I honestly believe that a parent's job is to raise their kids then set them loose upon society. Once they graduate high school, they should have the tools to suceed.
After that, the parent has to let them live their lives. Talk to them and be supportive, but don't intervene anymore, financially or any other way. They're going to have hard times and they might even fail, but a parent has to let them work their way out of it.
An important note is that there are times when it is okay to intervene, financially or otherwise. A child can sometimes go out and get into some pretty serious trouble. An abusive spouse or other bad situation can be difficult to overcome. In that instance, rescue them, get them back on their feet, but let them give life another shot. Don't try to hide them from the world, it won't work.
I'd like to add that my financial tap only has a drip coming out of it. *laughing* My wife and I have already told the kids they need to figure out how to make it on their own . . . oh, and if they do become successful, they are more than welcome to move us into their mansion.
Personally, I believe the best way is to never start...even when kids are very young, it's important to instill in them that money doesn't come for nothing. Even at young ages, children can be given opportunities to do extra chores and things that will earn them a little bit of money for the things they want. As kids get older, fewer and fewer things are provided to them without them expressly working for it. I really like the way my mom did it with my sister and I...once we were old enough to have jobs, she provided a roof, food, and sufficient clothes from the local thrift shop. Anything we wanted beyond that, we had to work for. As a result, by the time we had our own bills to look after we already had a good work ethic, and it was just a continuation of something we were already used to. There was never any talk of parents paying for cars, college, or anything else...we had to work hard and make our own way through loans, scholarships, and more. We learned the value of a dollar well, and have never even been tempted to fall into the credit card traps and such that so many fall into who learned financial management too late.
That said, I'm guessing by the wording in your question that your kids are already older, so my personal opinion is that it's time to start drying up that tap right away. Once they're used to it, it can't just be taken away all at once, but gradually let them know what you won't be providing anymore while giving them the advice and tools they need to learn how to provide it for themselves.
Thanks for the answers...the question is one that I have revisited many times in regards to my clients rather than my own kids. I am still amazed at the attitudes of people in their twenties, thirties, and even forties who don't think twice in assuming their parents will fund their entire college education, first car, first house, etc.
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