Shhhh! You hear that? No? Listen closely fellow “empty nester”, the kids are gone. You dropped them at college, or they have moved out to start their life as an adult, and here you are, listening intently. Is that silence you hear? Nope, listen closer. You can still hear the faint “cha ching” of the cash register of life ringing. True, it’s no longer in your face as it was when everyone was physically in one house and you were swiping the card at every store or pulling cash out of your pocket at every turn, but it still rings if you listen close enough. How could this possibly still be true? I mean, they are gone, off the payroll to some extent, right? Think again my friend.
Maybe in past generations it was a nice clean break – once the children left the home, they were off the parent’s payroll. I would suggest that is not the case in this day and age. In fact, I would contend that having kids out of the house becomes more expensive in today’s world. How so you ask? Let’s bullet this out in a way a real accountant would appreciate:
- Health Insurance: An area I talk about most with people, including my own children. There seems to be a misconception here – your kids do not have to stay on your health insurance until 26. If my son is reading this, you are wrong kiddo! Kids are allowed to stay on their parent’s policy until age 26, which is nice if there are no other good options. Certainly, for college students this is most likely a better option than the school provided insurance. For young adults, their insurance may be as good or better. Don’t hesitate to kick them off if this is the case.
- Cell Phone: I see parents carrying their kids on their cell plan for years into adulthood. I can understand if there is a discount to it, but it’s worth running the numbers to compare the family plan with them just having their own line.
- Housing: Having a student in college is like supporting another household. If they have an off-campus apartment, it’s even worse. Remember that second home you have been dreaming of? Well, you got it in the form of a college student’s apartment. Not quite the beach getaway you were thinking of, was it? Rent, food, utilities, insurance (please don’t forget renter’s insurance for them), and more can add up costs in a hurry.
- Automobile expenses: No, their car is no longer blocking the garage when you try to leave for work (do you sense I have some pent-up frustration here?) but the insurance still has to be paid, oil changed, brakes, tires, I think you get where I am going with this.
- Credit card: I get it. You want to be a helpful supportive parent, so you give them a credit card linked to your account “for emergencies”. I am laughing out loud as I write this right now. Over time I have learned a new definition of “emergency”, “but we had no food in the house so we just ordered pizza.”
I am sure I am not listing them all. What others can you think of? I would love to hear from you!
Alright, I do have one more and this is my favorite. We will call this “the kids are gone and we have more time for ourselves so what are we going to do?” category. With no longer chasing the kids to various activities and getting them from here to there, you have more time for yourself, so you pursue those hobbies and activities you put off “until they were out of the house.” In addition, maybe now you plan some trips and vacations that fill your bucket list.
Moral of the story here, just be cognizant that expenses don’t necessarily go away when the kids do. Often, they stay the same or even increase a bit depending on the level of ongoing support to get them started or just things you are doing for yourself now. As I say to my wife as we are dropping off our twins for their senior year of college … out of sight, out of mind? Maybe, but not out of our wallet!