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Dear Carrie, Several years ago, I loaned my then 24-year-old son money to buy a car on the condition that he pay it back in monthly installments. Because of some job problems, he wasn’t able to keep up with the payments. Now he’s back on his feet and wants to start paying me again. While I’m happy he’s being responsible, I’m hesitant to take his money. I’m more financially secure than he is, and I know there are lots of things he needs to save for. On the other hand, I don’t want to lessen his sense of responsibility or independence. Any ideas on how to handle this?

—A Reader

Dear Reader, This is a great question because so many parents of young adults are faced with a similar dilemma. As you watch your kids struggle financially, of course you want to help. To me, that’s what families are for. And once your kids are grounded and feel confident that they can take care of themselves, it’s a pleasure to help them — and can make a big difference in their lives and the lives of their own families. However, how you give the help is important.

I applaud you for offering to loan your son the money for his car, not just making it a gift. Paying for a car over time provides important financial lessons, involving saving, budgeting and working towards a specific goal. Now that your son is in a better financial position and wants to pay you back, he obviously appreciates those lessons. And, as you imply, it’s important not to do anything to take away his drive.

On the other hand, as a mother, I completely understand your desire to continue to help him. So first, let’s talk about how you might handle the payments. Then we’ll explore other positive ways to give financial help.

Be creative about a repayment plan

Since you’re uncomfortable accepting payments because your son needs the money more than you do, there are a couple ways to handle this that could work for both of you.

One idea is to set a monthly payment your son could easily afford. Accept the payments, but put half aside to help him again when he needs it. You don’t even have to tell him you’re doing this. He’ll feel the pride and confidence that comes with making good on a debt. And you’ll know that you’re actually using that money for his future benefit.

Another possibility is to strike a deal where your son divides his payment into two parts: half to you and half into his savings account or IRA. That way, he’ll be encouraged to pay his debts as well as save for his future.

By accepting some sort of payment, you’re acknowledging your son’s financial responsibility and encouraging his good habits. Refusing to accept payment might actually undermine both.

Look for other ways to help that foster growth and independence

Even if you’re in a position to help grown kids financially, I think it’s important to be selective and not just write a check. Ideally, you want to offer help that reflects your values and can have a positive impact both today and down the road. Here are three areas to consider:

—Insurance and health care costs: If a young adult doesn’t have health insurance, consider paying initial premiums on a high deductible policy. You’ll not only be helping with the monthly bills, you’ll be emphasizing the importance of having adequate coverage. Even with a high deductible policy, there still may be periodic medical expenses that need to be covered. You could offer to pick these up for a specified time period. If you make a direct payment to a healthcare provider or hospital on behalf of another person, there’s no gift tax.

—Education, both for kids and grandkids: Whether it’s an advanced degree or the need for new job skills, education is expensive. Would you be willing to cover these costs? What about paying for daycare or pre-school for the grandkids?

—Keeping a roof over their heads: Coming up with move-in costs such as first and last month’s rent plus deposit is a struggle for many young adults just getting started. Covering these costs can be an excellent opportunity to help get a young person get off the ground. When it comes to buying a first house, helping with a down payment is a positive way to offer support, whether as a gift or a loan.

Make a gift as part of estate planning

If reducing your taxable estate during your lifetime makes sense, you can gift up to $14,000 a year to an individual without incurring gift taxes ($28,000 for a married couple splitting gifts.) You might also consider gifting larger amounts to a 529 College Savings Plan—an excellent opportunity for grandparents to make a significant, targeted contribution.

There are many reasons why grown kids might need financial help — after all we live in a very expensive world — so if you can help, by all means, do it. To me, it’s an investment in the next generation. Just make sure you’re comfortable with what you’re giving and that your kids know what’s expected in return.

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER(tm), is president of Charles Schwab Foundation and author of The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty, available in bookstores nationwide. Read more at You can e-mail Carrie at This column is no substitute for an individualized recommendation, tax, legal or personalized investment advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager.

Photo via Images Money, Flickr  

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At this moment, the president of the United States is threatening to "throw out" the votes of millions of Americans to hijack an election that he seems more than likely to lose. Donald Trump is openly demanding that state authorities invalidate lawful absentee ballots, no different from the primary ballot he mailed to his new home state of Florida, for the sole purpose of cheating. And his undemocratic scheme appears to enjoy at least nominal support from the Supreme Court, which may be called upon to adjudicate the matter.

But what is even worse than Trump's coup plot — and the apparent assent of unprincipled jurists such as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — is the Democratic Party's feeble response to this historic outrage. It is the kind of issue that Republicans, with their well-earned reputation for political hardball, would know how to exploit fully and furiously.

They know because they won the same game in Florida 20 years ago.

During that ultimate legal showdown between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when every single vote mattered, a Democratic lawyer argued in a memorandum to the Gore team that the validity of absentee ballots arriving after Election Day should be challenged. He had the law on his side in that particular instance — but not the politics.

As soon as the Republicans got hold of that memo, they realized that it was explosive. Why? Many of the late ballots the Democrats aimed to invalidate in Florida had been sent by military voters, and the idea of discarding the votes of service personnel was repellent to all Americans. Former Secretary of State James Baker, who was overseeing the Florida recount for Bush, swiftly denounced the Democratic plot against the soldiers, saying: "Here we have ... these brave young men and women serving us overseas. And the postmark on their ballot is one day late. And you're going to deny him the right to vote?"

Never mind the grammar; Baker's message was powerful — and was followed by equally indignant messages in the following days from a parade of prominent Bush backers including retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the immensely popular commander of U.S. troops in the Desert Storm invasion that drove Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait. Fortuitously, Schwarzkopf happened to be on the scene as a resident of Florida.

As Jeffrey Toobin recounted in Too Close to Call, his superb book on the Florida 2000 fiasco, the Democrats had no choice but to retreat. "I would give the benefit of the doubt to ballots coming in from military personnel," conceded then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, during a defensive appearance on Meet the Press. But Toobin says Gore soon realized that to reject military ballots would render him unable to serve as commander in chief — and that it would be morally wrong.

Fast-forward to 2020, when many of the same figures on the Republican side are now poised to argue that absentee ballots, which will include many thousands of military votes — should not be counted after Election Day, even if they arrived on time. Among those Republicans is Justice Kavanaugh, who made the opposite argument as a young lawyer working for Bush in Florida 20 years ago. Nobody expects legal consistency or democratic morality from a hack like him, but someone should force him and his Republican colleagues to own this moment of shame.

Who can do that? Joe Biden's campaign and the Democratic Party ought to be exposing the Republican assault on military ballots — and, by the same token, every legally valid absentee ballot — every day. But the Democrats notoriously lack the killer instinct of their partisan rivals, even at a moment of existential crisis like this one.

No, this is clearly a job for the ex-Republicans of the Lincoln Project, who certainly recall what happened in Florida in 2000. They have the attitude and aptitude of political assassins. They surely know how to raise hell over an issue like military votes — and now is the time to exercise those aggressive skills in defense of democracy.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at