When a parent sees a child in trouble, it’s instinct to step in and help. So it’s not surprising that many American parents financially support their adult children.
Sixty-one percent of parents say they’d helped their grown child in this way in the previous 12 months, found a Pew Research Center survey. In fact, this was the most common form of parental support, given more often than help with child care or housework.
But when their adult children are facing big student loans, throwing money at the problem isn’t always the answer.
Parents are more likely to have more demands on their finances, from a mortgage, looming retirement, or their own debts. Many can’t afford to help out monetarily. Other parents might see the importance of the experience and independence their child will gain as they handle this debt without financial assistance.
But there are ways a parent can help their child’s goal to pay off student debt without putting their own hard-earned funds on the line. These smart strategies can knock months off student loan repayment, and can also help graduates practice smart money management.
1. Curb living expenses
Parents can be a resource to help ease costs of living. If parents help their adult children get ahead of living expenses, this frees up money to funnel toward student loan repayment. There are several ways to do this without paying any more than parents already do.
An adult child could save $50 or more each month with a weekly meal at a parent’s home (even more if they take home leftovers). Doing two loads of laundry a week at a parent’s house instead of hitting the laundromat could save $20 or more a month.
2. Offer child care
Providing free child care for grandchildren is a common way that parents support their adult children, as shown in the Pew survey results.
Taking grandchildren for the occasional night out can free up $40 or more that would’ve gone to a babysitter. Watching grandchildren a couple nights a week could free up the adult child to take on a second job or work on a side hustle to grow income.
Retired parents willing to offer all-day childcare a few days a week can give substantial relief from childcare costs. The average cost of full-time, center-based daycare is a whopping $976 a month — being able to redirect some of that spending to student loan repayment could shave months off the life of the loan.
3. Teach a new skill
In addition to helping lessen monthly costs, parents can also lend their skills to help their adult children spend less and be more self-sufficient. (You’ve probably already done a lot of this kind of teaching over the years.)
If Mom knows a lot about car maintenance, she can show her college graduate how to change their own oil and save some money. Dad could give a walkthrough of his favorite cheap meals to help his debt-laden child cut down on eating expenses.
4. Explore student debt repayment options
Of current college students, only 10 percent feel they have all the information they need to pay off their college loans. Additionally, making a plan to pay off loans is the action that would most alleviate their financial stress for these students.
Many graduates facing student debt might not have a clear picture of how much they have, how long it will take to pay off, or what they are paying to interest versus principal. Having a knowledgeable parent sit down and review their student loans can help grads wrap their minds around their debt and figure out how to effectively pay it.
Parents can also help their adult children research different student loan resources, repayment plans, loan forgiveness, or other options to identify opportunities the graduate might not be aware of.
5. Rework the post-college budget
Central to an effective student loan repayment plan is an everyday budget that works.
Parents can help graduates analyze their income and expenses to figure out where they can cut back. They can also talk kids through important financial decisions that come with setting a budget, like how to prioritize important financial goals.
6. Boost their professional profile
For some graduates, keeping expenses low is the problem. For others, not having enough income is the root of struggles to repay loans. Parents can be an important resource to help new grads increase their earning potential.
Parents can use their network to find job opportunities for which their graduate might be a good fit, and can even put in a good word on his behalf. Graduates can also benefit from their parents’ professional experience by asking parents to review their resumes or give feedback on their interviewing skills.
There are a lot of ways parents can step up and support their grown children as they work toward the worthy goal of eliminating student debt. Sometimes, the best thing they can do is simply encourage and cheerlead their child through the often-rough transition from school to the real world.
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