'After graduating university, I received an email from my dad. He wanted his money back.'

Hi, my name is Sara and I’m a mum of one. 

Something I never really thought of when pregnant with my son, was how much he was going to cost. We opted for private care so there goes thousands of dollars before your baby even arrives.

Then there is the grocery bill that has doubled, the day care fees that are astronomical, and the clothing that isn't cheap either, even if you indulge in the joyous world of Kmart.

There's no denying it. Children are expensive. 

Watch: The five money lessons your parents told you that you should probably forget. Post continues after video. 

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Now that I am almost 30, I can happily say I have been financially independent from my parents for years, but it wasn’t a, "You’re 18 now. No more money for you. Enjoy being an adult," situation. 

My parents sent me off to university and helped to pay my university fees as HELP loans weren’t available to non-Australian citizens. They also helped me pay rent, as Brisbane rentals were completely unaffordable. I was so lucky. 

Firstly, my parents could financially support me to complete higher education and secondly, they made the sacrifices to make sure that I could get ahead in life. Honestly, I truly did not appreciate this.

I remember one terrible day; I had been out partying all week and was on my way home from a friend’s place. My fuel light came on - as I was paying for the fuel, my card declined. I had spent all my money; I had no budget, no savings, and desperately needed to drive away from this situation. I rang dad in the servo and begged for money. 

He didn’t lecture me; he saved me yet again and sent through the much-needed funds.

I was unknowingly selfish and demanding on my parents financially but in my defence, I had never learnt the value of money. I had never been taught how to budget or how to go without. 


I was a money leech, sucking the financial life out of my parents. But this was my normal. They wanted to make sure I was happy and provided for. They couldn’t stand the idea of letting me suffer through financial hardship.

After graduating university, a few years later, I received an email from my dad.

It was a spreadsheet, listing all the money that I had asked for over and above the university fees and the rent. It was dated, itemised, and calculated. He wanted his money back. And rightly so.

But at the time, I was in shock. 

Listen to Mamamia's money podcast, What The Finance. Post continues below. 

I didn’t understand because the value of the dollar wasn’t clear to me. I wasn’t financially independent, and I had no idea how to be. There were brief discussions and passing conversations of needing to save money but as a teenager I took very little notice. 

You can try to lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Or should I say, you can drag a teenager kicking and screaming towards a budgeting spreadsheet, but you can’t make it participate. 

A few years ago, Nama Winston wrote an article on the barefoot investor, Scott Pape.

He regularly discusses the issue of financial independence in teenagers. He also advocates for a part-time job during school and for parents to teach their children how to manage money at a young age. He pushes the idea of kids making financial mistakes whilst they are 15 instead of 35. Pape believes that kids need to get a dose of the real world. 

Scott Pape is right, financial independence needs to be taught at home from an early age. It’s not taught at school and it’s crazy to think that a child is just going to know how to budget. But the real question is, as a parent, when is the right time to force this independence?

Another raging battle that parents must fight is consumerism and the credit-based economy. It has reached dizzying heights of insanity within our society. Everyone wants the newest and latest. And let’s be honest, it’s just so easy with how readily available credit is now. 

You can apply for a credit card through your banking app or simply hit up fast credit like Afterpay. You can walk into any homeware superstore, apply for an 'interest fee' loan, and walk out an hour later with $8,000 worth of furniture and appliances. Money is too easy to obtain and without any effort required. 


The expectation for parents to provide doesn’t just come from the children.

Over the years, lots of different friends of mine have gone to apply for a home loan to buy their first property and there is an automatic assumption that their parents will financially support them. Either by giving them a cash injection or becoming a financial guarantor. Putting their property on the line to secure their child’s. 

So many parents help but where do you draw the line? When is it time to call it a day on the financial connection and cut the monetary umbilical cord? 

I think as parents, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of being the provider. You want the best for your children and the best costs. The days are gone of when you turned 18 and immediately had to make your own way. The expectations are different now but so is the world. There is a rental crisis, an employment crisis, and the cost of living is through the roof when wages have barely increased. How do young people get ahead when they are already starting on the back foot? 

I know that my story isn’t everybody’s lived experience as friends of mine have travelled so many different paths to financial independence. But the conversation is important. As a parent, you will provide the level of financial support that you can and want to provide. 

But we need to be nurturing financially literate children that understand how to budget, how to save, and that money doesn’t grow on trees. That new and shiny isn’t always obtainable. That fast credit is dangerous and can cost you a lot more in the long run. 

So, do I value to spreadsheet now? Yes, I do. I value that my dad drew a line. He created a justifiable boundary for himself as a parent. He decided that it was time that I stand on my own two feet and pay back the money that I had used to enjoy life when I should have been going without.

So, when do you cut the cord? I’m not sure is my answer. That decision is up to you, as the parent/s making the decisions for your child. But know that, you call the shots. It’s your line to draw.

For my son, I know I’m going to discuss money and teach him how to use it wisely. Will he always make financially wise decisions? Probably not, but he will be financially literate. 

So, the choices he makes, will be made knowing the consequences. 

Sara-Jayne Rogers is a British-born mum of one and high school teacher with a passion for writing and continual learning.

Feature Image: Getty.

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