27 July 2008

Suckling at the parental teet

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: family, Random
Question: Am I less of an “adult” because my parents still offer me financial support on occasion even though I have a full-time job?

According to the July 28th issue of Newsweek, the answer might be yes. The “My Turn” column in this issue, titled “Subsidized in the City“, is written by a young professional on the topic of adult men and women living in big cities like Boston, Chicago and New York, whose parents fund their lifestyles even though they have a salary job. As you can likely guess, the author is against this and comments frequently in the article on how parents providing these perks to their kids is causing them to avoid being a “full” adult.

There are multiple comments in the article that I agree/disagree with, such as:
  • “By continuing to provide for their twentysomething kids, parents hinder their children’s ability to be financially responsible. If you don’t learn to budget early on, what will inspire you to do so when your finances become your own prerogative?”
  • “…it is possible to live in any city regardless of your age or income, it just takes budgeting and prioritizing.”

The article focuses primarily on men/women whose parents go above and beyond paying for things, such as half of their kids New York rent, all of their utilities or let their kids charge on the parents credit cards so they don’t go into debt. I agree with her that this is excessive, much like the behavior from parents on shows like My Super Sweet 16, where the parents feed their kids materialism but then chide them for being materialistic. But I don’t think you’re less of an adult because your parents do help you on occasion with things like a cell phone bill or unexpected medical/dental expenses.

I live in Chicago, where I pay my own rent, utilities, food and shopping bills, even if I get a bit excessive in shopping one month. I don’t run to my parents to “make it go away,” but I have gone to them for help when I needed to put down a security deposit on an apartment or when I needed to have a root canal and crown done and my out-of-pocket costs were due right away. They were happy to help and put me on a “payment plan” to refund their money at no interest. I think it’s okay to use the “Bank of M-O-M and D-A-D” for certain items as long as the parents have set up the guidelines with the kids of when they will be repaid.

Her second point about being able to live in any city regardless of age or income I don’t 100 percent agree with. She comments about the “life” and “diversity” of a large city like New York, yet she feels you can survive and thrive in this environment by forking over 80 percent of your salary to rent and not being reliant on your parents. If you’re putting out that kind of money for rent, I’m not sure what else you sacrifice to stay afloat in the city, eating or transportation? My guess, eating.

When I moved to Chicago as an intern, I made around $9/hour, which barely helped me afford a small studio apartment, transportation around the city and food. I lived on noodles and casseroles for six months until I found full-time employment and during that time I didn’t do really any fun stuff around the city because I couldn’t afford it and I wouldn’t take money from my parents. I’m not saying my parents should have paid my rent, etc. but I don’t see the harm in taking $20 from them here or there if it lets me go have fun and build a social network in my city.

That doesn’t make me less of an independent adult to ask for help and it doesn’t make my parents “enablers” by giving me money at times or offering to take me to Banana Republic to buy some new shirts for my job.

The author also comments, “Financial independence means social freedom and absolute control over my own life. Yet among my peers, I seem to be the only one who feels this way.”

No honey you’re not, so please don’t group all of us twenty somethings in there with you. Maybe you just have catty, spoiled friends whose parents are inattentive and show their love only by giving them money.

Am I totally missing the mark on this? The article gave me quite a “bee in my bonnet.”

32 Comments

  1. ~Angela~ says:

    My parents pay for my cell phone, but it’s really just because they can keep a family plan if I’m on it (so it’s cheaper for THEM if they pay for mine…). And they pay for my Chicago Card (transit pass) because we set it up on their credit card when I moved here and just never switched it off. And one time I borrowed $700 for my security deposit on my new apartment, but I paid them back in full the next time I saw them. I think that all of those things are perfectly acceptable.

    On the other hand… I have a friend who has wealthy parents. They used to pay for his apartment (and I’m sure they would still help him with rent if he needed it). They fund all his creative endeavors. They insisted on paying for his parking spot. They give him money absolutely every time he asks for it, and sometimes when he doesn’t.

    That is coddling. That is unnecessary. And that is the sort of parental money dispensing that I think people have a problem with.

  2. Affiliate Marketing Tips says:

    Its not right,they provide us perks because they love us and care for our needs.

  3. Maris says:

    I think it’s so great that you responded to this article! Agree with the commenters who said that help does not automatically = taking advantage.

    Sometimes, I feel like society as a whole expects us to graduate from college with loans and debt and become completely self-sufficient but in this day and age, I don’t think that is so realistic. Honestly, the only recent grads I know who have not accepted any financial help from parents who are willing to offer it are those who lived at home, rent-free, for an extended period of time after college.

    I think that as long as we are motivated and/or or are working hard at doing whatever it is we are passionate about, whether it be career advancement or graduate school, it is great if our parents want to do what they can to help us succeed, be it financially or otherwise, as long as we appreciate the support.

    I have a full-time job and work hard, but could not be living the life I am right now if my parents weren’t helping out. I don’t spend my salary on designer clothes and shoes, I pay my rent and bills but sometimes you need a little help when you’re starting off. I say as long as you have a goal of eventually being financially independent, then thank you mom and dad!

  4. Blaez says:

    hmmmm. very interesting. my father has never been like the parents thier talking about but when i was down and out and hard on my luck he always opened the door to his home and said “come stay with me til you get back up there on your own again”. he’s never paid my rent. he’s given me 20 here and there to buy food or put gas in the car.

    and what is she talking about 80% of your income is rent?! you couldn’t afford a car payment or to eat. wtf. bitch is crazy and definatly put a bee in my bonnet to.

  5. thatShortChick says:

    to the article i say, “pish posh.” i know, real mature.

    everyone can/will do what works best or well with their own parents.

  6. Mandy says:

    This article made me mad too. Its such a generalization that most 20 somethings are living in glamourous cities doing fantastic things on their parents dime. I dont see anything wrong with a parent helping a child out with an unexpected expense or buying some new shirts. Financing a lavish lifestyle while said child sleeps till 2pm and parties all night and cannot hold a job I have a problem with.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think the problem is that referring to “20 somethings” in this case is overly general. We’re talking about a ten year span of time here – and I certainly don’t place 21 year olds in my same age bracket!

    That said, where do we draw the line between independence and dependence? For many of us, if we really did some soul-searching, I suspect that line would be just beyond the amount of help we ourselves accept.

  8. RebeccaC says:

    Incredibly interesting topic — kudos JB for sharing! Absolutely agree that, as with most things, moderation is key. And, once you get to the point that you don’t need the help anymore…important to stop taking it. My parents used to insist on buying anytime they took JiT and I to dinner. Once it occurred to us that our combined income is actually greater than my parents….we insisted on splitting the bill and/or treating THEM. Its the least we can do and we’re blessed to be able to. Of course, they’re still paying for the majority of our wedding, so I’ll step down from my pedestal now. ; )

  9. Katelin says:

    i definitely agree with you in that i pay my own bills and what have you and even though i still live at home, am currently on my way out and will probably only come to mom and dad when i absolutely need it. and i don’t think that’s a bad thing.

  10. Miss Grace says:

    My parents still give me money sometimes, and I’m pretty sure I get to be an adult. But yknow, when you’re a single mother and your son’s father doesn’t always come through child support, oh and you live somewhere super expensive BECAUSE you want to be near your family? Well sometimes you need a little help. I don’t think that makes me less of a grownup.

  11. surviving myself says:

    I agree with what Erin said.

  12. megkathleen says:

    I agree that there is nothing wrong with getting help from your parents to an extent. My parents helped me out when I first graduated and I don’t know what I would’ve done without their help. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford rent without their help. But I do see the people the author is talking about. I have worked with 4 different twenty somethings whose parents paid for way too much for them and I can’t help but wonder how long they’ll be supported. I work with a girl who wears a different pair of Louboutins every day drives a new mercedes and just bought a super nice house. I know she makes less than me and will for a while and she obviously has no concept of moeny. I just think that at some point she will have to make it on her own and she will struggle through something most of us go through in our early twenties.

  13. ...love Maegan says:

    Oh, and um, I’m over 30. no longer a twenty something.

  14. ...love Maegan says:

    dude, she’s just wrong about the living in any city and being able to make it remark. just wrong.

    I live in LA and while I don’t get help from parents {because they have nothing to help with} I would not be able to survive without help from my husband – and vice versa.

    I also like your remark about the Super Sweet Sixteens and materialism and I agree. However, those types will never understand what it is like to not have so it doesn’t matter anyway.

  15. laura says:

    to respond to your comments on my site (thank you!): our client is pretty much gone but thank GOD it doesn’t mean I’m losing my job. There are enough spots open on other teams that I will be switched, hopefully not to some uptight team with an agenda…

    movies: ’21′ (eh..like a B version Ocean’s movie)
    ‘penelope’ (actually some little funny lines, reminded me a lot of the show “pushing daises”)
    ‘father of the bride’ (ha! i was drinking wine and tearing up. i’m a sucker for dad/daughter crap)
    i also watched th beginning shows for shark week (yeah!)

    and now i won’t be watching tv for a while because my butt needs to reshape…

  16. Princess Pointful says:

    Goddamn it… I had an enormous comment typed out, then my wireless disappeared, and so did my words of wisdom.
    In a nutshell… as someone who started paying rent at home as soon as I graduated from high school, and who paid all their tuition out of pocket, I get frustrated when I know people living irresponsible lifestyles subsidized by mommy & daddy. However, life is different now, and the cost of living is much higher, so I think flexibility is needed. I had to bite my tongue and ask for a loan in order to leave a bad relationship, as I simply couldn't do it on my own on a grad student budget.

  17. The Modern Gal says:

    I haven’t read the article, but I will as soon as I figure out where I threw my copy of Newsweek this week. I’d certainly say you’re being responsible the way you’re handling your finances. As long as you can manage most everything on your own, then you’re doing fine.

    What bothers me is when parents automatically pay for a large chunk of rent/gas/food/any basic living expense (and I do know a few of these people — people whose parents pay the rent while they spend their money on Pottery Barn furniture). If you’re needing that much help from someone else, then you’re probably in over your head. It is important to follow your dreams and find a job and living situation you love, but it’s important to be responsible about it and find a way and a place to live within your means.

    I think we 20 somethings have been raised in a much different financial world than our parents and therefore have more to learn about managing our money than they did. And I think that’s why so many of our peers struggle to do so(present company excluded).

  18. secretlysupergirl says:

    I’m still finding my way through this particular landmine. My parents still help me out with car maintenance and other large one-time expenses, which I much appreciate.

    My mom has also been offering to help me with rent so I could move into a nicer and somewhat safer place (my place is perfectly safe, just a little old and ghetto looking). Anyway, it would only amount to $100 a month or so but I just can’t accept it. There’s a big part of me that really wants a cool trendy place that the extra help would allow me to get, but just as big a part of me wants the financial independence, bills and all. Also, I can’t justify that regular help because I don’t have debt and have a good chunk of savings from living at home for a couple years after college. There’s no reason for them to help me out on a regular basis like that. If I can’t afford a nicer place, oh well. I can still make ends meet just fine.

    But dinners out with them or the occasional large expense like fixing my car? Heck yes I’ll take the help.

  19. Angela says:

    I don’t think that parents OFFERING to help out makes 20somethings less of adults. Shoot, my mom is 45 and her parents still offer to pay for things. My mom isn’t any less of an adult for it! I think it’s good that parents will still help out in tough financial situations. I know I wouldn’t be able to afford everything on my own at this point in my life. BUT, I don’t think that parents should pay for EVERYTHING. Nor do I think that it’s even remotely responsible for a grown adult to always rely on his or her parents for financial support.

  20. laura says:

    I really just wanted to add a thought to the conversation:
    The only thing I would willingly accept from my parents is the absolutely ‘occasional’ free meal or gas fill up. To me, this represents a parental way of showing the same love that a friend might show picking up the bill at a bar or bringing over something they found and just ‘knew you would love’.
    All in all, we have connections to each other no matter how independent we are and sometimes money is spent as a sign of these affections. It doesn’t cheapen the love as long as it is only ONE of the ways we express it.

  21. laurwilk says:

    Hi, I just found your blog randomly and love this post!

    I completely agree with you. I’m currently living in NYC and paying my own way — almost completely. However, my parents do help me out here and there. Without that help, I wouldn’t be able to a. save money for grad school or b. have a job that I love and do things that inspire me.

    I have a 401k and invest money (albeit a small amount) monthly. I think it is responsible of both myself and my parents for stabilizing my future through a bit of money here and there when something comes up. I plan to do the same thing for my children. And I also plan to encourage them to invest/save/be financially responsible.

    Thanks for this post! I may send my parents a thank you email now. :)

  22. EP says:

    I’m definitely with you on this one because I’m in the same boat as you. I don’t see anything wrong with your parents offering to help (like, say, filling your car up after you drove home for a visit or wanting to buy your car a new battery when it unexpectedly died.)

    There is something to be said for paying your bills and not being dependent on your parents to make it through the month. But there’s nothing wrong with letting them help out if they want to and aren’t ridiculous about it.

    That writer’s friends had to be the spoiled, Sweet 16 type. There’s no other way she could have perceived it as that.

  23. Heidi Renée says:

    I think all of this girl’s friends are those Super Sweet Sixteen types. What she describes is ridiculous. my husband and I pay our own bills, contribute into a 401k, and have some left over to buy nice things and entertain ourselves. But when my dad offers to pay for a plane ticket so I can come home to visit, I’m not going to turn that down! I don’t think that makes me a failure at adulthood, it just means I love my family and jump at the chance to go home. Could I have paid for that plane ticket myself? Yes, of course, and my parents know that. They would rather I save the money I earn to pay for emergencies–and I do just that.

  24. Rachel says:

    There are some really f*cked up 20 somethings out there giving the rest of us a bad name. I think it’s okay for parents to help out with the unexpected, but the kid should be grateful. If you find yourself saying “Oh it’s ok, my parents will take care of it” you are doing it wrong. If you look at all your options, type in the numbers and realized that you have no choice then you have the right idea.

  25. LJ says:

    Everyone can use a little help from time to time, most likely some of our parents might have even borrowed from “Gma and Gpa” at some point in their lives.

    It just depends on how much help your getting and how often.
    Go see the movie Stepbrothers! That will show you the extreme side of being dependent on your parents!

  26. loaded bow says:

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with getting a little extra help from mom and dad every once in a while! I have yet to turn down a free meal…

    With that said, I think that one of the biggest gifts a parent can give child is helping them to become financially literate. I would reason that the majority of 20somethings do not have a strong understanding of their money (how their RRSPs or 401Ks effect their taxes, why financing is generally better than leasing a vehicle, etc.). We don’t learn how to manage our money in school, so more than the handouts that I take every once in a while from my parents’, I appreciate the knowledge that they’ve passed down even more.

    Check out http://www.smartcookies.com. These women are amazing! They were on Oprah because of the incredible things they achieved by forming a money club and making talking about money less taboo. They have some great tools…

  27. Maxie says:

    This article pisses me off because it makes generalizations about 20-somethings that are not always true.

    I think a lot of people take advantage of their parents, but a lot of the time that is not the case. With college expenses today and cost of living in general skyrocketing it is becoming more and more difficult to get by right out of college.

    And I think it’s total bullshit that the author says anyone can live in any city on any pay. Maybe if you live in a very unsafe area and do basically anything to get by, but there’s nothing wrong with a helping hand from your family when something comes up.

  28. redstaplernation says:

    More often than not, I don’t take money when my parents offer it. But when they offered to cover $400 in vet bills when the cat was sick, heck yes. Unexpected expense. $200 for the pharmacy when my meds were being switched every 45 seconds for awhile? Thank you – those copays add up fast. St. Louis is not an expensive city, but those things that pop up out of nowhere put a strain on the 20somethings who are just getting savings started.

    Mom and Dad tell me they’d rather cover the unexpected stuff so I can save money and build up a cash stash of my own and learn to be a better saver. And they’ve made it clear that my credit cards are my own problem :o)

  29. Erin says:

    I think there is a world of difference between those who rely on and expect their parents to pay for every little thing, including unnecessary expenses, and people who turn to their parents for extra financial support when needed.

    I do think, however, that there are quite a few people in their 20s these days who have no concept of a budget, who live at home and pay for nothing on their own while partying their lives away. I do have a problem with those people.

  30. erin says:

    It bugs me too. We hear a lot about it here in Vancouver where the cost of living has skyrocketed the past couple of years. It’s seen as a social disease, but it’s just not that easy to go it alone. I’m looking at the prospect of coming out of university and earning a lousy $12-16/hr when I’d be hard pressed to live on less than 20.

    Do my parents subsidize my lifestyle? Yes. Am I happy about that? Yes and no. I would love to be more financially independent but it’s just not an option for me and for a lot of others right now.

    One thing that’s not mentioned in that article is the number of us who will be supporting our parents in as little as 15-20 years. I know I will be. It’s in their best interest to help me get a good education.

  31. Vanessa says:

    I don’t think you are missing the mark, but it needs to be within reason. The parents who show love through money rather than attention feed the materialism the most. No matter how many new clothes you have, you will never feel fulfilled inside if your perception is that your parents ignore you. I do think a young adult learning to budget and make tough choices grows up much more quickly. For example, I lived by myself in Seattle, also a very expensive city. (My parents refused to help in any way shape or form. Not even $20 for a pharmacy co-pay when I really needed it. Think Ebeneezer Schrooge.) I really wanted a place of my own, but at $1000/mo for a small studio (at the time) it was not realistic, so I rented a small place with a roommate until we could afford our own places. We didn’t have many extras, but instead made our own fun by hosting pot luck dinners and board game nights rather than going out to clubs. We would take the bus to another part of the city and make up our own walking tours. We borrowed movies from the library or volunteered at the film festival to see new ones for free. It was a very tight time financially in my life, but I also made some of the best friends of my life because I saw who liked me for me and not what I could afford to do on a Saturday night. I guess you could say the article puts a bee in my bonnet as well!

  32. SF says:

    oh boy, I am definitely one of those 20 something “adult” that still have my parents to help me out. I mean, I moved back home to save up money for my own place. But just because that I don’t pay rent doesn’t make me less financially independent. My parents are just helping me out so that I will have my own place someday, you know? I pay for my own stuff, I work work work, I save. So cmon, give me a break..article lady, not you :)

 

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