Future planning for finances for young adults

We’ve been enjoying having ds17 home for the last two weeks, and during that time he’s shared some perspective on things that he has noted are different between our family mindset and what he sees in the many young men he has been meeting.  One comment he made was that our family is goal oriented, and it doesn’t seem to be very common;  he said that very few young men he’s spoken to are making concrete plans for the future.

In our home, the topic of thinking about and planning for the future is a frequently visited topic.  We have strong family values, so it’s not surprising that marriage and raising a family feature prominently in what our children are expecting/hoping for.  One preparatory aspect of marriage that seems to be routinely glossed over is the reality of finances, and the importance of being prepared to support oneself.  Not being prepared for this aspect of marriage has placed huge pressures on many young couples, pressures that could have been minimized or avoided by planning ahead for the predictable.  (Not only that, it’s put enormous pressures on parents to continue to support their adult children.)

I feel very, very strongly that it’s the responsibility of a parent to give their children concrete guidance in this area.  As adults, we understand the reality of financial obligations, we know what has been positive or challenging about the choices we’ve made, and we owe it to our children to actively guide them.  And guiding them doesn’t mean cutting out an article about the importance of planning for the future and handing it to your twenty year old to read.  :roll:

Recently I shared with someone an example of a goal my ds17 has set for himself, and she commented about how impressed she was that he had that clarity at his age to make a plan in that way, particularly since the general mindset of his peers is that they will somehow magically not have to worry about finances when they are married.   I told her it didn’t happen by itself – I’ve gone over and over this topic from various angles for the last several years.

I discuss with my teenage children what their values are regarding marriage, working and child raising are; this affects many, many things.  For example, what age do they think is ideal to get married at?  Why do they believe that?  Based on their answers (they are all inclined towards marriage at a fairly young age), we go on to discuss potential challenges. I ask my son to think about how he’ll be prepared to support himself and his family by the time he is married.  What will he do?  What kind of training/education will be necessary?  Will he have work experience by then?  I’ve kind of drilled it into him by now that he has no business getting married until he can support a wife – not a popular position in some circles, perhaps, but I truly believe he and his future wife will be much better off than letting him take the short term path of what is easier and feels good.

For my daughters, I encourage them to think about careers that will transfer well to private practice that can be home based if at some point they desire that.  At this point, dd15 would like to be a chiropractor, dd14 a psychologist – of course this may change, and it’s fine if it does.  This means learning about different careers, the academic requirements and prerequisites, and thinking about how that will work with their personalities and interests, as well as their anticipated goals of marriage and family.  Practically speaking, it means that dd14 and I are currently planning a time frame towards her goal – she would like to have her four year degree completed by the time she is 18.  I also recently started talking to ds11 about a specific suggestion that I think would be a good option for him, but a big part of this is to warm him up mentally to the idea that we expect him to prepare for a professional career.  Since I plan to graduate both dd14 and ds11 at age 16, it’s not as early as it seems to be thinking about this – dd has only two more years for full-time homeschooling so it already affects what dd14 is focusing on this year.

When I see positive or negative examples of financial management, I bring them up for discussion.  (I never mention specific names when it comes to negative role models; I only mention scenarios.)   When ds17 told me several young men have gotten engaged during the time he’s been at yeshiva, I asked how old they were, and if any of them had completed college or had another career planned.  No, none of them.  Hmm, I mused out loud, I wonder how they’re planning to support themselves once they’re married? I guess they have parents who will take care of them, or a lot of faith in credit cards.   This kind of conversation is common in our home – I don’t belabor the point but I regularly point out observations and discuss the consequences of making certain choices.  When I find an article that addresses issues I think will be of interest, whether it’s from a position I agree with or not, I’ll read it out loud at dinner and ask them for their thoughts.  (I recently mentioned that I usually stay up late Friday nights talking to my teens – these are topics that we often touch on.)

Some of the messages I’ve shared are:

  • anyone old enough to get married is old enough to support themselves;
  • there is an easier and more difficult way to do things, and doing things in the right order makes life much, much easier for many years to come – eg, prepare for a career before you have family responsibilities;
  • debt quickly becomes a millstone around your neck; don’t spend money you don’t have and don’t rely on credit cards to buy what you can’t afford;
  • be willing to think for yourself and do what is right for you no matter what everyone else is doing;
  • marriage is something you must be emotionally ready for – it’s not a game, it’s not playing house, and being a certain age doesn’t magically give you the maturity for a healthy and balanced relationship.

It really helps to have a strong sense of commitment to helping my children be prepared as best as I can for the future, since issues come up and it makes a huge difference in working through them to have a compass point to guide me.  For example, ds17 would really like to attend a particular type of yeshiva – but the places he most wants to attend aren’t college accredited.  I told him that when he’s 21 and has his BA or BS, he can go to whatever yeshiva he wants to pursue the environment that he wants.  Don’t think I’m heartless and don’t understand and value his desire for a certain kind of yeshiva.  I very, very much understand it and I wish he could find it within the criteria that we’ve set up.  But I keep in mind the long term view – what will be more harmful to him later on in life, not being able to support his family (because the yeshivas he wants to go to are against college and working) or having learned for years in a yeshiva that wasn’t as intense as he wanted?  If you’re going to be left wanting more, than wanting more spirituality isn’t a bad place to be.   And if I’m paying the bill, how I could I in good conscience pay for him to be in an environment that I didn’t believe supports his best interests?

This is really just the tip of the iceberg – it’s a huge discussion since there are so many components to it.  I think it’s arrogant and presumptuous to believe that a person can plan for every eventuality, but I do think that parents have more power to actively guide their children than they generally assume.


23 thoughts on “Future planning for finances for young adults

  1. Aviva,

    Is your son only spending 1 year at his yeshiva and then college? Does he already have a career chosen? I think some kids are more receptive to learning fiscal responsibility in theory from parents and others just have to learn the hard way…oy. I see HUGE differences in how my kids handle money and they’ve both had the same drills (Dave Ramsey). Great discussion suggestions. Todah.

    1. Michelle, we insisted on a yeshiva that is college accredited so that he can earn some of his general education requirements while simultaneously learning full-time. The initial plan was for him to be there for four years, the first of which would be full-time yeshiva, with full days at yeshiva and evening college classes for the next three years to complete the degree. In this way two years of credit would be earned via the yeshiva, two at college. We aren’t supportive of BTL degrees unless a young man is planning to pursue further education (eg dental/medical/law school), and even then there are caveats.

      Ds17 has recently expressed a desire to change this plan for the coming year, to take a six month break and work on some financial goals, then return to the original plan. As time goes on we’ll see where this goes.

      About different kids – yes, this is true! I’ve been guiding all of my kids regarding money management for a long time but I see that with ds11 I’m going to need to consciously work with him more to develop a saving/investing ethic. He’s incredibly generous and spends money very freely.

  2. Kol hakavod for posting this. What great advice and I admire your courage in taking a stand on the learner/earner issue (which I understand is a bigger and bigger problem but most of my info on that issue comes from media sources so ymmv).

    Thank you for sharing this!

    1. The learner/earner issue is a huge problem in the frum world, and it’s challenging to take a different path since it means my children have literally no peers who think in a similar way to themselves. Not yet, anyway! Hopefully that will change with time.

      1. I know this may sound naive but since I’m a bit removed from this I thought I would ask.

        Is it really so uncommon for young men to be pushed to learn how to make a parnassa? Is being a learner/earner no longer “fashionable”?

  3. Excellent post. Although this is the way dh and I were brought up, I can think of many many couples who could use it. The discussion ideas are very thought provoking. Thank you.

  4. Thanks for posting this. Though I have been brought up very well, by very good and loving and religious parents who taught me to stay out of debt and not to spend money on which I didn’t have, I still feel (and they agree) that there was a lot that they could have taught me about personal finances and the like and being ready for the responsibilities of adult life whether or not you’re married. I’m a young single adult and I’m still struggling to learn these things for myself. I am working on a degree also that I can also use at home and run from my home if needed. I want to learn and apply much more into my life. This article was helpful and I hope to learn more from you and others on how I can improve.

    ‘Your children are very lucky to have such great parents and that you spend time talking to them about things including this important subject…I praise and love my parents dearly, but this is one thing I wish we had discussed more.

    Thanks again!


    Ariana Anderson
    The Frugally Rich Life
    GF, dairy-free, refined sugar-free recipes and frugality (+ traditional “non-allergy” recipe too)
    Twitter: FrugallyRichAri

    1. Talya, I’m not opposed in any way to women working before or after marriage, and I’m not advocating a throwback to the fifties and Donna Reed. What I *would* like to avoid for my own sons is having a wife who wants to be home with her children but who has to work to pay the bills since her husband never developed a plan for how he would support his family earlier on in the game. And I see this a LOT.

      I feel it’s irresponsible of parents to encourage kids to marry without a plan for how they’ll pay the bills (and I don’t in any way think they have to have a mega career, just some kind of plan) or to talk about the financial realities of having children. Even if parents don’t actively encourage it, if they aren’t helping their child make another plan, then they might as well be encouraging it since the result will be pretty much the same.

    2. Ariana, your parents sound like wonderful people and you sound like a great daughter!

      As a parent, I know there will be things I won’t be able to specifically prepare my children for. This is true for all parents. My goal is to build our children up up enough and give them the basic critical skills that they’ll be able to learn what they need to when those gaps arise. It sounds like that’s what you’re doing, taking active steps to correct your gaps.

      Money is a hard topic for parents to talk about, so they don’t. It’s easier to avoid it. Particularly since there is so much emotion (often negative!) around money. So many people get into real trouble after they are married with children, and I think it’s wonderful that you’re addressing this as a young single adult. You will be so much better off!

  5. Aviva, while I hear your issues about having a BA. I don’t think it’s a guarantee that your son will be able to provide. My husband went to a yeshiva like the one your son describes and the reason why we landed in debt is not because of lack of education but the literal forcing down his throat about budgeting and therefore he just wanted to break free and not be so frugal.

    A degree is no guarantee that you are going to make a good living. Do you know how many teaching jobs in the frum world I was turned down for because 1. I had a degree 2. they felt bad paying a married woman with a degree so little!

    Most of the youngmen getting married are marrying girls who will work . They do get some parental help too. I happen to not go for full parental support but to help the young couple.

    My father has a BA and made a “good living” but we never had anything!My mother had to keep a super tight budget and work full time since we were little.

    College/vocational training doesn’t have to be right out of highschool. There is no harm in going to college later should they need it.

    1. We married very young (I was finishing my degree and my husband was still in the army, not yet finished yeshiva or started learning). While I did work the first few years, it was obvious my husband would go for a degree. We went through long years of living from very little (once my first was born I worked very little for reason I’ll explain later).
      While I agree that you do not necessarily need a BA in order to get married – it’s almost impossible in Israel anyway unless you delay marrying for a long time- the basic idea that one has to be able to support himself in order to get married is fundamental in my opinion.
      My husband and I was considered very young when we decided to get married, and trust me, we prepared a paper with our future expenses and income before we even considered going to speak to our parents for their agreement!
      I know of too many couples to relied on the fact that the parents would help fill the financial gap, some of them seriously threatening their shalom bayit in the process (some help if maybe ok for the first couple of years , but not 10 years down the line….)
      As for girls working- I admire any woman who can work full time and still juggle being with the kids BUT please remember that a woman also gets pregnant and more often than not is the primary carer or her kids.
      My husband changed yeshiva when we go engaged because the one he was at meant I’d have to work for 10 years before he could do anything. While I totally supported my husband learning, I could not and did no want to take the chance that I might have to stop working for unseens reasons, and therefore wanted him to be in a yeshiva where he’d have more flexibility (just as he did all of his learning for a degree at night: the first years he learned in a kollel in the mornings, the last few years he was able to work).
      As it turned out, my pregnancy are all high-risk and I cannot work at these times. Our first born was born at 26 weeks and till he reached the age of 3 and started going to gan, I was taking him almost daily to therapy or doctors (it continues after age 3, but to a lesser extent).
      Had we planned on me supporting the family , we would not have made it, and my son would not have been able to get all the help he needed.
      Our careful budgeting when I was earning, frugal living when I could not, and the decision that my husband would learn a trade were the ones which made our couple survive financially and emotionally.
      To much of the frum community has forgotten that fulltime learninfis meant to be for those who really can learn. One can be a real ben torah while still working.
      Unfortunately, too many forget that on the Ketuba a man signs, he states that he will provided for his wife. Again, while the wife can take the task on herself and is worthy if she can, if the man cannot take over when it is needed, then he is failing his obligations.

    2. Ita, you touched on a lot of points! Can you clarify what you meant when you said “Aviva, while I hear your issues about having a BA. I don’t think it’s a guarantee that your son will be able to provide.” It’s not a guarantee that he’ll be able to provide what?

      I’ll respond to the many points being mentioned in another post!

  6. Another excellent post, Avivah! I have a few things to add. One, some schools actually do make a strong point for being prepared to support yourself. I’ll give a shoutout to one in particular–Bais Yaakov Denver. Thanks to their college offerings during the high school day, I along with most of my classmates, was able to graduate with almost two years of college credits (not AP, regular college credits from University of Colorado offered in an all-girls classroom). Thanks mostly to this headstart I was able to finish my two year graduate degree by the time I turned 21. I think it’s very brave of you to be sending your teens to a college campus but I don’t think that at their age I could have withstood all the pressures of it, especially while doing it alone, at such a young age. So my school pushing me and educating me from the very beginning made a huge difference, especially in the frum environment.
    The other point I wanted to make is this: while I am so grateful for my school experience, I also see almost an exact opposite of it on the boys’ side. Since many young men leave home for high school and baid medrash, the yeshiva becomes their main environment for those few years, and I just don’t see yeshivos doing a good job educating their young men in the career logistics. They don’t often have career/guidance counselors who can sit down with the students and evaluate strengths, weaknesses and interests. The boys who are naturally academically driven tend to stumble into answers themselves but I haven’t seen anyone who isn’t especially successful academically be actively guided career-wise. I think this is what largely contributes to the pack mentality of the frum careers for young men (and women who are not as fortunate as BYD girls to be guided in their career choices). If a friend has a cousin who is a speech therapist, and can earn a living doing such work on her own time, she and probably some of her friends will decide to be one, too, nevermind that they may have failed every science course.
    As far as not marrying before you are able to support yourself: I agree with you in theory, however, there are many marriages, mine included, where earning is a partnership. Yes, it’s more traditional for the man to be the primary breadwinner, and yes, supporting a family is really his responsibility. However, our world is somewhat different than it was 60 years ago, when this was the only accepted way. It is now much more common for for women to work, and even to be earning more than their husbands. I have been the primary breadwinner in my family for almost seven years now, and BH fortunately was able to do it without taking off for high risk pregnancies. During those years, my husband was in kollel and now college, and because of my somewhat flexible schedule was able to care for our kids and house, as well. We were supported financially for the first few months until I graduated, and while dating my husband also made it clear that he wasn’t “marketable” other than a cashier at a supermarket–so no wishful thinking about money falling from the sky on anyone’s part here Still, even though I occasionally (ok, often) wish that we had more money, and that it wasn’t my responsibility to earn it, I value this partnership. We have a true sense that EVERYTHING is EVERYONE’s responsibility to the extent that they are able to do it, and neither of us feels pushed into a rigid role. Because I have more earning potential now, I do go out to work. Because my husband is home in the afternoons, he makes dinner and gives baths.
    Our lives evolve constantly by definition, so yes, it is important to have a workable plan but I think it’s unrealistic to put life on hold in order to have earning a livelihood all completely planned out, simply because it’s not entirely up to us.

  7. Sorry about no being so clear. I had such a rough yom tov!
    Anyway, I think that a young man wanting to get married needs know how to manage money properly and have a good work ethic. You could get a profession by taking a good vocational course. College isn’t everything. Also needs to have a good head on his shoulders. You can have the best college degree and then blow your money or not be able to hold down a job.
    I think that if a man has a good work ethic and knows how to manage his money then everything could be fine.
    I grew up with a grandfather that taught me that if I don’t have the money then I don’t buy it. Although, the credit card is good for online purchases since you can’t exactly put cash into your computer!
    I grew up more modern than my husband. He grew up “yeshivish” while my family was young israel. I became “yeshivish” after two years in sem in Israel. Although, I hate the label. I prefer Torah Jew or Eved Hash-m instead.
    I also think that a jewish boy should know how to make a living because in today’s jewish world the value of the mother taking care of her children is on the bottom of the todem pole. Some how the woman is expected to be the good mommy and work full time. I work full time and I am so upset about it. I want to do all the things Aviva talks about with healthy food, frugality and homeschooling but just sit and read about it. My husband grew up in a home where money managing was forced on him and therefore he rebels. He now understands that is what it was but it put us in such a pickle!!
    So now over this yom tov period I decided that I am going to really put an effort to make the life the way I want it even with the working. Tall order I know.
    One beef I have with the kollel system as it stands today is that when it started women were working part time and still able to be mothers. This system of women working full time spilled over to those of us with working husbands as well. My husband thought that since kollel wives can handle it all, why can’t I? I had to remind him that women don’t HAVE to work but do because they want to help out..

    1. There was once a Rav (sorry don’t remember which one) who got a letter froma woman asking whether she should become a typist to supplement her family’s income. He answered something along the lines of, “Don’t become a typist. You are already a wife and a mother. If you feel that you have enough time and energy in your day to do other things, then by all means take on some typing work, but don’t BECOME a typist.”

    2. Ita, it sounds like you are in a painful place right now. (((Hugs)))

      It also sounds like you are stepping up to make your life more of what you want it to be. Please don’t compare yourself to anyone else, though. Sometimes we use the example of others to compare to our disadvantage. Whatever steps you take will bring you closer to where you want to be and who you want to be, and the joy is in the journey!

      It’s unfortunate that many men (and women!) have an unrealistic idea of what a woman should be expected to accomplish in a day – working, taking care of the kids, keeping the house in order, and still being the ‘girlfriend’ that they married. Superwoman doesn’t exist, and ‘doing it all’ is a myth. We have to pick and choose and do the best with where we are right now.

      Talya- good point and great anecdote!

  8. Just so you should know.. my husband IS working. I am not anti-kollel. I plan on encouraging my sons to do so. I will encourage them to use their Bein Hazmanim to look for odd jobs. I will encourage them to find side jobs to do bein Hasedarim . I will also strongly tell them that if in any way that it is too hard on their wives that they should run to the rav to ask a shaila what to do , and then call me to come help with the kids!

  9. Ariana, I don’t think I’m disagreeing with you. I also think it’s important to have a plan. What I was trying to say, unsuccessfully, is that sometimes people get married without having all their ducks in a row, knowing (or hoping) that eventually things should fall in place. I have never seen anyone just getting started in college with future plans for medical school be accused of not supporting his family during the long grueling years of school and residency. It is understood that the payoff will be worth it. Our Kollel system is rarely set up with a concrete end and goal in sight, and what is taught, is that Torah learning is most important of all. So our young men understandably (and for many, rightly) spend many years learning, Many kollel students actually do have a financial plan–it may not be a good one (because of the poor career planning of yeshivos as I’ve said above), but they have one–be in a paid community kollel, teach, educational administration, etc. Many of them feel that because they’ve spent so much of their time in this intense academic setting that they are automatically suited for a career in education. Of course, we all know people who find out the hard way that it’s not always the case. So my “beef” is not so much with the actual young couples, although they are still obviously responsible for their decisions, it is with the “system,” so to speak. I think that most want to and plan to do the right thing, they are just not given the proper tools (by their schools as well as parents) to do so, and so they flounder. As far as parents, I think many just want to see their children happy, and so don’t pressure them as much as they can and should, sheltering them from reality somewhat. It is so rare for frum high school students to be earning their own money (and I don’t mean HS girls babysitting for extras, I mean everything that comes extra to just living at home–clothes, shoes, out of town trips, school expenses, etc). How are they supposed to learn then? The media would have you believe that if you don’t have lots of money stashed away in a collede fund before your child is born, you are an irresponsible parent. It is exaggerated, of course. But I’m working with an even lower standard: working/borrowing to get YOURSELF through college seems so rare in the frum community. There aren’t enough opportunities for frum teens to develop their financial independence practically. Those who do (think cashiers at your local kosher supermarket) aren’t usually the mainstream and generally do it because of genuine need. We’ve established a mentality that parents are expected to take care of their children’s needs well into their 20s (and 30s?), and “children” are happy to play along.

  10. Avivah,

    I would like to know more about how you plan to graduate the kids from high school at age 16. My oldest is 11 and I can’t imagine accomplishing all that is required in the next 5 years. Since you have more experience in this area, would you mind writing a post about how this process would look? Especially for those with younger kids who want to plan for this early-grad scenario. Thanks!

    1. Shoshana, the requirements are pretty straightforward, but depend on your state. In my state, high school graduation requirements look like this:

      * Four units English Language Arts
      * Three units Social Studies
      * Three units Mathematics
      * Three units Science
      * One Half unit Physical Education
      * One Half unit Health Education
      * One unit Fine Arts
      * One unit Technology Education
      * One to Three units approved Electives

      Every credit equals a certain amount of classroom hours (I have my notes on this somewhere but right now can’t remember now if it was 90 or 120 hrs per credit). It’s kind of technical to work out, but once you get your mind around that way of thinking, it’s just a matter of putting the pieces together.

      There’s a lot available online if you want to start researching. I found it helpful when I looked through sample classes that high schools across the country offer to meet these requirements; they helped me think more broadly about the options – when I first looked at this list I felt a little intimidated.

      Just to be clear, I wouldn’t tell everyone to graduate their kids at 16. For various reasons, I think this is a good fit for our next two children, but I’m not assuming that I’ll do the same thing for everyone else. Dd wants to finish her four year degree by the time she’s 18, and for ds11 it’s connected to his yeshiva plans (or rather, his comments about what he wants and my plans :)).

  11. First of all, Aviva, I wanted to say that I have been following your blog for a long time and you have my full admiration!

    Talya – the story you quoted, it was The Lubavitcher Rebbe:

    To a mother who asked advice on becoming a typist to supplement the family income, the Rebbe wrote:

    Don’t become a typist. You are a mother. Type, if you feel you need to in order to support your family. But don’t become a typist.

  12. sooooo crazy i was going to ask your opinion about how you deal with approaching the world of finances with your kids and lo and behold here is a whole article. my oldest is 3 and he’s trying to understand why tatty has to go to work and we tell him to make money so we can buy things. i want to give him a positive and productive attitude about finances. my husband and i were not brought up with positive outlooks and we’re working hard now to build a practical and positive attitude about it all.

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