Is a Cell Phone a Need?


I’ve been reading through an article in Money on parents supporting their adult children well into their twenties and sometimes thirties.  One thing that is striking in the article is that in every case the parents were paying for their adult children’s cell phones.  This got me to wondering where a cell phone is a want or a need, and if it is a need, why do the parent’s cover the expense in every case instead of the son or daughter covering the cell phone and the parents covering something else less critical.  Is it expected that parents should cover their kid’s cell phones for ever because they start them on their family plan when they are tweens?  If parents didn’t cover their children’s cell phones, would that cripple their lives or just give more incentive to earn more and cover their own phone?  Money from delivering pizzas at night or mowing a few lawns would be enough to easily cover the cell phone bill.

Understand before you roll your eyes that I don’t personally own a cell phone and don’t really find it an inconvenience not to have one.  I find that I am normally near a phone at times when I would actually like to talk to someone, such as at my desk at work, or near the home phone when sitting on the couch.  I really don’t want to talk to people when I’m in a meeting at work or doing something else away from my desk because I’m busy with other things and don’t want to be interrupted.  (And by the way, those of you who are talking to someone and then stop to answer the phone and have a conversation while the person you were talking to is waiting are extremely rude, unless you are a heart surgeon and providing assistance with a surgery or something equally critical at the time.  Texting someone while talking to someone else is equally irritating.)  Likewise, when I am out and about I really don’t want someone calling to talk about something.  I usually won’t have the information needed with me if someone needs information and holding a private conversation with a friend with passersby listening in at the grocery store isn’t something I like to do.

I do understand that many people use their cell phone as their only phone and that having some means of communication is critical.  Still, adult children could get a flip phone for something like $15 per month.  That is about three hours at a minimum wage job.  You can get a land line for $9.95 a year according to one advertisement I heard.  I understand that it is nice to be able to play games, watch television on your phone, and use apps, but is that really a need that you should be asking your parents to pay for when you don’t make enough to buy it yourself?  Realize that while they may not say anything, continuing to support you can put a real strain on parents who haven’t been saving for retirement regularly and who don’t have that many years left.  Some parents may continue to work longer than they expected before retiring because they are supporting adult children.  Others may need to cut their lifestyle, not get to go on the trips they planned to take, or do other things because of the drain from supporting adult children.  Is it really worth it to affect other people’s lives?

Realize finally that if they run out of money, your parents will have little choice but to come and live with you.  Right about the time you are in your late thirties or early forties and thinking about taking some nicer vacations, they may come knocking with their bags in hand.  Suddenly you’ll be buying extra meals and an extra room at hotels when you travel.  Your home office or bonus room might become their bedroom or your guest room will always be full.  You’ll need to buy a bigger car to haul everyone around.  Again, is that cell phone really a need?

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice. It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

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