Boomerang Drain: Can an Adult Child Derail your own Financial Goals?

Contributed by: Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD Tim Wyman

You’ve raised your children, launched them out into the world, and cut the purse strings, right? For many of us, the answer is no. Financially caring for those that left the nest but not the wallet is a sensitive subject, but a real one when it comes to planning for your own retirement. The National Center for Policy Analysis reports that more than half of parents of 18 to 39 year olds are providing some support:

59% of baby boomer parents financially support their adult children, often paying living expenses, medical bills and student loans.

For most of us, there is a relatively set amount of money/cash flow to work with.  If we spend more on financial support for adult children, this leaves less for other areas such as travel and/or saving. This is not making a judgment if such support is right or wrong. It is just math. 

Tactics for Setting Goals and Boundaries

If you find yourself wanting to provide financial support, consider setting both goals and boundaries.  Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What expenses are you willing to contribute?
  2. How long do you want to contribute? 
  3. What are the expectations of your child?

In the past, I have worked with clients that have decided to provide financial support to their “boomerang” child.  They were glad that they were in the financial position to do so and acknowledged that some of their own plans were being put on hold because of their choice.  The parents set a 2-year window for their child, a son in this case, and laid out their expectations. It looked something like this:

  • They decided they were willing to pay for their adult child’s rent and car for 3 months at 100%
  • The next three months they covered 50% of the rent
  •  After that, the child was fully responsible for the payment

 The plan worked out well for all of them and now mom and dad are back to enjoying the empty nest years.

More Retirement Goal Drains

Boomerang drain is just one of the pitfalls or obstacles to avoid if you want your empty nest years feel like being, “In college, only with money.” Many of us simply don’t make the time to plan what we want your empty nest years to be (here are my tips on that). Another obstacle can be debt, which doesn’t have to be a four-letter word.  Managing the use of credit is an important component to building and maintaining wealth and having flexible cash flow to accommodate travel or ramping up your savings for retirement. For more strategies on managing debt, click here.

When it comes to reaching retirement goals, I’m a where there’s a will, there’s a way kind of person. Is the glass half full or half empty? I prefer it filled to the rim with a napkin underneath to catch any potential drips. We all face challenges in retirement planning. The important part is overcoming those challenges by filling that glass to overflowing … and I’ve seen many clients do it over the years. If you are an empty nester facing any of these potential drains on your goals, talk to your financial planner. 

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and is a frequent contributor to national media including appearances on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4 News and published articles including Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), trained and mentored hundreds of CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.


This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Timothy Wyman, CFP® and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.