How to talk to grown-up children about money

Conversations with children about money don’t stop when they become an adult. With the cost of living rising and the difficulty of getting onto the property ladder, perhaps they’re still living with you. Here’s how to help them become more financially independent.

Ask them to contribute to household expenses

If a grown-up child is living at home, getting them to contribute to the household finances is one way to help them towards a financially independent future.

Most grown-up children who are living at home will be doing so to save money. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re your financial responsibility. It’s important to talk to them about how they can help with living expenses.

Communicating clearly is really important. If you’ve never told them before, they may not even realise how much the financial support you give them costs you.

List the ways they can start to contribute. Then, together, create a plan with a start date to make this contribution a reality. Consider:

  • How much will they contribute towards the rent or mortgage each week – for example 20% or 30% of their wage?
  • What household bills will they contribute to and how much?
  • Are there any jobs that you might have paid someone else to do, such as redecorating the lounge, that they could do towards their share of the rent, mortgage or bills?
  • How will they contribute to any unexpected household expenses that crop up?

This will teach them about the importance of savings or a ‘rainy day’ fund.

To find out more, see our Emergency savings – how much is enough? guide.

Case study

“I was so cautious about asking Matt to start paying rent. As a single-parent family, we’ve always been extremely close, and I didn’t want to take that away by withdrawing financial support. After building up the courage to talk to him, I don’t know why it took me so long. He completely understood and apologised that I had to approach him about it. He admitted he had taken the financial support for granted because he had never known any different.” – Anne

Unlike Anne, you may hit some resistance. So have the financial facts handy to show why you’re having this conversation. Also, show you understand that money management can be difficult by offering to help them work out a way to budget for their household responsibilities.

Nudge them towards budgeting

Talk about the following subjects to help them start to think about their need to budget and how to approach budgeting:

  • Income versus outgoings.
  • Fixed expenses (such as household bills) versus discretionary expenses (such as entertainment).
  • Saving for wants (such as a holiday) versus emergency funds for needs (such as the car not passing the MOT).

Encourage them to complete a budget. This will show them what different items cost and how to better organise their own finances.

Our Budget Planner is a great place to start.

Help them overcome and avoid debt

Perhaps they’re facing debt, such as student loans or credit cards.

It might be tempting to bail them out, but this won’t help them in the long term. If you really want to help, teach them about financial responsibility:

  • Discuss the options for repaying current debts.

Share any experiences you might have with debt.

  • Discuss how to avoid debt in future.

If you do decide to help them financially, make sure it comes with conditions. For example, you could pay a percentage in exchange for something you need doing around the house. Or, if they don’t have a job, maybe you’ll pay off a percentage of their debt when they get a job.

For more information on debt, read our Taking control of debt guide.

Encourage career goals

If they don’t contribute financially because they don’t have a job, discuss their plans for getting one. And perhaps help them with their job search.

Even if they’re not working, it’s likely that they’ll have some kind of income, such as Universal Credit. This will, of course, mean you won’t be asking for as much financial contribution as you would if they were working. But you still have a right to ask for some contribution, however small.

Case study

After university and when Dan was still looking for a job, I felt guilty taking a contribution towards the rent from him. Thinking back, I am sure this is what prompted him to get on the career ladder more quickly. If he wanted a social life, he needed an income.” – Gwen

Put an end to financial abuse

Most grown-up children will willingly pay towards household costs when asked to. Sometimes, however, they can try to control your money. This is financial abuse.

Signs of financial abuse include:

  • demanding cash
  • taking out credit cards and/or loans in your name
  • making threats if you refuse to comply with their financial needs
  • becoming emotionally abusive about money.

When this happens, starting a conversation about money could put you at risk of emotional or physical harm. You may also feel isolated and afraid of speaking out about the abuse. You’re not alone – financial abuse is a criminal offence and there is help available.

To find out more about the signs of financial abuse and how to get support, read our guide on Protecting yourself against financial abuse.

More help with talking about money

For more ideas on how to help adult children, our How to talk about moneyopens in new window guide will help you get the money conversation started.

It includes tips on how to get a good outcome and what to do if you think the conversation may be tricky or doesn’t go as planned.

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