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Are Your Kids Making You Broke?

4 ways to break the cycle of feeling like an ATM machine

Set Reasonable Limits

If your child does request monetary help, only agree to provide financial support if you can realistically afford to do so without sacrificing your own retirement or seriously impacting your financial health. And if you do say "yes" to helping out a child, be sure to impose reasonable limits and boundaries.

"No parent wants to see their child struggle financially, but assistance should come within reason — and with firm expectations," says said Lule Demmissie, managing director of investment products and retirement at TD Ameritrade. "While food and housing might be reasonable, a data plan for your son's smartphone shouldn't come between you and your retirement."

Encourage Financial Responsibility

Even if your child relies heavily on you for economic support, you can still try to encourage him or her to be fiscally responsible in some areas. For example, if your child is living at home, charge them a modest amount for rent and food, suggests Jesse Ryan, managing director at Accounting Principals.

"If the parents can afford it, take the money that the child is paying for rent and place it into savings for a 'move out' plan," Ryan adds.

Create a Gradual Transition Plan

For those who have adult children that have returned to the nest, be polite but firm in making it clear that the current living arrangements are not meant to be permanent. In fact, you should create a gradual transition plan where you both agree that, over time, you will start decreasing the amount of financial support you are providing to your child.

The idea is to do this gradually, "so that it's not so shocking for your children," Ryan says. Similarly, Ryan recommends setting a timeframe of six months to one year or so when the adult child is expected to move out and start living on their own. "By that time they will have a nest egg for expenses and will be used to paying for themselves," says Ryan.

Helping your child out of an occasional financial pinch can be emotionally rewarding for parents with the financial wherewithal to provide such economic help. But if you're an aging parent struggling with your own considerable bills, it really is necessary to establish proper financial boundaries so that your kids don't wind up driving you into debt.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach®, is a personal finance expert, television and radio personality, and a regular contributor to AARP. You can follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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