Our older son, 37, is an artist and puts $1,000 a month on our credit card. Our other son, 35, is self-sufficient. Is that unfair?

Dear Quentin,

My wife and I are retired, with a comfortable income of $114,000 per year and $2.3 million in IRAs. Our sons are 37 and 35 years old. The older one is an artist who we partially support. He puts about $1,000 a month on our credit card, and we send him money as needed. Our other son is very self-sufficient.

We’ve been contributing to a Roth IRA for each of them when we can. Our older son needs extra money for now, and our other son prides himself on adulting. But sometimes I wonder if we should try to be more evenhanded.

Maybe I’m overthinking this. I’m grateful we’re in a position to help. Your thoughts?

Patron of the Arts

Dear Patron,

Hopefully, your patronage will pay off. You’re grateful to be in a position to help, and your older son is fortunate to be on the receiving end. It may be that this gives him the time and space he needs to create the kind of art he wants, to find an agent or a gallery and to kickstart his career. You have given him the luxury of time to pursue his dreams. 

But you may also wish to revisit his progress at regular intervals. How long do you believe this is sustainable? Three years? Five years? Ten years? Every year he spends using your credit card and working on his art is a year that could yield dividends for your son and his artistic career, but it’s also another year in which he has not achieved financial independence.

If your son was 27 rather than 37, I might be less concerned about his long-term future. You can do so much to support him now, but you need to be realistic about where your support for his artistic career becomes detrimental to your son and his prospects of being financially solvent over the long term. Does he have any other sources of income, even as a plan B?

You and your wife have a financially secure retirement. Fidelity Investments has a few rules of thumb: By 40, you should have three times your annual salary saved for retirement; by 50, you should have six times; by 60, you should have eight times; and by 67, you should have 10 times. Few people achieve that. Assuming you’re in your 60s, you are doing better than most.

But what about your son? Has he started to save for retirement? Are you his emergency fund? Is he relying on you for a down payment on a home? Most Americans think they’ll need to save $1.27 million for retirement, yet they report having less than $90,000 on average in retirement savings, according to a report by Northwestern Mutual, a financial-services company.

You’re not going to run out of money by giving your son $12,000 per year in credit-card spending. But think about how you can assist him in other ways, too, including by helping him find a long-term path that will allow him to achieve what you have done during your lifetime — a path that allows him to live independently and plan for his own retirement. 

“You’re not going to run out of money by giving your son $12,000 per year in credit-card spending. But think about how you can assist him in other ways, too.”

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