I was reading Jill Schlesinger's column last Sunday and what she had to say angered me beyond belief. Jill, in case you are not aware, is one of those pop-financial gurus like Suzy Orman (I don't know if I spelled that correctly) who dispense financial advice for free. She writes a weekly column that shows up in my Denver Post. I find her advice to be generally sound and will usually take a couple of minutes to read her column each week. Sunday's column was one for the record books however, as the piece was entitled, "Are greedy kids raiding your retirement?"
Throughout the history of humankind children have been the number one retirement program for married couples. People had children because those children would be expected to provide for them when they were elderly and unable to support themselves any longer. All cultures and all societies throughout the history of the entire world have operated under the principle that it is the responsibility of adult children to provide for the physical needs of their parents when their parents are no longer able to take care of themselves. That principle has been applied with varying degrees of success but the principle itself is indisputable. Any adult child who does not take care of his parents is a moral degenerate. It is that simple.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a fellow minister by the name of Timothy. In that letter he described how to set up a church welfare program. Yes, believe it or not, churches actually used to take care of their own. This was all well before the adoption of the modern doctrine which states that church finances are to be spent on non-believers as a means of evangelism and church members are left to scrounge for scraps from the government. Paul told Timothy who qualified to be put on the list of people who would receive church support. In the context of describing who qualified for church financial support he wrote, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever." The "his own" that Paul refers to is the class of people known as the elderly who were expected to be taken care of by their adult children. Those are pretty harsh words. Evangelicals profess to believe in the Bible but they don't believe in this part of it. As far as I am aware, no evangelical church in the country teaches that adult children are morally responsible to provide for the physical needs of their parents. As far as I am aware no evangelical church in this country exercises discipline upon those adult children who fail to perform this biblically mandated task.
Jill began her column with this: "'Greedy adult children have become rapacious consumers of their parents' money!' Those are the stinging words of financial planner Jonathan Pond, who worries that baby boomer parents have overindulged their children." Jill goes on to support her initial claim with a couple of statistical claims that defy my moral sensibilities. She wrote, "Nearly 63 percent of American families provide financial support to their adult children, according to the insurance and financial services trade association LIMRA....A separate study last year by the nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling found that a higher proportion of US households provide financial assistance to adult children than support for elderly parents....Of those parents helping their adult children, 45 percent say it is hurting their retirement savings." Are you angry yet? You should be. Let's consider these statistical assertions for a moment.
63% of elderly or retired couples with adult children are at least somewhat providing for the financial responsibilities of those adult children. Does anyone remember the good old days when children were expected to grow up and become self-sufficient? What has happened to us? Two thirds of adult children are still tied to their parent's financial umbilical cord. How can those adult children hold their heads up when they walk down the street? They should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe nobody understands the meaning of the term 'adult.' An adult is someone who takes care of himself. An adult lives within his means and does not expect others to pay his bills. An adult works hard, provides for himself, and sets some of his income aside to provide for his future needs as well. An adult, or at least a moral adult, also uses some of his income to provide for his elderly parents if they need it. Are there no adults left in our world today? Is there no shame left in our world today?
More older couples are providing for their adult children than adult children are providing for their elderly parents. This is the exact opposite of the biblical model and it is wildly immoral. Older couples paid their dues. They raised their children. They covered all of their children's physical needs. One of the reasons they did so was so that their children would grow into responsible adults who would, could and should take care of themselves, their children and others if the need arose. Shame upon all of you adult children who are continuing to mooch off your parents. Shame upon all of you adult children who use your parents as a personal bank. Shame upon all of you adult children who do not make provision to provide for your parents in the future if they need it.
Almost half of the elderly couples who are providing funds to their irresponsible and greedy adult children claim to be doing so to their own hurt. This is what I do not understand. I do understand the bond that forms between parents and children. I do understand that parents do not want to see their children suffer. But when taking care of adult children means you are going to suffer harm yourself, I do not understand that. Maybe it would be a good thing for those adult children to be evicted from their apartments, have their cars repossessed or file bankruptcy. Maybe they need a good hard dose of real life in order to learn the lessons necessary to be a financially responsible adult. Maybe the best thing to do is cut them loose and let them fend for themselves.
I believe I know why we have come to this inverted situation in our society today. In fact, I think there are two reasons. The first is the simple fact that almost all adults are greedy materialists who want everything right away. Delaying gratification is an unknown concept in our culture. Going into debt is expected and encouraged. Living above our means is a way of life. All of these things are the by-product of sinful materialism and need to be repented of and stopped.
The second reason why adult children not only do not support their elderly parents but also expect them to take care of them is the role played by Social Security and Medicaid. Adult children believe that the government will take care of their parents so they are relieved of the responsibility to do so. And to a certain point it is true that the government will take care of their elderly parents, but it misses the point entirely. It is not the responsibility of the government to take care of your parents, it is your responsibility. But because of the faith and belief in the all powerful and all beneficent federal government adult children are happy to walk away from their moral duties and leave it to the career politicians and bureaucrats who rule this sad land. It is all so wrong.