Our Two Cents: Making a hard call: When to stop paying for kids cellphones

Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to [email protected].

I am the mother of two wonderful 20-something children. Both are college graduates, beginning to make their way in the world. My daughter is in graduate school now, and my son is working full time. However, they both still have their cellphones on our family plan phone bill. My husband is beginning to balk — he feels it is time for them to each get their own phone plans, and while I agree in theory, the reality is that taking them off the plan will cost them a lot more each month than it costs us now. It seems unfair to add another bill onto my daughter’s plate while she is still in school and not right to make only my son pay his bill. Hoping for some good advice from you! Thanks. L.R., Oakland

Sharon: You are not alone. Most parents of 20-somethings these days are continuing to help out financially if they are able to do so. I believe that each family has to carve out a plan that feels right to them. One set of parents may be happy to foot all the bills indefinitely, while another may feel that by 25 a kid should be on his or her own. Once you throw graduate or professional school into the mix it becomes even trickier.

I suggest discussing these types of issues together openly as a family so your husband can express his feelings and your kids can have an opportunity to respond. You may be surprised to find your young adults perfectly happy to release you from their phone bills.

Alexis: Mom, perfectly happy may be a stretch! Given the way cellphone bills are structured these days, family plans make the most sense financially. With that in mind, it’d be unwise to put everyone on his or her own plan, whether you split the bill or not. This is a good opportunity to talk to your kids about their expectations and yours. If the cellphone bill makes very little difference to your bottom line, then this is an easy way to show your continued support to your kids as they head out into the world on their own — especially if they have entry-level jobs and/or are accruing heaps of student debt. If the bill is getting too financially burdensome for you and your husband, then explain this to your kids — they should understand.

Saul: As the only one still in grad school, I must vote for leaving things status quo while your daughter is finishing school. I know the stress of mounting student loans, keeping up on basic living expenses and coping with an overwhelming school schedule. It’s a big relief to get even a small amount of assistance during this time.

Jessica: I agree with Lex, I think it’s best to have one bill. Everyone can easily pay his or her portion online if you decide to split the expense. Honestly, as my transition to being financially stable and independent happens, I don’t want to burden my parents (yes, Mom and Dad, believe it!) with any extra bills. However, I do really appreciate the help they give me.

Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.