My son is 27 years old. He’s very smart. He scored a 32 on his ACT test without cracking the book.
However, he can’t manage life. He blew up the motor on his car because he didn’t change the oil. He didn’t fix the sunroof, so water leaked into the car. He doesn’t like his bank, yet he can’t manage to change banks. When his health insurance ran out under our plan, he didn’t sign up with his employer.
He has been living with his father and stepmother for the last few years in a house that they own. He pays half of the bills in the house, despite six adults living there. His stepmom has access to his bank account. She transfers money and pays bills with his account. His stepmom was caught embezzling from a local club a couple years ago. Obviously, I am very concerned.
My son lost access to his bank account. He can’t manage to get his account log-in reset. Furthermore, he doesn’t even have a room at his dad’s house; he sleeps on his couch. I have advised him that the amount at most should be divided by the number of adults in the household equally (even if the others don’t work) and he should only pay that portion.
My son agrees that he is likely being taken advantage of. But he has taken no action. He is resistant to me helping. I have offered to be a payee or power of attorney. But he says he can handle it on his own. I even suggested a six-month trial with me or someone else helping him out.
I still have a little money left over from what I saved for him to attend college. Could I offer it to him as an incentive to take the steps to financial independence? I am at a loss on how to help him. I am worried about his stepmom cleaning his account out. Should I talk to his dad? Any other suggestions?
Standing on the Sidelines
Tell his father that your son needs help, and that this living situation is untenable. But from what you say, your father and his wife and their crowded household appear to be part of the problem. Don’t rely on him for help, and don’t delay your plans to help your son because of his father.
Throwing money at the problem will only indirectly reward your son for being a procrastinator, while being overly critical will only serve to compound his anxiety, or whatever factors may have made him unable to take action.
Anxiety-related procrastination is a cycle that gets worse over time. It’s not related to laziness or being a bad person or being incapable of doing ordinary tasks; it’s a kind of paralysis that builds up. The more things you haven’t done, the more stuck in the mud you become.
“‘Throwing money at the problem will only indirectly reward him for being a procrastinator, while being overly critical will only serve to compound his anxiety.’”
Tell your son that he is smart, and there is a way out. Tell him he is kind and compassionate, and will do anything for other people, but he needs to have boundaries because not everyone will meet him halfway. Some people will take advantage of his good nature.
Instead of giving him money, pay for therapy for him, and bookend the therapy by driving him there and/or meeting him for coffee and meeting him for lunch or dinner afterwards. That will help ensure he attends, but will also give him the sense that he is secure and supported.
The two top priorities are his living situation and bank account. Your son would not be the first person to become overwhelmed with the seemingly endless cycle of being told he has the wrong username or password. Only his cell number should be connected to that account.
A financial therapist is another good option here: They deal with managing and budgeting your finances, and also managing and controlling your anxieties. Anxiety can manifest as inaction, but also as fear or anger. The Financial Therapy Association will have more leads.
If it is not possible for your son to live with you until he gets back on his feet, you can also do some research to show him the kind of apartments that are available within his budget, and the kind of job it would take to get there. He needs a plan. It won’t all happen overnight.
People only need one good parent, and one good friend. Go with him to the bank, the auto dealership and apartment rental. Drive him to his job interview, if you are able. Fear and anxiety can be all-consuming, but they will only get worse if he is left alone. Living in an emotionally and financially unstable environment will not help.
Without knowing your son, I’m cautious about involving a financial power of attorney. It would need to be someone you trust completely, and at this point in your son’s life, the goal should be moving him gradually toward financial independence, and giving him the tools and support to do that.
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