Family Accounts make sense until they don't
Over time as we're raising our children, it seems only natural to share accounts with them. It's easy, and often cheaper. And in some cases, it's the only way.
Our agreement with our children is that once they graduate from high school, all expenses including college go on their "tab" which they pay us back on a plan after college. This also includes their portion of the shared accounts.
Because they know they are financially responsible for themselves and are on our accounts, this led to many fruitful discussions about finances over the years. I want to add here that these discussions took a good deal of time, but were well worth all the time investment, as they turned into savvy consumers.
But there comes a time to disentangle.
After our children finished college and/or immediately once they were gainfully employed, we started the unenmenshment process.
I'm writing this post, and one other post linked to below, to keep an accurate record for myself, but it's also my hope that it can benefit others who might stumble across it in cyberspace. Even though every family will make their own decisions which could be different from ours, it may still be helpful to read this and get the idea that financial disentanglement from one's adult children is a THING.
Opening their own accounts
With each of these accounts, we helped them to do the research, and we helped them with the process of opening their own accounts.
- Car insurance We had everyone on our car insurance. Once out of college, we helped them choose the best car insurance. We then revamped our own. This meant title transfer.
- Cellphone service While they were in high school and college, we had everyone on our cellphone service. Starting when they were in college, they each paid a portion of the bill every month and any overage fees, as we determined was reasonable (it went on their tab). As each of them left college, they chose their own cellphone service, based on their knowledge of their own usage history. Then we revamped our own.
- Checking account While in high school and college, they each had a student checking account through our bank, and a debit/ATM card which they used only for ATM cash. Once they left college, they chose their own bank and opened their own checking account with a wad of cash we gave each of them as a graduation gift.
- Safe Deposit Box Remind them that when they get their own bank account, also get a safe deposit box.
- Credit card While in high school and college, they each were an authorized user on our line of credit. This item is a little longer than the others, so I wrote a separate post. Here's my post about credit cards.
- Crashplan Crashplan is the tool we use for off-site data backup. (By way of illustration, another popular choice is called "Carbonite.") We had every family member's computer getting backed up in the one "family plan" account. After college, two kids moved to Chromebooks with cloud storage, and one stayed with Windows but arranged her own individual Crashplan account. Then we reduced our own to an individual plan.
- Lastpass They each have their own Lastpass Free account (this is a password protection tool), but we had many websites shared between our Lastpass and theirs. As they left college, we moved any remaining accounts of theirs to their Lastpass, and now they are on their own to occasionally run the security tool and update their own website passwords. We figure that we modeled for them enough over the years how to best make use of Lastpass. They are still using the free version, which is probably all they need.
Some accounts they already had separate
Accounts they already had separate. Those linked to a bank account needed to be updated to their own bank accounts.
- Triple A was always separate
- EZ-Pass was always separate
- Uber, Zipcar, Lyft Our whole family is relatively new to these services, so we never did share an account with them to begin with. Each of them now has their own accounts of their choice.
- Itunes was always separate
- Paypal was always separate
Accounts we kept them on
These accounts are trivial and unimportant, so in the end, we were fine with keeping these with our kids.
- Netflix We all get to watch Netflix on one account (unless we are all trying to use it at the same time, but it's no big deal.) Update: as of the last kid being in college, we ditched Netflix altogether, and they all coped.
- Amazon Prime Over the years, Amazon changed their policy so that only one family member could have a separate account that uses our Prime advantage. So, the oldest is on her own. The middle child has that separate account that uses our Prime. And the youngest, still in college, is allowed to log into our account, as he only uses it occasionally and only for school textbooks which he gets shipped to school. He's careful to make sure I don't have something already sitting in the shopping cart at the time he's ordering.
It never really ends
In November of 2018, long after the unenenmeshment, our third kid used her phone app to order from Amazon which defaulted to her old credit card which is now ours. It took an hour and a half to figure out what happened, including a lovely chat with Amazon. That's a separate post.