Financial Dependency: Relying on Others for Money

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Do you rely on others for the bulk of your monthly income? If so, it’s possible your relationship with money is suffering.

Many people experience setbacks or life circumstances that result in temporarily relying on others for financial help. Being financially dependent in the longer term, however, is a financial disorder. It is defined in Facilitating Financial Health as "reliance on others for non-work income that creates fear or anxiety of being cut off, feelings of anger or resentment related to the non-work income, and a stifling of one’s motivation, passion, and/or drive to succeed."

A common form of financial dependency involves the child of a financially enabling parent. In challenging economic times as many as 60% of parents provide financial support to non-student adult children. Research shows that young adults have become significantly more financially dependent on their parents in the past few decades, a dynamic that is associated with increased parent-child conflict.

Financial dependency can take many other forms, ranging from second- or third-generation welfare families to wealthy beneficiaries of trust funds. Research shows it to be associated with lower income, singlehood, and less education. Individuals with financial dependence are also significantly more likely to have other disordered financial behaviors like compulsive shopping, gambling, and hoarding.

Despite the gains made in gender equity, many older couples still see it as "normal" for the wife to depend financially on the husband. Some young women are still socialized to be willing to accept this same dependency. Unfortunately, it can come with consequences. Financial inequality or dependence of one spouse on the other can create marital stress and is often a major reason for staying an abusive relationship. In one study, 46% of domestic violence victims reported a lack of money as being a significant reason for them to return to their abusers.