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How Much Do You Rely on Your Parents for Money?

I come from a middle, (possibly lower-middle), income family. As a child my father always told me he would find a way to pay for my college education and sure enough he covered all of my tuition and most of my room and board.

When I was little I wore hand-me-down clothes from a friend of my mom’s, I ate almost every meal in my parent’s kitchen and I vacationed with my family once every five or six years. My parents didn’t have money for big expenditures and I learned at an early age that some things are just to expensive to buy.

When I graduated from college I vowed to make it on my own. I moved into a group house in order to save money on rent. I ate egg salad and tuna for dinner and tried my best to cut down on discretionary spending. When I met friends for dinner I often snacked on crackers or bread before going out so I could buy a smaller, cheaper meal.

I didn’t have much of a choice. If I didn’t want to call my parents for money than I had to live this way. After all, I made just over $30,000 a year and lived in Washington, DC, one of the most expensive cities. To be honest most people wouldn’t be willing to live the way I did. I lived in a place where five people shared a bathroom. A place where the breakers tripped and I was often without heat during bitter cold DC winters.

I know my situation is not unique, but I also know that for every recent graduate saving money there are probably two or three spending more than they can afford. This weekend I read an advanced copy of Hot (broke) Messes, which is written by a thirty-three year old Washington Post personal finance columnist, who spent more than her fair share after college. I was interested to read this book, because the author and I lived in the same city after college and graduated within a year of one another.

Apparently that’s where the similarities end. Rather than living frugally after college, the author ran up credit card debt, was underwater on her car loan and bought a condo during the height of the housing market that she struggled to sell.

What amazed me more than anything about her story was the fact that she came from immigrant parents who paid for a portion of her college education and secured the down payment of her condo. Her mother worked as a cleaner and her father delivered food to hospital patients, yet they managed to provide large chunks of money to her when she needed it.

In exchange for her parent’s generosity she bought clothing she didn’t need, wined and dined with friends and took extravagant vacations after college. With her credit cards maxed, her student loans still in need of repayment and her car underwater she turned back to her parents for money.

Her parents willingly provided it. She mentions that she feels bad about taking their money, but as the book continues she mentions more places shes dined with friends and more ways she’s spent money. Although she feels guilty for depending on her parents, she later justifies her actions by stating that they probably like providing for her. Somehow I doubt her parents are happy that they are paying off her debt, which includes her manicures and facials, but I guess anything is possible. She also admits toward the end of the book that she’s turned to her parents for help with debt on more than one occasion.

I understand turning to your folks for car expenses, if you’re down on your luck, lost your job or struggling with physical or emotional issues, but I cannot imagine turning to your parents for help because you’ve gone out to expensive bars and restaurants, traveled the globe, bought clothes you don’t need and makeup and shampoo that costs a fortune.

It’s just not in my nature to ask others for help and I would feel incredibly guilty if I had to ask my parents for money. It’s not so much that they wouldn’t be willing to help me, it’s more that they have to work a lot harder to earn their money than I do.

I can’t help but think that a writer for the Washington Post has an easier life than a man and woman who cleaned homes and carried trays for a living. I can’t imagine running up debts on wants and desires that I can’t afford and then asking my parents for money.

I’m sure it’s just a difference of upbringing and personality. So what do you think. Do you think it’s alright to run up debts and then depend on your parents to bail you out? How much do you rely on your parents for money?

Anonymous

Friday 26th of November 2010

First off, if you grew up having to buy clothes at thrift stores, that means your family had a working class income, not lower middle class income. Like you, I grew up the same way, and though I considered myself lower middle class at the time (and lived in a middle class neighborhood and home), we didn't belong there. Nobody else in the neighborhood shopped at thrift stores. No lower middle class person has to shop at thrift stores. They may choose to, but they certainly don't have to. I'm smart enough that if I'd been able to afford to continue my eduction after I got my state college degree, I could easily have worked my way into the upper middle class (I was always on the Dean's List, and scored in the top 1 percentile in the nation on the verbal portion of the SAT), and people always assume that I am upper middle class due to my vocabulary and sensibilities. It's not a comfortable existence.

Anonymous

Monday 14th of June 2010

I have never asked for help with money the whole time that I have been out on my own. Yes, this meant that I ate a lot of cup of noodles, but I always put money away for if I ever needed it. My mom ended up borrowing $800 from me to help with her house payments. I still don't expect her to pay me back.

My husband on the other hand has asked and has no problem asking for help from his parents. This irks me to no end. They paid for his college, his trip to France, his trip around the USA, you name it. I think I won the respect of his dad by telling him that I would try and keep his son's eyes only as big as his own wallet. Since then my darling hubby has toned it down a bit. We still rely on his mom to let us use her laundry machines every week since we had a baby (those babies go through a lot of clothes!). His mom and grandma also buy a bulk of the clothes for the baby, but we never ask for them to, I think they are just excited to have a little girl around. My husband was an only child, and this is their only grandkid.

Anonymous

Sunday 2nd of May 2010

I came from a middle class home and while they were frugal, my parents invested in a private (Catholic) education for my sister and myself. We always went on at least one vacation per year. Beginning in high school, I was expected to purchase my own clothes and other necessities. My sister and I shared an old Plymouth Fury car that we bought ourselves. It was an expectation that we would graduate from college, but we were expected to contribute to our education.

I paid for about 1/2 of my undergraduate education, but was able to do so with summer earnings... graduated debt free! I went on to teach on an Indian Reservation (very low cost housing!) for two years.

I paid for my graduate degree, and have never asked (or expected) any help from my parents in the 26 years since I have graduated from college.

Anonymous

Thursday 22nd of April 2010

I think some people miss the point when they say their parents help out with sports, etc. The problem is there are many "adults" out there with jobs and parents who aren't rich who ask their parents for money month after month because they want to live like people who make $100k when they only make $60k. I personally have a few acquaintances like this and it is truly disgusting, especially when the parents do seem to be struggling.

traineeinvestor

Tuesday 20th of April 2010

The Millionaire Next Door has some interesting sections on economic outpatient care which should be mandatory reading for all parents contemplating supporting adult children.

I was lucky in that my parents paid for my university education (at a low cost institution) for which I am grateful. They also paid part of our wedding costs - which I tried to refuse but ended up taking because they had already given the same amount to my siblings when they got married and they were very insistent on treating all their children equally.

These days we argue over bills for meals out etc - each of us trying to pay for the others.

While I know my parents (and my siblings for that matter) would help out should an urgent need ever arise, in any other circumstances I would be mortified at the thought of taking their money.