A Life Design Podcast for Moms and Dads Who Want to Make Midlife Meaningful, What Could Go Right? features personal growth, family connections, and parenting adult kids. The show is hosted by Erik Orton and Emily Orton, creators, travelers, authors, speakers, sailors, rock climbers, and curious parents of five kids (mostly adults). Subscribe to get honest conversations with bold middle-aged parents in mind. If you're ready to design a life you love –Subscribe and Stay Tuned.
Who's paying for that? As parents, it's pretty obvious when our kids are young, we're paying
for that. But it gets a little more muddy as they get older and especially as they become adults. So who is paying for that? That's the question we're talking about today on the, What Could Go
Right? podcast where we discuss personal growth, family connections, and parenting adult children.
I'm Emily Orton. and I am Erik Orton. Welcome to the show. All right, so today we're going to talk
about paying for stuff. Who pays for stuff? I've got a list of some things that we thought of that
become a little bit nebulous. Because when kids are young it's... we're obviously paying the rent,
mortgage, groceries, clothes, all that sort of stuff. But when they get older,
who pays for an adult child's cell phone? Or their cell phone plan? Or their clothes?
Or the streaming platforms that inevitably get shared amongst all of us? Who covers medical
insurance, car insurance, cars, haircuts, therapy, or medical expenses? Who pays for college? Who
pays for houses and housing? These all become big questions as our kids become adults. So
anyway, we don't pretend to have all the answers but we are kind of deep into this where our kids
are all at various different stages. And so anything you want to share on this, Emily? Yeah. I just want to start off by saying there is not necessarily a right or wrong way. Once again,
1:32 Find What Fits Your Family
as parents, you're going to find the fit that is best for your family, your child, the season. And
maybe one of the points that's important to make is that it might not be the same for every child
that you have. It might not be that every child needs the same kind of support. Or maybe some
kids need more support than other kids. And so you will have to be the judge of that. But we do have
some ideas about how to make those decisions. So I think maybe I want to share a story about
2:10 How Emily Paid for College
paying for stuff and and how it's been different. For example, when I went to college,
I paid for my stuff. You know, I paid for my college tuition. I paid for my books. I paid
for my housing. My parents covered my flights back and forth coming home over the summer. And once
they moved to Europe that was an even better deal for them because then the military paid
for it. They always provided food once I came to the house. But, for me, paying my own way through
college was such a wonderful experience. One, to figure out that I could do it. That I could,
you know, work hard over the summers and work hard during the school year. And that felt great to me
because I felt really independent. And I didn't feel like I had to check back with my parents on
what classes I was choosing to take or how things were going. I could talk to them about how things
were going but I I never... I just felt like I was in control of my own life and I was so
happy. I remember I used to literally sing on my way walking home from work back to my dorm
every day because I loved calling the shots in my own life so much. I loved having my own money and
being able to pay for all the decisions that I was making – even when it was challenging and required
a lot of effort. I just thought, 'I love being able to do this on my own it's a good feeling.'
So that's one feeling. But I know your family had a completely different approach –also good. Yeah,
3:49 How Erik Paid for College
it was in a in a different way but they kind of were more of a like, 'school is your job.' Yeah. I mean my freshman year I remember I I paid for a lot of it. I mean I covered tuition. I was,
I was able to earn some scholarships which I was very proud of. When I was in high school my mom said, 'Your job is to be a student.' And I worked during summers but during the school year my job
was to be a good student. And that did pay off in terms of scholarships. So tuition was covered. My
parents helped me with covering living, living expenses you know dorm rooms and a food plan
4:25 Parental Support After Marriage
my freshman year. And then we got married shortly thereafter. By my sophomore year we were married.
And my parents said, 'You're on your own.' They said, 'Now, you, you kind of you crossed the line
and now you're paying for your own stuff because you're married. So you're gonna pay for your own housing. You're going to pay for your own tuition and transportation.' All that sort of stuff and
I think they did still you know flew us home for Christmas and things like that. And so,
for our part, I feel like we've sort of followed a similar model where our kids have paid for their
5:01 We Don’t Pay for Our Kids College
own college. We don't save up for that. Yeah. That's true. That's unusual about us. that when we
talk to financial planners they're like well how many kids do you have and blah blah blah let's get into it here's how much you need to save and we're like we paid for ourselves and we believe they can
also do that. And that's not one of the things that we're going to save for. Not just because
we, you know, don't want to help our kids. But because we felt so good –everything we were able
to do on our own. And when our we got married and the parents said like, 'Hey, you're doing
your own life. Like, we're excited for you. We believe in you. You can do this.' We actually...
That's what we expected. That's what we anticipated and we thought when we made the decision to marry. And we also really appreciated that. And we stepped up. Yeah,
and we stepped up. And we took care of it and we never felt like we had to ask permission. Anyway
6:01 Strings Attached
this, this reminds me of something that Karina told us when she was in school. And she chose to
study film which was (this is our oldest) we were happy and excited about for her. And she told us
that some of her friends kind of had to study film on the down low because they didn't want their
parents to know what they were studying. Because they, sort of, because their parents were paying for school they were only allowed to to choose certain fields of study. Or they didn't think
their parents would be approving of a film degree or a music. Because I studied music, you know, they wouldn't, they wouldn't approve of something that seemed to have the less likelihood of being
lucrative. Or for whatever reason. We don't know. But that wasn't the only time she told us stories like that. We would often hear from our kids like thank you so much for letting me pay my
6:48 Thank You for Letting Me Pay My Way
own way and thank you so much for letting me make my own choices in life and you know once again I
heard another peer /colleague /friend at school tell me that their parents or their grandparents
is telling them no you can't study this or you have to do that. And and just kind of blowing our
minds. Obviously, from our viewpoint, we raised our kids to be independent. And they love feeling
capable and making their own decisions. And and so they would... Every time they heard of another
kid their age like an adult, a young adult who's living on their own and out of the house saying,
'Oh. I can't do that. I have to do this instead because the person who's paying for my life said
so.' They just were like, "Thank you so much. Thank you for letting me pay my own way." And and
I know that at all schools that's not reasonable. You know tuition rates are all over the map. And
so part of the decision was our kids knew that if, if they wanted to go to a school they could afford to pay for, that was a driving factor for them. And so like our oldest got scholarships just
like you. And that helped a ton. And then she worked to pay for her housing. Yeah, so so that
was different. I guess I want to back up just a little bit and say one of the things that we did to prep our kids for this...They didn't just like get accepted to college and we were like, 'Well,
good luck with that.' We didn't spring it on them. We let them know since they were little like, 'We think it's a great idea. We had a good experience. We paid for it ourselves. We
believe you'll be able to do that, too.' So they knew going in that we weren't planning to cover
expenses for college. So we've driven them out before. And we'll fly them back and forth. Drove them out to college not driven them out of the house. We've driven them out of the house. Yeah,
8:35 Teaching Kids Personal Finance
we've never done that. We're always like, 'Come back. Come stay with us. Come play with us.' But another thing that was really really helpful was, from the time they were very little, we had them
track their money. And we knew that when they were in school they weren't going to be taught about personal finance and so we made that... We took on that responsibility. And decided we
would teach them. So when they were very little we would give them a dollar a week. And we're like, 'We're only going to give it to you if you ask for it because, if you can't remember to ask for it,
then you might not want it that bad.' And at a certain point, it got ridiculous. They were like I don't want the dollar. This dollar is insulting. I can make all this money on my
own. I can you know go add some value somewhere else. But it was mostly an exercise in –here's my
money book and then it graduated.. they had to notate it. Every...The day they got it, the amount. And then we would sign our initials next to it. They got used to tracking their money.
To track their money. And then as they got older we read some finance books with them and made sure
they understand the principles. And then they Erik always taught them how to do a balance sheet. So this is one of the things that I love. Our oldest, when she was in college she would say like, 'Oh,
things just feel kind of overwhelming. I feel a little frazzled. I need to get myself in order.' And then she'll call back later and say like, 'Okay, I did my balance sheet for the month.
I know where I am. I feel better now.' And she goes. 'My bookkeeping is done.' Yeah. 'My bookkeeping's done.' And it was so funny because she said, 'A lot of my friends will want to take
a shower and get on a cute new outfit or get a haircut and then they feel better.' She's like,
'But, for me, I just feel better once I know my books are in order.' Yeah. Okay,
so we've talked a little bit about college and college tuition and college expenses. Again, no right or wrong answer there. I think lots of good loving parents pay for their kids' college.
10:26 What Strings Do You Attach?
I think one question that's worth considering is: When you pay for stuff, what strings are you
attaching, if any? And if you say, 'I'm going to pay for your college education...' First of all,
in our home, college is optional. If you know if you're paying for college, are you also
saying that only applies to certain fields of study? Or does your adult child have the liberty
to choose what they want to study with those funds? That's just a question. Yeah. And so again
I think whenever a child, an adult child, feels that they have an expanding menu of choices and freedom to act
their confidence grows. I want to go back to what you said about college being optional because I know that's maybe going to feel pretty shocking to some people. To some people. And if you're one
of those people, that's totally fine. You can feel however you want to feel about that. But, for us,
education is not optional. Ongoing learning is a deep part of our family culture and
ideals and always learning. And we just live in a time where college can be a bottleneck.
And there are so many other ways to learn and expand and continue progressing and improving
and growing. And to make money. And to make large sums of money a college degree is not required if
money is your driving factor. In fact we've hit a tipping point where, in many cases, college makes
you more poor because it costs so much. You take on so much debt. And then it doesn't...the skill
sets that you gain there aren't, you know, able to overcome that, so. Anyway. So let's go to some
12:13 Cell Phones
smalle,r smaller ticket items like clothes and cell phones and stuff. Let's... let me talk about
cell phones for a second. We've paid for all of our kids phones and phone plans until they are...
I'm gonna say... I don't know. We're still paying for all of them right now. Oh no. No, no, no we're not. Wo until our kids... When our kids graduate from college or begin
working full-time I will say that's when I'm like, 'Hey you are welcome to stay on our family plan
if you want to chip in. So now our oldest Karina chips in for her cell phone and cell phone plan.
Like she pays for her whole portion. Yeah, like I mean like she pays her portion of the bill.
Our daughter Allison, who just got married, I said, 'Hey you can do it just like Karina where you stay on our plan and you pay your portion or you and your husband might want to get your own
plan. Either way is fine with us. They're going to go get their own plans. So she'll be coming off of our plan. Totally fine. We don't care what they do in that sense. But we want them to start paying
that for their own bills whether we're sort of... we're being reimbursed or whether we're, you know,
just turning it over to them. So that's how we're handling cell phones. I'd be curious how other people are handling that. I think it brings up an interesting point. Because, when we were growing
up, there was no way that our parents could like pay for our phones. There was no phone plan. There were no cell phones. That wasn't a thing. There weren't streaming platforms. There weren't like
family share. None of those things even existed so we've never seen how our parents would handle
that. We don't have a lot of modeling. Yeah. It just wasn't a thing. And so that's one where we have to decide like, How do we want to handle this? And what's going to work best for our
family, for our kids? Okay, let's go to an easier one that's been fairly timeless: clothing. Yeah.
And because what I've observed... I'm almost never the one buying clothes for our kids. We've always
paid for their clothes when they were younger. But what I've seen is they when they enter the the teenage years, they start to like the idea of buying their own clothes. Because they're
kind of like, 'Hey, you know like I get I have a hundred percent choice.' Because when we're paying sometimes we're like, 'I'm not buying you that. That's not very versatile.' Yeah. Yeah. What...
for whatever reason, we'll say, 'I'm actually not paying for that.' And so we we're pulling some we have some strings attached. But once they're able to just go out and buy a jacket or a pair of
jeans or a t-shirt that they like they feel pretty cool. And I and a lot of our kids have gotten into
thrifting I think because of this. They like to go to thrift stores because they see how much further
their money can go. And you get unique stuff that nobody else is wearing. It's for their own style.
Yeah. So and I mean I'm curious, Emily, as the mom. As the one that's kind of been over this area what has been your your take on this? Well, one of the things I thought came really full circle for
me this past year as our oldest is is now working full time at her post college job. It's something
that she really loves. And and she's supporting herself in all the ways and and doing well.
And she was out shopping just at a regular store and she found something that she thought I would
like. And she bought me a dress. And I was like, 'Oh, I think this is the first time that I've
had a child buy something for me.' And then she just wanted to give it to me as a gift. She knew I would love it. I offered to pay for it because I did. I was like, 'Oh, thank you for finding this,'
because I don't go out in the stores as often as she does. And she was like, 'No no. It's a
gift for you.' And I thought, 'Okay, that's pretty cool.' Okay that's going full circle.
So that's one of the things. And the kids who care less about fashion it's different, right? Because
our three oldest were girls. And they cared a lot about that. And now I have a son who I'm saying,
'That has holes and stains and you need to throw it in the garbage can right now and stop wearing it,' you know. And so it's actually, again, as a parent, this is a different scenario. Where,
for him, buying clothes, whatever? He'd rather wear them till they wear out. But when he bought
his own pair of Converse Chucks... Oh, he loved them. He felt like a rock star. And I think took
great pride in putting those on because he knew that he paid for them. He got to choose the color, the cut, everything. And it was a pretty big moment when he opened those up and put them
on. Yeah. And it might seem odd because we were going straight to clothes where it might seem like the the thing to talk about would be cars and car insurance and gas. But because we raised our kids
in New York City, cars were not the thing. We had one car for our family. And we drove it one
to two times a week. And none of them were even legally allowed to drive in the city until they turned 18. So they were usually gone by the time and get their license somewhere else. So
the cars were less of an issue. We've only just, in the last year or two, had kids driving cars at
all. And we're just about to have our first kid, who's living at home, get a license. And move into
living in a place where driving a car would be a regular thing. So should we talk about cars
for a second? Yeah, let's do it. Okay, so when I was growing up – when I turned 16 – I bought
my first car. And while I was in high school living at home I stayed on my parents insurance, car insurance. Then, once we moved out and we were married, well, we didn't have a car.
We we just didn't have... I had a bicycle and eventually we bought a car. And that was all us
at that point. We and so you did not... remind me, you did not buy your first car? I had use
of a car that was a family car. And was like I'm in charge of getting everybody to school. I have
to drive siblings around or run errands but I didn't... I paid gas but I didn't pay for the
car and I didn't pay for insurance. Okay, and I paid for gas. And I think I don't remember
paying into insurance but I was responsible for all my own repairs and maintenance and upgrades
because it was a bit of a beater car. I had an old car but I can't think of a single time that
it ever we ever did anything besides change the oil, which we did ourselves. So we learned car
maintenance. I did. I took auto mechanics. My dad taught me a little bit of that as well. So, okay. So we did our some of our own maintenance. Okay, but now, for example, one of our daughters
she bought her own car and she she wanted to take a loan out to buy it which we're happy to do. But
she paid for it and I co-signed on the loan with her. But she's making all the payments, covering
her own insurance, gas, everything. And that was even while she was in college. Yeah, so that's one
way. And she shipped it out to Hawaii and back again. And she paid for all that for all that.
And then Karina she had use of our cars while she was living at home but then once she was done with
school and working she bought her own car. And we had nothing to do with it. She just bought it all herself. Well we told her you're gonna have to buy your own car and we recommended our favorite auto
dealer who helped her out and gave her a good deal but she we did not co-sign on along with her. So
she bought that car. And then for other kids that are at home, we're just letting them use... when
we moved to Utah we... Well, I guess California on our way to Utah we bought cars. And we had more
than one for the first time. And we let our kids use those and we cover their –while they're living at home or in school –we're helping them cover their insurance costs. Yeah. And I would say,
since you bring up, that we got more cars. Like this was a situation where, actually, we're
adults. We have adult kids. And our parents helped us out. Because my parents wanted to buy new cars
and they said, 'Hey, I know you guys just left the city and now you suddenly need three cars. Three
cars instead of one. And we have a couple of cars that we know we are not going to sell for a big
profit that would make a huge difference to you. So if you just want to buy them for a dollar..." So two of them we bought for a dollar. And the other one we bought for a high-end like within
the Blue Book high end of the Blue Book range. Yeah. Later, down the road, after I wrecked our van. Okay. Okay. But I guess that's just an example of parents help even though we're in our
late 40s. Our parents are still part of our lives. And we're... as we're their adult kids and they're
helping us. And we felt like that was a good... They felt like that was fair to just sell us their cars. They didn't have to deal with getting rid of them and we took them for a dollar. We felt like
20:51 Buying Our House
it was hugely generous on on their part. Yeah. We were grateful. Same going into the house that
we just bought. They, you know, we bought it from a family member. And we're able to talk to family members. To get counsel, advice, and how to proceed. And like do you want to sell to
us or somebody else? These are... This is what we can do. And and it was really nice to be able to
have all people who cared about each other at the table making those decisions. And saying,
'Look, if you don't want to sell to us we get it. We're gonna be fine. If you do, we'd love to work
something out.' And it did. So I think it might be important here to just tell that there's always...
that relationship is always coming up about money. And money and family can always be tricky. And so
it's important to have good communication and be really patient and humble and be grateful.
And if you're not feeling grateful that's a good... it's a red flag that's a good sign that you want to look underneath of that and see what's going on. I know you
had some thoughts. I just want to go back to houses real quick because we've seen, you know, amongst our extended family, situations where houses are purchased
by parents, by parents for adult children. Credit card bills are paid off. Cars. College.
Therapy. You know, all kinds of stuff. And so in some cases these go well. In some cases it doesn't
go well. And I don't know that there's one magic formula. Like you said at the beginning, each
family is going to be different. And within each family, each child is going to be different. And I think one of the challenges is that as we see kind of this different treatment amongst siblings
or between your family and my family. Or between my siblings or your siblings. It's kind of like, 'Uh, hey, shouldn't there be like a standard here?' And I think there should be some standards
but I think every parent has the right to do what they want with their own money. I totally agree. Whenever we see in-laws treating children or parents or parents in-law treating
children/ adult children differently in a financial sense, we just say like,
'There doesn't have, doesn't have to be equal. And it's their money. And they get to make the decisions.' And we feel that way about our money, as well. What I do think is –you recommended some
23:21 One Standard - Clarity
there being some standards– and I do think that one standard that should be the same. I would love
for you if you disagree with this to let me know your reasoning behind that: clarity. The standards
should be clarity. That we are clear on what I'm providing, what you're receiving, and at least
knowing what that means. And what that means. And if you're borrowing money, we expect it to be paid back and this is the timeline and this is the amounts. Whatever that is. Or we're giving you
this money and we don't expect it to be paid back or you can pay it back if you want. But have it
be clear. And oftentimes that means putting it in writing. Yeah. Especially when it comes to, 'Hey, if it's in an email or...' Yeah, whatever. Having that be clear and being able to say to other kids,
'Hey everybody's not the same. And I want to help you in ways that are good for you. And
I'm going to help this child in ways that are good for this child in our family.' Here it's
easy because our youngest daughter has Down syndrome. And so none of the other kids are expecting that they're going to get the same kind of support in adult life as our youngest child is
going to be getting an adult life. They're like, 'Of course, that's what we want. We would think it was weird if you did it any other way.' You know, but there's communication. There's clarity.
We talk about it. And so cultivating those relationships, making sure that you have that
Relationship Reservoir full. And if it isn't you can start now by being more clear. 'Hey,
sorry I haven't been more clear before. I realize how important it is. I want to be clear.' And I
think a place we've seen this –not just with money generosity but other resources– 'Yes,
we'd love to help you get on your feet by letting you live in our house where you save up for a
down payment. Or that's one I hear a lot then. Or. 'Yes, we'll co-sign that with you.' And maybe for
one child you'll say, yes. And for another you'll say, no. And it doesn't have to be the same. But... Yeah. But you're like, 'Oh, if you're going to live in in my house then let's be clear about
how long is this going to last. How are we going to share the space. How are we... What are the expectations? We're going to share this the fridge space, the bathroom shelves? It's gonna be like
what's the level of cleanliness or tidiness that we can accommodate? Or who's..? Are you
going to pay for your own groceries but just stay in our space? Are you going to help pay utilities? Or... It doesn't matter what it is that you decide, how you decide to do it or...
It just has to be clear. If you're saying, 'Oh, I'm going to move in with two children.' Does
that mean I now assume I have built-in babysitting because Grandpa's retired? No, it means that you
need to have a conversation about that. Come to an understanding and get clear. And maybe even get it in writing. So here are two things, that for me, have been takeaways on this subject. One, is in
26:15 Resentment = Red Flag
the process of handling who pays for what – Am I do I feel resentful? Or do I feel good about the
things that I'm paying for? And, for me, if if I'm starting to feel resentful, that's an indication
to me that I need to have a conversation. First, you and I should have a conversation. Yeah. The couple – the married couple. And then we need to have a conversation with our
kids. So if I'm feeling resentful about paying for everyone's cell phones then we need to say, okay,
that's something that needs to now be surfaced and discussed and decided. And another so anyway...
Just, if you're feeling resentment, that, I think, is a clear indication that that needs to be looked
at and addressed in some way. And interestingly enough, sometimes the person who's receiving
the resource feels resentful. Okay, we have to. Okay, so if you've seen the movie, Sabrina, there's... Ohm this was a sleeper. It's an old move and... It was a remake. Yeah,
it's a remake of a classic. And there's a rich brother who works and earns all the money and kind of like pays for the family's life. And then there's the freeloading brother who just is trying
to figure things out. And so they're having this fight. And Linus is the freeloader and... I think
is a David is the. No. Linus is the Harrison Ford character and then he is like a very successful
investor a businessman. And then David did a gap ad. David's the little brother. He doesn't stick
with any school or instrument or girl. Yeah, so how does the dialogue go? So Linus says to David,
"My life makes your life possible.' And David says, "I resent that." And Linus says,
"So do I." So there can be resentment, resentment both ways – from the person that's receiving and
sort of being benefited financially and the person who's sort of providing all the money– there can
be resentment in both directions. We've seen this in in real life in our, you know, amongst people
that we know where the generous person and the receiving person can both be mad about it. Yeah.
Because the receiving person might feel like the generous person is the controlling person. Right. Yeah. And it's so... it's it can be in a crazy dynamic that you might not always expect. So
one thing to watch for is –Am I feeling resentful about this? And then –am I empowering this person
or am I making this person feel entitled or am I actually holding this person back from growing or
enabling? Am I enabling, empowering or enabling, this person? Yeah. That's right. Am I empowering
or enabling? And it is really surprising but when there's a communication of gratitude it actually
goes a really long way... Yeah. To reducing resentment on both sides. Like the person,
the person who's doing the giving might just be like, 'I'm, you know, here's how I feel about you. And here's why I want to help. And this is what I want to see for you. I'm just so grateful that
you're in my life and and I want good things for you that could go a long way.' And the reverse, obviously, as well, like, 'Hey, I really appreciate you helping me out in this season.
It's not going to last forever. We're gonna make it through this whatever. And but I I just love
you and I appreciate this,' That goes a long way. So, again, for me the the standard is
clarity and communication. And when we can pour a little gratitude on top of that clarity, it just
makes the whole thing so much better. Good stuff. Okay, we do not pretend to have all the answers on
this subject. So we're just discussing it. But if you have things that you're you're doing that have worked well for you or that you know of, we'd love to, or if you have additional questions;
if you're watching this on YouTube put them in the comments, we'd love to hear from you there. Or if you're listening to the podcast, go to our Instagram or Facebook and just shoot us a message
or post a comment somewhere. We'd love to hear what's, again, what's working. What ideas you
have? Or, you know, if there's other topics that you think would be good for us to discuss. So look forward to having the conversation with you there. Anything else before we wrap up on this? I think
that I'm just so grateful for you and I appreciate your generosity and having this conversation. Even
though we we don't have all the answers because the situations will change, it's good to always
be communicating. Yeah. I agree. Okay, so a couple things as we wrap up, please rate, review, and
subscribe if you find this interesting, helpful. Or you know something that you'd like to see more of
in the world. And also, if you haven't already, go to theawesomefactory.nyc forward slash Discovery.
We would love to chat with you one-on-one. We love doing Discovery calls helping you discover what's
possible in your life. You know, what is your What If...? We want to help you make your midlife more
meaningful. So anyway, thanks for listening to What Could Go Right? Tune in next time, thanks.