02
Nov

Dependent Adults – Is 40 the New 20?

Posted by Sara M. Varese

Never before have we seen more educated, jobless, unmarried, and dependent young adults in the history of the United States than today, causing them downward mobility in addition to growing guilt, responsibility, and decreased retirement savings for their parents.   It is time for us as a society to do something about it.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s a person’s life was easily mapped out.  You would finish school, move out of the house, get married, and have kids.    In 1960, two-thirds of men and three-quarters of women had obtained financial success and independence before the age of 30 either through employment or by marriage.  Today, less than one-third of men and half of women have achieved this.

A large part of this is due to the limiting economic times and a feeling of obligation from parents who desire to provide their children with the same or more opportunities that they were able to experience.   Instead of encouraging financial responsibilities such as investing, saving, and real-world employment, parents were funding expensive education and enriching trips abroad that would soon turn into parents handing out rent, mortgage payments, and their grandchildren’s education and living expenses.

Parents did not anticipate this long-tail dependence, they believed that the fruit of their labor should be shared as an investment in their children’s success.  However, according to Eileen Gallo, a Los Angeles psychotherapist, young adults would be best off with emotional and psychological support instead of financial support.  Gallo recommends that parents answer these questions before investing financially in their children, “Does providing my young adult with money foster his/her independence or does it extend his/her dependence?”

Now is the time for us as a society to figure out ways to help our young adults plan for their financial and personal success and so that their parents should not have to choose between providing for their kids and their own economic well being.   Then we can help grow a healthy and dependent stock of adults who are equipped to help themselves and arm their own future children with the tools to end the vicious cycle of dependency.

For more information, please visit the NYTimes Blog “The 40-Something Dependent Child.”

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