In the summer of 1982 the world stood still in the Rust Belt of the United States. The economy sputtered, stalled and then declined in the second leg of a double-dip recession that sent the unemployment rate to the levels last seen in The Great Depression.
In this economic void a future accountant was finding his way as he came of age in the early summer of that year. Working on a family farm in its last death throes, our wayward accountant was there in those last few months before the bankruptcy became final.
With most of the animals gone and the fields untended, our hero and his uncle, Daryl, filled their days with 500 Rummy and throwing darts at a dartboard of a picture of the Ayatollah Khomeini (Google it).
After the farm gasped its last breath, our hero worked in his dad’s business repairing silos. Anything to put food on the table. The pay wasn’t good. But anything above zero had its appeal.
The unsung hero, the listless future accountant, felt trapped. In the county he lived there were no jobs available. Employers would not even waste the paper to take your application. The answer was NO!
A way of life, farming, was no longer an option. Working in dad’s business was not appealing at any level, but the only choice at the moment. Turning a wrench in a business not his own was not a life he could foresee enjoying.
As the economy slowly climbed out of the economic malaise of the early 1980s, our hero quietly built several businesses. He sold imported goods at any retail outlet that would take his junk, ah, I mean products. He also prepared tax returns for other employees and vendors of his dad’s firm.
After four years he amasses enough wealth, thanks to a soaring stock market supercharging his savings, to strike out on his own, away from the family business. He bought a car, a mobile home (hey, it was mine at least) and moved out. I was 22. (Notice the change in perspective in the story.)
By 1986 dad’s firm was growing and profitable. Hard work separated us from subsistence. The future accountant was now doing enough tax work to technically say he was an accountant, rather than a future accountant. A small steady income and a modest nest egg allowed our heroes eyes to wander to the horizon. And it was a crisis on the home front.
Living at Home
My story of early adulthood has many similarities to those growing up in the Upper Midwest of the U.S. at the time. Farm life was different from city living, of course. But the hardship was still significant.
There was a massive diaspora of my high school class after graduation. Jobs were far away and if you wanted to start your adult life, travel was required. When the economy improved many came back to our rural community. It is hard to take the country from the boy.
The year I turned 18 was the worst year economically in the U.S. since the early 1930s, with my home town dead center of the disturbance.
Growing up on a farm had its advantages. We always had food and while we were poor, we always had something to do. The best part is I grew up with my extended family. My grandparents, uncles and nuclear family all snuggled on our family farm bought by great-great-grandpa Accountant when he moved to the U.S. from Germany in the 1880s.
Now the way of life was gone.
Back in those days the question this post title asks was simpler. If you grew up on a farm your would never really ever move out. And unless the kids were violent you never kicked them out.
Farm life in the U.S. is such a small subset these days it is hard to provide guidance on this issue for them. For the vast majority, in these much better economic times, the lament of many a parent is: When do I kick the kids out?
Kids were a massive benefit on the farm. In town it is a different story. Fewer chores mean the extra hands are not a necessity. Once the kids can fend for themselves, they become a burden. At least financially.
Missing the Kiddos
Parents sometimes find it hard to detach from the kiddos after they reach adulthood. If the kids are not kicked out on their 18th birthday they start to settle in. It then gets harder to pry them out the door at a later date.
Kicking the kids out is always a difficult discussion sure to raise dander. Do you consider the economy before giving the kids a firm deadline to vacate the premises? Do you allow for a certain level of resources (job, savings, accumulation of pots, pans and blankets) before the decision is made?
When I was 18 I was scared to death to move out because the economy was so bad. Four years later, with a good economy and some personal resources, I was out the door of my own volition.
That created a crisis. Dad needed the help in the business. Finding employees with a farm boy work ethic was difficult by 1986. Both mom and dad enjoyed having the extended family together. Those farm roots are hard to break.
Buying a car meant freedom and that triggered the crisis. Dad knew I would be gone soon now in possession of my own vehicle. It all ended well, however. I left, built a life of my own, and returned frequently. The family expanded for the better.
I suspect many parents don’t encourage their kids to leave sooner for the same reason. You love your kids and will miss them, annoying as they can be at times. There is also something disturbing about looking down the maw of being an empty-nester. As a parent of two adult daughters I keenly feel this emotion.
It might not be healthy for children to stay living with parent too far into their 20s. At some point they need to start their own life. Things are always tough starting out. Money is tight and expenses high. There are significant advantages to living at home with mom and dad.
Knowing the right time to prod the younglings out is more art than science. Too soon and they could catastrophically fail; wait too long and they become institutionalized.
I have seen many young people forced out at a young age and the problems it creates. With nowhere to go they settle for whatever keeps a roof over the head and food on the table. That frequently leads to disastrous results.
I also see many parents in my office with older kids still living at home (upper 20s, 30s and older). There is usually some disappointment their children have not moved on.
My oldest daughter is looking down upon her 25th birthday soon and the youngest is 19. I have strongly encouraged the oldest to consider moving out. However, serious medical issues have had me encouraging her to stay at home where it is cheaper to live and there is a built in support group in case she needs emergency medical help.
The youngest still has time to decide. At 19, and also with serious medical issues, she is still finding her way and building wealth while she decides.
Both girls have jobs and help around the house. There are no drug, alcohol or other inappropriate behavior to concern us. Having the girls at home gives the home a full feeling.
When the Kids Must Move Out
Yes, you will miss the kids when they move out, but you will adjust to your new freedom. And odds are they will come back often, seeking your advice and for companionship.
However, you must insist the kids move out at a certain point or you will harm them, perhaps irreparably. They can’t truly grow up until they are on their own.
You bounce better when you are young. Struggle is a natural part of growing up, moving out and finding your way in the world. There will be scars. That is the natural order of things.
It hurts. Life hurts! You fought through the difficulties when you were young. It is how you got where you are. A bird never learns to fly sitting around in the nest.
There are a few exceptions. My daughters have medical issues that have me second-guessing my advice. (More about this in the Thanksgiving Day special post.)
As parents, you know if your kids are better at home for a bit longer or if they should move out. There are instances where it would be unsafe to have your kids on their own.
But don’t let that cloud your judgment. The medical or other issues need to rise to a level where holding your kids back (allowing them to stay living at home) is the only viable option. Lazy is not a medical condition.
Your kids also need to see the real world and how it works. Earning an income, paying bills, buying a home, investing and building their own family happens out there away from their childhood home. Mom and dad are always a phone call away for help, moral support and advice.
The best thing for you and your children is to move them out as soon a they are able. (Notice I didn’t say ready.)
Here are guidelines to help you decide when it is time to move the kids out:
- College: College is expensive enough, but it is still a good time for the kiddos to spend time out on their own. Lessons you shared with them as they grew up will hold them in their stead. If they are ready for college they are probably ready to live away from their parents. Just make sure they are moving into a safe environment as 18 is a tough age to strike out on your own.
- Age 25: After college (if they attended college) the kids sometimes move back home as they transition to a new job and/or family life. By age 25 most kids should be encouraged to see the world solo or with a significant other. Remember, they can’t really start their life until they leave home.
- Money: Finances are a consideration. Out in the world bills accumulate automatically while income takes effort. Starting out there are few reserves to take the kids through a rough spot. Parents have resources accumulated over a lifetime. The kids are starting at Day 1 in their wealth accumulation adventure. Hopefully they got a mild head start saving and investing while still living under your roof.
- Health: This is always a difficult decision. My oldest daughter would be on her own by now if not for serious medical issues. We still insisted she live in a dorm while attending college. Once her health improves she will be required to move out.
- Keep an open line: The kids moving out is not a funeral! Make sure your child understands you are always there for them. Be slow to enable when financial difficulties arise, as they always do for the young. They need to learn to fight their way through it. You can always provide moral support and guidance. When the chips are down the kids listen to mom and dad better than ever. Who ever knew mom and dad knew so much?
- Visit: Just as moving out is not a funeral, it isn’t a divorce either. You get to talk to each other as much as you want. When I left the nest at the ripe old age of 22 I came home every Sunday to spend with family. The days and time have changed when visiting happens, but there is still a lot of visiting (and card games). I get along better than ever with my folks. As a kid I needed to break away. Having broken away I feel a strong affinity to extended family. It is the way things are supposed to be.
- Safety net: While it is never a good idea to give your kids a free ride, helping out is one of the most important tasks remaining to a parent, or should I say, grandparent. I discourage bailing out the kids financially except in the most dire of circumstances. Medical would be an easy call. I’d help. But babysitting is a real benefit to all involved. The kids, now parents themselves, can avoid a major expense in childcare, while you get quality time with the grand-babies. The best part is that they go home at the end of the day. I’ve heard grand kids are better than kids. I’ll let you know once I find out. (Hint-hint, girls, if you are reading this.)
- Be firm: Some kids try to wedge themselves in tight. It is not healthy for all involved. You, as the parent, must be firm! At some point, the kids must move out. Do not enable poor behavior. They don’t know what they want or what is good for them. They will find it out there.
This may be the most important financial decision you help your kids make. Staying at home past curfew is a bad idea. I understand you will miss them. It still must be done.
The last part of parenting is watching your children grow and explore as adults. They will surprise you in so many ways. They with have tremendous failures and incredible successes.
My daughters have always amazed me. Their interests are so varied and so different compared to mine. Soon it will be time to open the cage door and insist they fly on their own. I gave them all I can teach them. Experience is the final teacher.
Your job is mostly done as a parent at this point. Now you can enjoy your kid’s successes and encourage them when they fall. You also have time to explore things that interest you that having kids didn’t grant the time for.
You also have more time for friends and that wonderful significant other you love.
It is a mark of a life well lived, seeing your children enter the real world. They are also the future. They will design it in ways we never dreamed of. That is what makes the world such a wonderful place.
More Wealth Building Resources
Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?
Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.
Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.
QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.
A cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.
Reaching financial independence requires a consistent set of skills and persistence. The habits that allowed you to amass a sizable nest egg don’t die just because you pass some arbitrary border. Education, job, and family life consume all your time in the beginning.
After college it is time to earn a living. After finding a job it is time to climb the ladder, all the while saving a massive percent of your income to reach your financial goals.
Family is a priority. A significant other and children take time and money. You increase your saving and investing skills. Raising a family is expensive only if you don’t know how to shop. You hit the rummage sales and thrift shops for kid’s clothing, toys, height chair, car seat and other stuff the youngsters will grow out of quickly. Later you sell the kid’s stuff for about what you paid for it at a rummage sale of your own, passing the same opportunity you had to another young couple.
And then it happens. Your hard work, intelligent spending and diligent saving pay off. You reached financial independence earlier than planned. Now you have another problem you never gave much thought to before: your legacy. If you reach financial independence early, how large will your net worth grow before you leave this world?
Thinking about your legacy when you are still in the building stages is hard. It requires looking into the eyes of the possible: early death. What happens if you die while the kiddos are still minors? A plan is needed. Even if the kids are grown, a plan of succession is necessary. And what if kids are not part of the picture? Then what happens to your legacy? Let’s explore the possibilities.
Ruining a Good Man
The worst thing you can do is have no plan. The second worst thing you can do is drop your entire net worth on your children the moment you are no longer there to provide guidance. The younger the children are the more damaging the impact of a sudden load of money falling in their lap will be.
Bill Gates is one of the richest people alive. He and his wife, Melinda, have stated they would not leave their entire fortune to their three children. The number commonly reported is $10 million. I think $10 million is still too much to leave to the kids.
The negative effects of large sums of money received by someone without the skills to manage it fill the newsfeeds. Sports figures, musicians and lottery winners are perfect examples of how often things go wrong when too much money shows up too quickly. There must be a better way.
Spread it Out
Money came fast for people like Bill Gates. Yet, somehow, Gates managed to remain productive without throwing his life away on cheap booze, wild women and drugs. It sounds funny to say it, but so many people who come into inherited money or fast riches via a sports contract give us ample examples of what will usually go wrong. For the sake of brevity I will refrain from too many examples. If you need more evidence just read the sports or entertainment news for three or four minutes. Shouldn’t take longer than that.
Many successful and wealthy business leaders handle the obligations of significant money better than other groups receiving a windfall. There is a reason for it. Much of the wealth business leaders acquire comes slower than you think. Most start out with very little money and build from the ground up. Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs all built from the ground up.
Money started pouring in for these men as their business plans grew and expanded. The difference between them and people gifted large sums of money is they had something to do and the money was more of an illusion. The net worth of a business owner is in large part the value of their company. Gates received a salary from his corporation and he held lots of stock in the company, a company without a dividend in those early days. Going on a four-year drug induced party was not in the cards.
My own story has a similar tone without reaching the lofty financial heights of the uber-rich. Coming from a poor family money was always a concern. Financial independence was a powerful dream. Then one day I tallied my net worth for the bank while seeking financing for a real estate purchase. I was floored when I saw the numbers. Even valuing my real estate and business conservatively, it was clear I crossed the seven figure threshold a while ago. I didn’t feel different! I kept thinking, This is it? I felt the same as I did yesterday and the day before. I did not feel rich. I felt like me; the way I always did.
And that is how larger nest eggs are formed. When you don’t walk around feeling and acting rich you continue to amass a larger and larger fortune. If you inherit a sizable sum before you earn any real wealth yourself you might actually feel rich and start acting it. This is the perfect formula to start destroying the legacy.
My Legacy Plan
My two daughters already know they are not getting dad’s stash. I think the $10 million Gates is giving his children is too much. There is no need to work or do anything of value if you have $10 million. Drop the whole thing into an index fund and you get $200,000 in dividends per year. Dividends grow about 7% a year, some years more, some years dividends drop, but the trend is consistently higher. And those dividends are qualified so they are taxed lower. I don’t know about you, but $200,000 is about eight times what I need to live a year.
My girls know from an early age dad is not giving them a free ride. Should I die early, my girls will not see a penny until they reach age 35. Then they get 1/15th per year to age 50. By that time if they haven’t figured it out I can’t help them. There are contingencies for a first-time personal residence purchase and for higher education. And I do mean limited: $10,000 for a first-time home purchase and no more than $10,000 for higher education. The education portion is limited to $2,500 per year and they must be full-time students to get it. The American Opportunity Credit could double that amount for them. The rest they need to find on their own. The first test of going to college is getting there. Dad footing the bill is not learning how to get to college.
There is one more point I forgot to mention. My girls will never see seven figures from their dad. One million each is as far as I will go. Even this is enough money to sit on your ass all day and end up a useless piece of protoplasm. The greatest legacy I can leave them is knowledge. This blog is part of that knowledge and part is the daily interactions and advice I give them. It is more than enough for them to achieve reasonable financial goals.
Life is More than Money
I hear you gasp! But it is true. Money is easy to get once you understand how it works in our capitalist society. Teaching spending habits is more important than ever as mass media gives the wrong answer consistently and insistently. The more commercial media you consume the poorer you will be.
It goes further. Once you reach a certain level of financial security you need to start living. For some this means traveling. Others want to continue growing their business. You may have a dream of helping people so work in a non-profit might be what lights your fire. Our differences are what make us stronger as a species. More money is not the driving force anymore.
If you hate your children drop your entire pile of money on them at once. The odds they will crash and burn rise exponentially. Your children will never need to learn or grow. Money will be there to pick up the pieces until either the money runs out or the drugs and alcohol takes their life. Regardless, their live will have been meaningless.
You love your children as I love mine. I want to protect them from harm. Therefore, I teach them how to fend for themselves, even if they hate me at the time for not funding their perceived dreams. They know I can snap my fingers and make it happen, but what has been learned then? Giving my kiddos experiences they can carry through life is far more valuable than any money I leave them. Money salves many wounds, but knowledge to do it on your own is a far more powerful a gift.
Where does the Money Go?
If only a fraction of my money goes to the kids, where does the rest go? For me, charities will receive the remainder of my legacy. My children are lucky. They were born in a home filled with love and possibilities. Not everyone is nearly as lucky. My life’s work will help more than just my children. My kids get a small fortune of cash and a massive fortune of knowledge. To those who do not have the same opportunity I leave you with the remainder of my financial legacy and this blog.
As ideas come to mind I will share my thoughts. I will not always be right. Parents can be that way. Clients ask these questions a lot so it is easy to keep a steady stream of posts related to wealth coming.
You and the girls will have to wait for your financial legacy. My legacy of experience and knowledge are here for you to read. The Wealthy Accountant is giving you your inheritance early.