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I’ve always taken pride in my ability to support myself. But like so many other millennials, I admit I haven’t been consistent when it comes to paying my own way.
I didn’t pay for my college education. My parents covered some of my tuition and expenses, and my grandparents also contributed greatly to the savings accountmy college costs were paid out of. I did some unpaid internships and made a little cash working on the school paper and freelance writing for newspapers and magazines, but the money was inconsistent.
I was definitely glad I didn’t have to pay for college, and I realized how fortunate I was when I saw some of my friends saddled with student loan debt after graduation.
Since I was debt-free, I was able to move to New York City and take a relatively low-paying copywriting job, as well as get a starter apartment with a roommate in Brooklyn. I wasn't making a lot of money. But what I did earn, as well as the small deposits my parents sometimes put in my bank account, allowed me to make ends meet without having to sacrifice like crazy to repay loans.
A Generous Offer
The thing was, I realized pretty quickly that I hated my job. At first, my parents advised me not to quit until I had another one lined up. But the more I looked into what kind of jobs were available, the more I realized I wanted to go back to school to study advertising.
This was a field that I was passionate about and I wanted to get a degree in it and then make it my career. But I wasn’t sure if I should take the risk — I was barely making ends meet, and I didn’t want to accumulate crippling debt.
But once my parents understood my plan, they were very supportive. “If this is what you want to do, we’ll help you with the money and make sure you’re OK," they said, meaning that they would contribute to the rest of my living expenses while paying so I could get a graduate degree.
Initially, I didn’t want to accept money from my parents. Millennials get a bad rap for being lazy and entitled and letting their parents support them. While a lot of my friends do get financial help from family members, more often than not it’s because they’re working hard to make ends meet yet are still struggling, so their parents offer to step in. Laziness has nothing to do with it.
Some of my friends are totally cool with this type of setup, but that wasn’t me. I’d tell my parents they should enjoy their money. They’d point out that their house and car were paid off, and they wanted to pitch in.
A big part of their motivation has to do with my dad’s background. When I was young, he ran his own auto body shop, which he loved. But to better support his wife and kids, he eventually took over my maternal grandfather’s grocery store. He was able to make a good living at it, but he wanted me to do something career-wise that I was passionate about.
Because my mom and dad were so enthusiastic and made it clear that they could afford to cover me, I came around to the idea. It wasn’t one of those things where they were like, “We give you money, so you’ve got to do what we say.” They genuinely wanted to assist me so I could live the life I wanted. And honestly, it was a relief to finally be able to leave a job I hated and go back to school without worrying about debt.
Relying on the Bank of Mom and Dad
My parents helped in a few ways while I was getting my graduate degree. They paid for the majority of my tuition — although I helped with some of it by freelance writing on the side.
A lot of that tuition money came from the savings account they’d set up to cover the college costs for me and my three siblings. By the time I returned to school, my siblings had gotten their undergraduate degrees, so I was able to use the leftover cash in that account. Plus, I had a trust fund from my grandfather that defrayed fees. All told, my family kicked in about $15,000 for tuition.
My parents also picked up most of my rent. I paid something like $800 a month to live the same Brooklyn apartment I moved into after college, but now they were pitching in $500 monthly. They also shelled out for my health insurance, since I was no longer at a job with benefits. That came to about $500 per month. I was still freelance writing, and I put the money I made from that toward living expenses.
I ended up leaving grad school after being there for about a year. Even though I’d started a two-year program, I’d built up enough of a portfolio to get a full-time job at a marketing and ad agency. At that point, I didn’t need my parents to help me financially anymore. Or so I thought.
Unexpected expenses cropped up. Last year, I was planning to move with my roommate into a bigger apartment with two of our friends. But after we ended the lease on our current place, the two friends realized they couldn’t afford to move into the new apartment. Then, my roommate was laid off. I suddenly found myself looking for a new place on my own, and there was no one to help me pay a broker's fee, security deposit or moving fees.
My parents knew I was stressed about the situation. They assured me, “Try not to worry about this as much as possible. If you find a place and you have to pay a fee, we’ll help.” Ultimately, they ended up funding the broker fee (approximately $1,600) and they also paid for a moving service (about $1,000).
This time around, I didn’t go through the mental back and forth of deciding whether I wanted to accept my parents’ help or not. I was just very thankful I could lean on them because it was a relief to not have to sweat my living situation.
The Case for Taking Parental Cash
While I’m supporting myself now, if I need help in the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom and dad stepped in again. I’m incredibly grateful to have parents who are so willing to support my pursuit of my dreams. I know from talking to my friends that getting this kind of assistance isn’t uncommon, especially in New York City. It’s hard to find a lucrative job in a creative industry here, yet the cost of living is high.
I have friends trying to be actors who haven't quite made it yet, and their parents contribute to their living expenses so they can continue to work a part-time job and try to land roles. Another friend of mine is basically a career student. Her parents are wealthy, so they cover the costs for her to live and learn.
Sure this setup is baffling to some people, but I don’t think it's that big a deal. So many millennials are struggling, and some demand help from their parents. But in other cases, their parents are the ones coming forward and offering to help first.
Maybe a generation or two ago, more young people found solid, self-sustaining jobs and didn't need cash from their parents. But in today’s economy, that’s often not the case. Perhaps some people view it as financial coddling, but that’s not how I — and many of my friends — see it.