The idea of borrowing money from friends or family has always made me feel… gross. In all honesty, I’d rather be broke than deal with the icky feeling of owing someone money.
There’s something about introducing a financial transaction into a personal relationship that almost always ends up in some sort of discomfort — especially when parents are involved. One day, you’re the independent, successful adult you struggled so hard to become; the next, you’re once again that awkward sixteen-year-old begging for gas money.
But sometimes asking your parents for financial help is unavoidable. In fact, about half of college students expect their parents to support them financially for up to two years after graduation.
Plus, they’ve had years to grow their wealth while you’re still getting used to the idea of paying someone for running water.
So whether you’re struggling to find post-college employment and need to move back in for a while, or you’re a few thousand dollars shy of owning your first home, here’s how to navigate the tricky conversation of asking for financial help from Mom and Dad.
Decide if you need a gift or a loan.
Before you even broach the subject, determine exactly what it is you’re asking for. Depending on your mom or dad’s personality, you might be more likely to receive a loan than a handout. If so, figure out exactly how much you need to borrow, how long it will take to repay the loan, and whether or not you will also pay interest.
On the other hand, you might know very well there’s no way you will be able to pay the money back. Instead of making promises you can’t keep, be prepared to state your case as to what, exactly, you need and why your parents should be willing to make the investment. Which brings us to the next step.
Have a solid case to present.
You might technically be an adult, but in your parents’ eyes, you will always be their child. However, this is not a situation in which you want to be viewed as immature or childish. You need to appear prepared, confident, and accountable.
Have an action plan ready to present — write it down, review it several times, and believe in it. Talk to your parents calmly and explain your situation clearly. Be prepared to negotiate. And above all else, don’t get emotional or attempt to manipulate their emotions. It. Will. Backfire.
Don’t compromise your parents’ finances.
Some parents are willing to sacrifice everything to help out their kids, no questions asked. Others prefer to send their children through the School of Hard Knocks, even if they have to repeat a few grades.
If your parents are more like the former, be especially sensitive to how your request for financial assistance will impact their well-being. Will Mom have to dip into her 401(k) to cover your student loan debt? Is Dad planning to work a few more years so you can get back on your feet?
Ask yourself if you’re really okay with being the person who jeopardizes your parents’ golden years after they’ve worked so hard — for decades — to reach them. Yeah, didn’t think so.
Should you even do it?
Turning to the Bank of Mom and Dad can be tempting when you’re seriously short on cash. But there’s a host of potential landmines when you ask for money from the people who used to change your diapers.
Consider whether you’re looking to your parents for financial support because it seems easy or because that’s really your only option.
There’s nothing wrong with getting help from Mom and Dad if they’re willing. But it’s almost always best to suck it up and figure it out on your own if you can. After all, they’ve already made the biggest investment in you anyone ever will. They raised you.