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?

15 thoughts on “How Much Do You Rely on Your Parents for Money?”

  1. I think the responses to this are going to be biased due to your blog audience, but i agree with you–I don't think it is OK to take money from your parents after you are employed and after they have spent money to educate you. I really think it's about personality. Are you willing to do whatever it takes (within reason) so that you know you can depend on yourself in a jam? Or do you take the easy route?

    I felt guilty taking anything from my parents after college was over…even before then. My parents are middle class where we are from, but very lower middle class in the grand scheme of USA.

    Before college started, I tried to cut down on as many costs as possible–applying for scholarships, refusing to apply for a HUGELY overpriced college that I really wanted to go to because I knew they just couldn't afford it if I got in (DUKE), working through college, and refusing their offer to buy me a computer while in college (the computer lab was RIGHT THERE. :)). I did run up credit card debt while in grad school, but that was worth it (it was all airfare to visit my parents across the world!). Once in my adulthood, I asked for a loan as a emergency fund when I went part time at work to take some classes, and they very willingly gave it to me. i keep offering to pay it back, but they won't take it. Three years later, their money is sitting in a savings account, ready whenever they need it.

    I am a better person because I manage my own finances. They are proud of me because I've made it on my own, too–and I can't think of a better way to repay them for all of their sacrifices for me than that.

  2. hmm… you certainly struck a cord here…

    I take a lot of pride in being able to manage my own finances and provide for myself. I know it's (pride) definitely part of the reason why I would never want to ask my parents for money. While I know some parents are able to be more generous than mine – I still have trouble respecting peers who live their live without actual fiscal consequences.

    I think about this a lot when I consider how I will raise my own one day children… especially if I actually do have the wealth to share. How will I teach my children fiscal responsibility and independence?

  3. I definitely don't ask my parents for money. My parents are middle class, and I am the youngest of 4. I'm 29 and graduated college at 20. The year after I graduated, my dad gave me $1000 when I moved to MD on my own. When I bought my condo almost two years ago My dad gave me $5000 and my mom gave me $3000, but they volunteered this money saying they wanted to contribute. I was grateful that they wanted to help, but I could have done it without the help too. I think some of it depends on the financial position of the parents too. On the flip side I have a family friend who moved to the DC area a couple years ago. He is 3-4 years younger than me and I helped him get a job with my company. For the first year his dad (who is a very successful lawyer – his mom is a college professor) paid his rent of about $1000 a month so that he could max out his 401 K contributions. His dad pretty much insisted on doing this. However, he also still has a credit card of his parents that he uses occasionally. He doesn't see a problem with it and his parents can afford it and they like to help him get ahead so that he has more in the future.

  4. My family growing up was on the lower side of middle class. We wore thrift store clothes, ate at home, and my parents drove used cars. When I turned 16, my parents bought a beater car for my sister & I to share (she was getting her permit).

    It was understood that we would have to pay for our own college, and after we graduated from HS, we were on our own. All 4 of us made it just fine šŸ™‚

    I would be so embarrassed to ask my parents for help. I would have to be 2 steps away from being homeless. I know they would help if I truly needed it, but there is no way they would help pay off frivolous debts!

  5. My folks were small farmers. (Does that answer your question right away?) I also wore a lot of hand-me-downs, but my mom sewed professionally, and could make about anything my little heart desired. (And did) We ate better than our town relatives, but that was because we raised our own vegetables (canned them, too), beef and pork.
    I knew we were not well off, but mostly I was proud that we managed so well with less money. My dad only went through 8th grade, and made it clear my brother and I should go to college. I worked all through high school at a hardware store to help with this (did some babysitting, too) — the deal was 50% in the bank for college, 10% to God and the rest I could use for presents and whatever.
    I applied for any kind of financial aid possible, and worked part-time all through college, as well. In grad school, I lived in an attic, cleaned the family home and took care of their daughter on occasion, for 2 meals a day and my room. (And if I came home at noon to walk the family dog, I got lunch, too.) I also had a job as class assistant.
    So…did I work to get through school? Sure, but I know my parents were paying money, too. They refused to let me pay — but I guess I made up for that a little by helping pay off Husband's student loans! šŸ™‚
    My folks were very big on standing on your own two feet, and if you had to ask for help, repaying that as soon as possible. We borrowed money from them a few times to buy plane tickets and a motorcycle, but repaid it as quickly as we could. My brother feels just as strongly as this as I do — and of course, if you get a bargain in a home, car, whatever, you call the others and brag about it!

  6. I'm ahead of my parents financially, so I don't ask them for money. But AARP released a study last year stating that 68% of their members have adult aged children that still depend on them for financial support. It's probably the main reason LifeTuner was born!

  7. I'm where I am today because of my parents and their orientations about money. It's something I write about in the blog a lot. However, I don't like going to them to ask for money (even though it's not to repay debt), because I like feeling independent. I'm grateful and lucky that my parents paid for college and I left with no debt. I'm interested to read this book now…

  8. I'm gonna shock the system here.. I DO ask my dads for money. I have 2 – one biological who is here in PA and one in CA who adopted me when he married my mom. My bio dad pays for all sports that DS wants to play and any equipment that goes with it. I don't feel even remotely guilty. He and his wife make an amazing living and want to provide for their only grandchild. I could never afford the number of sporting teams/clubs that my son wants to try. He doesn't EVER pay for anything for me. I have asked him for ONE loan in the last ten years when I lost my job and paid it back when I got my tax return.
    My father in CA has helped when I've had major car issues and refuses to take the money back. He feels that it is his job to help his kids, period. No matter what I need I know he would send it in a heartbeat. He has always provided well for myself and my brother in a slightly higher than middle class way. He never bought me a car but was allowed to drive his without paying for insurance. When I went to college, he paid. I don't feel that I'm a bad person in any way for relying on them when I have. They both feel that DS should have all they can give (within reason obviously) when I can't afford to do it.

  9. My parents bought me a dorm fridge (~$100) as a graduation present, let me stay at home during breaks and summers. That was basically the entirety of the financial support I received.

    However, they were small farmers without much money. Also, I was the youngest of 8 kids and the only one to attend college. So even if they could have afforded to pick up some of the cost, it wouldn't have been equitable.

    Now, at 34, I make more money than my parents ever did. I'm not rich, but I never worry about being able to pay the electric bill, either. I enjoy being in the middle class.

  10. Haven't relied on my parents for money in YEARS. They did pay for my college education (Thanks!) and my Dad loaned me $5k so I could fix up my condo (repaid in full), but other than that it's all on me.

    How in the world does someone so irresponsible and frivolous become a personal finance writer for the Washington Post?


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