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Is 26 the new 18?

That’s what a Wall Street Journal headline asked earlier this month.  The question was prompted by the shocking (!!!)  revelation that 2 out of 5 parents pay for their adult children’s cell phone service, and 29 percent  to do so even after their kids have moved out  of the family home.

Boomerang kids are tied to parents by “digital apron strings,” allowing them to freeload on their cell phone, streaming music and video accounts.  While the article didn’t mention it, we know some parents may even give adult children their passwords to log onto paid online news sites and premium magazines!

The information was gathered in a WSJ-Harris Interactive poll of 620 parents with adult children 18- to 35-year-old children.

The reason cited most often was saving money.  WSJ columnist Sue Shellenbarger noted that it can cost “two to four times” more to be on a solo rather than family cell plan.

So does it make sense to pay your adult child’s phone bill? Yes…and it also   makes sense for that adult child to write a check to you once or twice a year to pay for the bill.  Of course, many under-25 adults are in their first, low-paying jobs and may still need some financial help.

Is it so terrible to pay their cell bill if they are struggling with rent and other expenses?  Many of the commenters seemed to think so on a related post at MSN.com. One noted: “These kids will be spending their mother’s social security checks.” Another chimed in “I think these parents are idiots and the kids are moocher.”   Even the host on the Wall Street Journal video asked if these “digital clingers” should discover that “learning to pay those bills when you turn 18 is part of growing up.”

Apparently it’s now politically correct to poke and prod parents who don’t cut the financial and emotional ties to their young adults. Despite the extensive media coverage of “emerging adults” and the longer journey to full independence in the 21st century, parents who don’t push the young birds out of the nest (literally and figuratively)  are subjected to snide comments. Often the comments are by people over 50 with a “in-my -day” attitude.  As noted in a previous post, the new normal is a longer path to getting a job, establishing a career, and becoming fully independent.

Do you think it’s a parenting mistake—a way of keeping tethered to your adult child—to pay the cell phone bills for a new grad or even to pay the bill (and expect repayment) for a more situated young adult?

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