reply. I appreciate it.

  • Tom Just Tom January 28, 2022, 7:26 am

    Dear Concerned Captain,

    Unless you are able, willing, and ready to make their mortgage payment every month for the next 30 years, I would strongly advise you to not co-sign the mortgage. I suspect you’ll be making the full payment more often than they.

  • Dave January 28, 2022, 7:29 am

    I have a related situation in my family. My (41 y/o) brother is a college dropout because he never wanted to put in the work (he’s smart enough), his wife is a SAHM who thinks that driving the kids 2 blocks to school, picking up 2x daily Starbucks, clicking ‘add to cart’ and getting groceries delivered is what all wives should spend their days doing. They’ve been heavily subsidized by both her parents and mine for all of their adult lives and recently my parents handed over the family business (roughly $2 million in assets) to them for free. That’s fine and all, but my parents had to start social security sooner than they wanted because they needed the money they now can’t get by selling the business assets.

    It’s annoying to see, and any objective observer would see that my parents are being enablers in all this, but I’ve chosen the ‘just chill’ route, tough as it is to watch.

    • Superdave February 14, 2022, 12:38 pm

      Yeah, there’s nothing you can really do about it except to secure your own financial situation as best you can. If your brother doesn’t watch it, that business will end up in trouble if he’s not staying on top of things (or he starts pulling out as much cash from the business as he can, leaving it with no resources to ride out a downturn). This is why wealth seldom survives from generation to generation.


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