Parenting & Family

What do I owe my kids (financially) as a parent?

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[OP]
Deal Addict
Nov 10, 2014
1116 posts
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Ottawa, ON

What do I owe my kids (financially) as a parent?

Curious to what others here think of in terms of what parents owe to their kids, and what parents should provide for their kids if they have the means to. I understand there is no one right answer as the topic at hand is subjective.

I think most can agree that parents should aim to provide a safe, stable, and loving home environment. I am more interested in what posters here are planning to provide for their kids after the kids' 18th birthday.

I am posing this question in the light of theses articles from Globe and Mail about parents gifting kids a down payment for them to get into home ownership:
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/investi ... houses-in/
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/investi ... -the-kids/

This topic is being discussed in the RE section of RFD.
what-give-your-kids-down-payment-2498367/

Couple of years ago my own answer to what I will provide my kids after their 18th birthday was funds to complete a bachelor degree so that they can graduate debt free, and maybe a year or two of rent free home living after graduation to give them time to settle into their new careers and accumulate some savings. I thought this would be a good balance between setting them up for success and yet not providing too much so that kids won't be able to achieve things themselves and grow in the process.

Now my beliefs are changing looking at the world changing around me. Covid and the response to covid is rapidly accelerating the on going problem where cost of living is increasing much faster than wage increases. I see younger colleagues straight out of university right now and sympathize how much harder they have it than I did when I started out less than 10 years ago. It is hard to say what the world will look like when my kids hit adulthood (they are preschoolers right now). If the current trends continue I think it is safe to say that it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible for them to achieve milestones like home ownership without my help.

One comment that stood out on the real estate section discussion was that if parents were not willing to gift a down payment, their kids would get creamed when having to compete with kids who have parents who gifted them 6 figures for their down payment. I would feel terrible if my kids grew up to be responsible and hard working adults yet they can't afford to live in their own homes as the bar is set ridiculously higher than it was set for generations before them, and their parents are not willing to gift a down payment out of principle. I suspect this is going to result in an arms race for parents (like the kind that exists right now to get kids into best university programs) where more parents will spend more time and resources to ensure that kids can get into the property market making the affordability problem worse in the process.

What are your thoughts?
60 replies
Sr. Member
Jun 11, 2006
548 posts
563 upvotes
My kids are elementary/middle school and so far, my thinking is where yours was a few years ago. Pay for some/most of their schooling so they graduate debt free. That’s already a huge advantage. I’d like them to contribute though so they have a sense of responsibility and ownership. Plus, it’s always easier to spend someone else’s money, so they need to learn be money savvy.

For housing, given the current prices, I do worry for them for the future, though it hasn’t led us to invest in real estate for them. If I have the means, I might help with down payment to get them in the market, though I wouldn’t outright buy anything for them.

Mostly I’m just working on teaching them the skills they need to make their own way/support themselves, such as working hard, getting along with others, etc. (plus making an informed choice when considering careers!) We never tell them how much we are willing to help with financially because I don’t want them to think they are entitled to it.

edited to add: even if they turn out great, I realize that maybe home ownership in our current city may be prohibitive for them…but I’m not really one to think home ownership is a right. Their reality may be just that they have to settle for less.
Deal Fanatic
Sep 21, 2004
8612 posts
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I don't believe you owe your kids anything besides love, protection and time (and the things associated to those things).

That said, wife and I generally try to live simply and try to provide all that we can to set them up for success. We're padding up the RESPs so hopefully they will graduate debt free. We will do what we can when it comes time for house(s).

My parents gave us some help (via loans, not free money) and it gave us a huge advantage getting in early for the housing market. We were able to buy sooner for less. We still had to learn to manage spending, budget, etc. But we also didn't have to spend the initial years saving, especially in recent graduate incomes.

That set us up to enjoy the younger years, start a family earlier, etc.

As much as we can, we'd like to give our kids the same head start.
Deal Addict
Mar 24, 2015
1314 posts
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Ottawa, ON
We will pay for their university /college fees and anything that's for their education. That's why we have been maxing out resp annually. They will have to pay for anything extra like leisure, entertainment or want to buy themselves stuff.
My parents and husband's parents paid for our education so we'd like to do the same for our kids.
We expect them to be able to save and pay for their own accomodation but willing to help a little bit for a downpayment. God knows how much housing will be when they are adults.
Also open to the idea that they stay home for a few years to help them save for a downpayment or something, but expect them to help at home too.
Deal Fanatic
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Jan 17, 2002
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Toronto
I don't really care to help them with a down payment, at least not in their twenties. I feel like that would be anchoring them to the city or country they grew up in and would like to encourage them to think globally, especially as we have encouraged learning other languages. We don't know what quality of life in Canada will be like in 10-15 years and how cost of living will be vs world class cities with proper transit in other countries where employment opportunities are. We might rent one of our condos to them and then give them much of what they paid in rent back for a downpayment later if that works for everyone.
Deal Fanatic
Dec 31, 2007
5028 posts
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Richmond Hill
My only requirement for any "gifts" is that my kids cannot feel that they are entitled to it.

Whether it's
- an ice cream cone when they're 2,
- nice shoes when they're 5,
- latest phone/fashion when they're 13,
- car when they're 16,
- tuition when they're 18,
- house/condo/wedding when they're adults.

I agree with you "that parents should aim to provide a safe, stable, and loving home environment", and my interpretation of that is I should give them the best life experiences I can.

I'm sure that for any of the above, there was a time when we gave up something of equal value to be able to "gift" whatever it is to our children. A coffee saved from my lunch = an ice cream cone for them when I got home, etc. IMO the same principle applies to a house, it's just that we feel it that much more because the value/self-sacrifice is that much more. We can shrug off a coffee, but we can't shrug off thousands of hours we slaved to get to that amount. But when the time comes, it's the same ecstatic joy we get to see when they were young and have ice cream all over their faces.

We don't "owe" our kids anything.
The things we do for them is because we love them and just want them to have more joy than we do. And because of this, IMO they should never get that sense of entitlement and expectation.
"Buy now, think later. This is the way."
Deal Guru
Oct 7, 2010
12961 posts
3972 upvotes
You owe them basics for necessity of life. The wisdom to be a good member of society. Skills to survive on their own. Support for their well being.

Anything on top of that are pure rubbish and entitlements.
[OP]
Deal Addict
Nov 10, 2014
1116 posts
2555 upvotes
Ottawa, ON
clseea wrote: Gifting a house downpayment is insane imo
I would have agreed with you completely few years ago, but I now think we live in an insane world where it is becoming ridiculously difficult for normal young people starting out to make it on their own. Perhaps insane measures are warranted for the insane world that we live in.
Deal Fanatic
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Jan 17, 2002
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Tadalafil wrote: I would have agreed with you completely few years ago, but I now think we live in an insane world where it is becoming ridiculously difficult for normal young people starting out to make it on their own. Perhaps insane measures are warranted for the insane world that we live in.
There are lots of places in the world where housing is still affordable.
Deal Addict
Jan 2, 2015
2551 posts
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Tadalafil wrote: Curious to what others here think of in terms of what parents owe to their kids, and what parents should provide for their kids if they have the means to. I understand there is no one right answer as the topic at hand is subjective.

I think most can agree that parents should aim to provide a safe, stable, and loving home environment. I am more interested in what posters here are planning to provide for their kids after the kids' 18th birthday.

Couple of years ago my own answer to what I will provide my kids after their 18th birthday was funds to complete a bachelor degree so that they can graduate debt free, and maybe a year or two of rent free home living after graduation to give them time to settle into their new careers and accumulate some savings. I thought this would be a good balance between setting them up for success and yet not providing too much so that kids won't be able to achieve things themselves and grow in the process.

Now my beliefs are changing looking at the world changing around me. Covid and the response to covid is rapidly accelerating the on going problem where cost of living is increasing much faster than wage increases. I see younger colleagues straight out of university right now and sympathize how much harder they have it than I did when I started out less than 10 years ago. It is hard to say what the world will look like when my kids hit adulthood (they are preschoolers right now). If the current trends continue I think it is safe to say that it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible for them to achieve milestones like home ownership without my help.

One comment that stood out on the real estate section discussion was that if parents were not willing to gift a down payment, their kids would get creamed when having to compete with kids who have parents who gifted them 6 figures for their down payment. I would feel terrible if my kids grew up to be responsible and hard working adults yet they can't afford to live in their own homes as the bar is set ridiculously higher than it was set for generations before them, and their parents are not willing to gift a down payment out of principle. I suspect this is going to result in an arms race for parents (like the kind that exists right now to get kids into best university programs) where more parents will spend more time and resources to ensure that kids can get into the property market making the affordability problem worse in the process.

What are your thoughts?
I think it is really easy to get sucked in to thinking is a competition or arm race for ones kids. We all want the best for our kids, and want to give them the world, it doesn't mean we should, especially at the expense of the parents. I went through this thinking a few years ago, even before COVID. I realized that I could choose to work much much longer because there will always be something I could help my kids with - undergrad degree - graduate degree - doctorate/phd - wedding - house -grand kids - grand kids education - and we be dead. In a logical way, it makes sense to work as long as we can from a financial standpoint. At the end of my career, I will make many times more than my kids while they are in school or just starting out. We could put off my retirement for an extra year, and with the retirement funds we are not taking out (and hopefully growing), and the income for the year, that will pay for an almost a whole under grad, a couple of more years and 6 figure down payment, another year, we could make out the (non-existent) grandkids full resp. Why stop, could save enough to set the next generation? I would work until I was dead to give my kids the world, so it's important to know when it is enough.

For us, we owe lots in terms of love and security, but just in terms of finances, we had to find our balance. I don't think their is a set amount for what we 'owe' kids financially. You give what is reasonable and balanced. I paid for my own university with loans, and didn't have financial help, however my financial education from my family was invaluable. Though I wasn't given a lot from a monetary standpoint, I was understood much more than most. That financial wisdom is what we ALL owe our kids. We are pretty fortunate for our financial situation and jobs, so we what we have planned for our kids financially after they turn 18

- Full education without debt in Canada. We originally planned to pay for up to a post graduate degree. Our retirement was based on when the youngest would be finished their post graduate. Our kids know we will support up to a masters. One has asked if they want to become an anesthesiologist but doesn't want to ridden with debt if we can help by allowing free room and board if her scholarships don't cover it. We have said of course, when the time comes we will help where we can. The other wants to go abroad. We have found that it's so much more expensive in the US, and said she will need some scholarships. However, education is the one area both my spouse and are willing to continue to work in order to fund for our kids.
- While in school, we will pay for all of their expenses (as long as in Canada). They will get a small amount for discretionary spending, if they can't figure out their budget, they will have to find a job. If they course load allows it, they will also get a job, but at least in the summers.

After the education, they can live at home while they are getting established. We have decided that if our kids are living at home while not in school, we will charge them rent (at a reduced amount). This is to teach them life isn't free. If they are helpful, respectful around the house while living here, we will return their rent as part of their down payment or 'launch fund.

This is when we will retire. We will have given them a launch with a fully paid for education, and more importantly our financial wisdom (hopefully). In terms of other things we 'owe' our kids.
- Our own financial independence while we are retired. Our kids will never have to worry about us financially. We will be able to afford the extra care and help we will need in our old age. We just want our kids to visit then, but never have to worry about our finances. My uncle refinanced his house for our cousin's phd, now their retirement is underfunded. This has been causing many issue for my aunt and uncle, and the stress for my cousin is extreme. He knows that his parents gave everything to him, but now he still can't live his life because he is constantly helping his parents. If we've raised our kids well, they would not want us to suffer while they are living it up, so we need to take care of ourselves too.

- We will still help with the wedding, house, and other major events, IF it's in our budget at the time of retirement, but this isn't owed to them.
On a 'smart' device that isn't always so smart. So please forgive the autocorrects and typos. If it bothers you, then don't read my posts, but don't waste my time correcting me. If you can get past the typos, then my posts generally have some value.
Deal Addict
Jan 2, 2015
2551 posts
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Tadalafil wrote: I would have agreed with you completely few years ago, but I now think we live in an insane world where it is becoming ridiculously difficult for normal young people starting out to make it on their own. Perhaps insane measures are warranted for the insane world that we live in.
They may choose to live else where that is more affordable. We have told our kids that houses are expensive, so they will have to get in the habit of saving early. There are a lot of steps in terms of making it on their own before buying a house.
On a 'smart' device that isn't always so smart. So please forgive the autocorrects and typos. If it bothers you, then don't read my posts, but don't waste my time correcting me. If you can get past the typos, then my posts generally have some value.
Deal Expert
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Oct 23, 2008
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GTA, ON
Every parent should use whatever tools are necessary to guide them into adulthood. This may mean supporting them financially for the long haul (or it may not). Every family dynamic is different, but you should be there (financially) if need be and within reason. For me, my parents paid for all our tuitions throughout College & University, however, we were also responsible enough to have part-time jobs throughout school and during the summer breaks. We individually paid for our own transportation, books and supplies. We were lucky enough to be gifted some money too when we first bought our first homes but it wasn't expected, and we certainly didn't ask for it. We saved every penny, and didn't spend it needlessly like some of our peers.

I hope to do the same with my children. I'm hoping to teach them responsibility, and God willing, when they reach high school age, they'll also take on the responsibility and respect of the earned dollar by getting P/T jobs. Then I will pay for their education while they pay for the other expenses, the same as I and my siblings did.

I feel that to be a proper parent is not to continuously shower them with gifts & stuff as they grow up. Even kids need to know that everything other than the clothes on their back, a roof over their head, and the food in their bellies is a luxury. Teach them that money doesn't grow on trees, and life is not always a free vacation, but that sacrifices are part of the game of life. Making them know that life is full of ups and downs, and certainly pitfalls, is how things are. Too many spoiled brats out there. Too many who can't handle basic stress.
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Deal Guru
Nov 21, 2011
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Tadalafil wrote: I would have agreed with you completely few years ago, but I now think we live in an insane world where it is becoming ridiculously difficult for normal young people starting out to make it on their own. Perhaps insane measures are warranted for the insane world that we live in.
Housing isn't unaffordable on a whole. Being super picky, needing to have all the latest and greatest things, trying to keep up with the Joneses etc is what makes it difficult to make it on your own. The sense of entitlement for people starting out doesn't help
Sr. Member
Dec 26, 2011
754 posts
370 upvotes
It seems like this would have to be heavily dependent on the situation/circumstances as opposed to relying on a catch all answer.

For instance I know some families that gifted their kids a lot but you can say it's reciprocal since the kids essentially will take care of said parents as they age. While in other circumstances the parents didn't give a lot but the kids essentially moved away and so the parents will need to rely on their own finances to take of themselves as they age.

The above is just one example of vastly different circumstances that would entail different considerations.
[OP]
Deal Addict
Nov 10, 2014
1116 posts
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Ottawa, ON
clseea wrote: Housing isn't unaffordable on a whole. Being super picky, needing to have all the latest and greatest things, trying to keep up with the Joneses etc is what makes it difficult to make it on your own. The sense of entitlement for people starting out doesn't help
No question that some parts of the housing market are more affordable than others, but it is undeniable that the housing market as a whole is less affordable than it was just couple of years ago. In fact, the traditionally more affordable markets enjoyed higher percentage gains than the already expensive markets.

Is it really a sense of entitlement for younger people point out that the bar for home ownership has been set much higher for them then the generations before them?
Deal Guru
Nov 21, 2011
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Tadalafil wrote: No question that some parts of the housing market are more affordable than others, but it is undeniable that the housing market as a whole is less affordable than it was just couple of years ago. In fact, the traditionally more affordable markets enjoyed higher percentage gains than the already expensive markets.

Is it really a sense of entitlement for younger people point out that the bar for home ownership has been set much higher for them then the generations before them?
I'm not talking about entitlement with respect to someone pointing out the housing market is more expensive. That was never my point so I'm not sure where that is coming from.
Deal Addict
Jan 22, 2003
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Austin/Markham
Very few threads are as depressing as this one as it hits pretty close to home. Just funded my son's RESP account for the year and scared to think how undergrad will probably cost as much as a house did when I graduated undergrad.

My friends had a huge advantage over me when it came time to buy a house. I was in debt from undergrad and no down payment whereas others had no student debt and a small-large downpayment from parents for home buying. I can definitely see the different view points in this thread, I think each poster has been a voice in my head while I ponder my kids future and my retirement accounts (I'm not even that old!).

Shelter/food/clothing are pretty basic things, so ya making sure your kids are setup for that in adulthood is pretty important but you don't want them to get a sense of entitlement or just be gifted the things that require hard work.

Wish things were simpler, why is Uni and housing so crazy now. Its just insane, don't understand how these weren't the top issues in September's Federal election or will be in the next Provincial election.


Read through that housing thread, that's insane. My kid will get a paid education and 3 passports. If that's not enough to succeed on his own, too bad.
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Oct 2, 2018
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Perhaps down the road the question might turn into when to STOP supporting the kids, time for them to pull up their socks and take on life without us parents. For most Education i believe we should help pay for as we brought the kids into this world, so i have an obligation to educate them and give them the best opportunity to succeed in life. Down Payments however are NOT an obligation, if the kids turned out well then offer up if financially able, however no obligation it's the kids obligation to figure out seeing as parents an education really is where parental obligation ends. Anything afterwards is like to do, rather than must do.
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Deal Fanatic
Mar 21, 2010
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Tadalafil wrote: One comment that stood out on the real estate section discussion was that if parents were not willing to gift a down payment, their kids would get creamed when having to compete with kids who have parents who gifted them 6 figures for their down payment. I would feel terrible if my kids grew up to be responsible and hard working adults yet they can't afford to live in their own homes as the bar is set ridiculously higher than it was set for generations before them, and their parents are not willing to gift a down payment out of principle.
Maybe, but that's not "owe". It's about one adult asking another adult for a favour. What the terms of that favour and what the answer is, will depend on the relationship between the adults. I don't think there's any obligation for there to be a favourable answer. I don't think a parent is obligated to ensure that their adult children have at least the same standard of living as they did growing up. The home my family lives in is in all material aspects less luxurious than the one I was raised in. That's life.

I also don't think there's an obligation for the reverse, either. I don't think adult children "owe" their elderly parents luxuries or the same standard of living that the adult children enjoy. In an ideal world, parents and children try to help each other when help is needed in a variety of ways - because they want to, not because some form of a contract has been broken if they don't.

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