Spendthrift Adult Child

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Ginny has tried everything to help her twenty-something son, Sam, live within his means. Sam is a college graduate who works two part-time jobs and shares an apartment with three other guys. Ginny has made out envelopes for his recurring bills, created an online budget that’s easy to track, even offered to let him run his accounts through hers. Yet despite her best efforts, he consistently spends more than he makes, overages that she covers—and covers up with her husband, Paul—because Sam always seems to have some sort of plausible excuse for his expenditures. What should Ginny do?

--Say “It’s not my problem” and cut him off immediately, possibly jeopardizing her relationship with her son?
--Taper off the handouts?
--Make him repay what she’s given him since college?
--Go into counseling for co-dependency?

The Panel Weighs In

Rick: Ginny should be worried about jeopardizing her relationship with her husband by engaging in a cover-up rather than worrying about her relationship with her spendthrift son. Once she squares things with Paul, they both need to sit down with Sam and let him know that the situation cannot continue.

Julie: Ginny should insist on Sam’s taking a personal budget workshop, which has the advantage of both cluing him in and taking her out of the equation. Clearly, Ginny needs to establish boundaries where her son is concerned.

Stu: She needs to taper off the handouts with a final cutoff in 3-6 months, and she has to follow through on this schedule. She also should insist that Sam repay her for everything she’s laid out, starting now.

Laurie: Ginny should get a therapist for co-dependency and Sam should get a credit counselor for addictive spending. I would just like to add that the kids’ cell phone bills are a big issue in my family, too, and whoever invented the Family Plan should be shot!

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