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a beautiful life
July 25, 2008 3:08 PM   Subscribe

"A friend confessed to me that she didn't need to build credit. If the need for a loan ever arises, she told me, she can go to her parents or—as she secretly hopes—a husband who will take care of it."
A generation of twenty-somethings ponder when, or if, they will begin their financial independence from their parents.
posted by plexi (86 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are two different (but related) things happening here, and it's important to draw the distinction. There's a serious difference between someone who is well into their twenties and lives with their parents and someone who is well into their twenties and whose parents pay their rent. The former is a sad statement on how poorly we as a society avail young people of the opportunities they need to thrive and become functioning adults. The latter is a sad statement on how people with money spoil the shit out of their kids.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:23 PM on July 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


Wait, suddenly teenagers don't want to be independent? Whahappen?
posted by davejay at 3:27 PM on July 25, 2008


Hey kittens, what about someone who is well into their twenties and who pays their parents' rent?

please tell me there are some of those out there, 'cuz I've got kids now
posted by davejay at 3:28 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey kittens, what about someone who is well into their twenties and who pays their parents' rent?

please tell me there are some of those out there, 'cuz I've got kids now


Uh...I send my mom money all the time, if that counts.

Of course, I moved back into the house like three times in my twenties, so I...wouldn't expect immediate results?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:30 PM on July 25, 2008


Young people suck.

Oh, wait, this is my generation.

I guess I've got some mooching to do, then! See ya suckers later.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:30 PM on July 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


I'm twenty-five, in grad school, and live with my parents because I can't find even a shitty part time job that can work with my school schedule. I would kill to be financially independent, but I'm terrified that I still won't be able to find a job after I graduate.
posted by Caduceus at 3:33 PM on July 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Rich kids refuse financial independence and want to continue sponging off their parents?

YOU. DON'T. SAY.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:37 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


This topic tends to annoy me a lot. Ever since I was in high school, I had a burning passion to get out of the house. Of course, if my parents were paying anything I'd be beholden to them, so I tried to minimize that as much as possible. I've even go so far as to tell my parents that if I suddenly find myself unemployed I'd rather get on the dole queue than come home. I do pretty well for a person two years out of college - my own apartment, car, good savings.

My brother, being the younger of us two, is quite the opposite. He seems very willing to take every handout anyone will give him. He took one of the family cars to college (something I was expressly forbidden to do). He graduated in May and is now living at home again, with only a summer internship for employment. He pays for some of his luxury items, but he lives rent-free, doesn't pay for groceries, and has ample free time to pursue his leisure activities in our parents' basement.

At the end of summer, he's going to move in with his fiance. Correction - he's going to move in to his fiance's parents' house. See, they believe that they should provide as much for their daughter as possible, so she doesn't need to have a hard life. This apparently extends to my brother, who will again live rent-free in a room in their house in exchange for doing a few chores.

Why is he doing all this? Well, he's looking for work, but finding a job with an English degree is difficult, and he won't accept the fact that his salary won't be anywhere near what I (an engineer) make. Not to be disparaging to liberal arts majors, it's just that he's disconnected with reality. He also wants to get an apartment for himself alone (or himself and his fiance), and he'll never be able to afford that on an English major's salary in DC. So instead he mooches.

The mind boggles.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:39 PM on July 25, 2008


I'm in my 20s, have massive undergrad student loan debt and major medical bills. That said, I do have a full time job that pays pretty well. I pay my mom a couple hundred in rent/utilities per month and tend to buy my own food. I also pay for a lot of home repairs, should an emergency arise. I don't live at home because I want to, I live at home because I need to. My rent covers my portion of the cell phone I had in college because it's cheaper to have it tied to our landline account. I pay all my own bills.

There's no way that I'm going to be able to find a place to live (not even a studio) in my town for 250 a month. Still, I guess the difference is that I clearly have a savings plan and am clearly paying off my bills. I don't think there's anything wrong with living at home if you are clearly making progress toward leaving, contributing something if you can and aren't just mooching because you're lazy.
posted by Waitwhat at 3:44 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't need to build credit--not because I can borrow money from my parents, but because fuck you, system. I think the problem might be few people are willing to humor the idea that they could move somewhere cheaper.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:45 PM on July 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


He also wants to get an apartment for himself alone (or himself and his fiance), and he'll never be able to afford that on an English major's salary in DC.

"Oh, but he will," said the English major living by himself in an apartment in DC (well, in NOVA). Maybe this is just my Cleveland background speaking here -- where I'd have been lucky to find employment at a Starbucks -- but there are job opportunities out the ass in this bitch. If he can't find work, it may be because he's, I don't know, got the sweet setup at his girlfriend's parents' house.

(Hey...how do I get that sweet setup, anyway?)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:48 PM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I'd ever call my girlfriend's parents' house a "sweet setup." But then, maybe that's just me.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:58 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I try not to be judgmental, but it's really hard when it comes to adults taking money from their parents so that they can be comfortable (rather than out of real need). I judge the parents, too. If you're buying your college graduates $500 haircuts, something is wrong with you!
posted by prefpara at 3:59 PM on July 25, 2008


If your parents are rich, it makes sense to allow them to pay your expenses while you invest your time in to building up your money making ability. Whether that's by networking, or education, or whatever.

Hang out with a bunch of rich people your age, and eventually you'll be in the "old boy's club" and able make a ton of money.

If that means your parents subsidizing you for a few years, it's not necessarily a bad trade off.
posted by delmoi at 4:00 PM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


(shrugs)

The parents had quite a party and they're leaving the world in a shittier shape than they found it. Spotting junior a few more years in the house or some extra cash isn't a big deal.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:02 PM on July 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


As a full-time student I live at home with my parents during the summer rent-free. That's fine; someday I'll hopefully be making a good salary and will be able to repay them in some way.

This is somewhat similar to the debate about whether or not parents should pay for their child's college education. My (and my parents') philosophy there is that as long as the kid is a hard worker and isn't just partying all day and night, a college education is the best gift you can give, much more so than the crap parents buy their kids every year while they're growing up.

If the kid involved has an ego problem and doesn't want to work jobs that are "below" him/her, or wants to party all the time, or has a full-time job and doesn't plan to go to college, all bets are off.
posted by DMan at 4:14 PM on July 25, 2008


Caduceus, what are you studying that makes you terrified of not being able to find a job after graduating? As noted re backseatpilot's brother and kittens, most employers aren't looking for English majors.

I'm of the mindset now that my kids can't be liberal arts majors, unless they pay for it themselves. And I say that having been one. I've always been fiercely independent. I lived in crappy studio apartments where I ate hotdogs, ramen noodles and mac & cheese. That was way better than living with my parents. My parents aren't prudes but drinking beer, smoking pot, dating athletes and skipping classes would not have gone over well. Much better to be broke and on my own while enjoying being a student and then a young adult. You learn how to manage your time, money and vices.

Beside, asking my parents for money would have been bad form. They've helped a few times but my requests were small and quite rare. Mostly I sucked it up and made do.
posted by shoesietart at 4:21 PM on July 25, 2008


The economic underpinnings were also important. We had the ability, in many ways, to live off the fat of the land. Living was cheap. When I think about the differences between living then and living now I can summarize them with two words: real estate. You could live really cheap. My second year of graduate school, my then-wife and I lived in a two-room apartment in Ann Arbor and the rent was $112 a month.

-Todd Gitlin, Former president of SDS on why kids don't have time to protest.

So yeah. When I was working 60+ hours week last year I had enough money to pay rent, utilities, and internet access. Plus $100 a week food budget.

Not quite a great depression a third world country sob story, but a pretty miserable existence.

Have you guys priced student housing in most college towns? I live in a crappy house, in a crappy part of town, far away from college with 3 other people sharing one bathroom.

As far as I see it, a few extra hundred dollars a month right now will mean a lot more to me than 5 years down the road. It's the difference between living off of bulk dried lentils and actually being able to buy some produce. So yeah, I took some money from my parents.

Luckily I'll probably score that sweet public school teacher job where I will make literally over 20k dollars a year.
posted by Telf at 4:33 PM on July 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Ok, wait, hold on. Living with parents AND has fiancee. See that was the thing I couldn't manage that finally drove me out of my parent's house. How did he pull that one off exactly?

Look, I honestly don't know about this issue. Used'ta be, as I understand things, that families did live together in large(er) groups, simply because to take yourself alone into the wilderness, a la Little House on the Prairie, was to invite horrible disaster. Is it a modern invention to suspect that people should be financially independent? (If so, since when?) If the economy gets significantly, (and I mean very significantly) worse, are we going to be forced to re-assume that mode of living? Are most people really financially independent at 18? Because just to judge from my very narrow circle of acquaintances, that was generally the exception to the rule. You had to be very driven to seek that sort of independence, and while it was begrudgingly respected, it wasn't seen as necessary.

Are we actually a better society for thinking this way? Or are we simply letting ourselves be ruled by a drive to personally acquire, a drive that, while attractive in its machismo and individual power, is just a shallow disguise for common ordinary greed?

(Note: I was totally financially dependent in college, my parents agreed to help me w/ room n board, and I kept to my studies and kept full-tuition scholarship. Other than some extremely limited summer jobs, I didn't really work. After college I've lived mostly by myself and worked full time to support it, except one 2-3 month stint between jobs, and I did help them out w/some costs at that time. Judge not lest ye be judged!).

I think it has been my own choice to support myself, and while I don't regret it, and I feel it is my responsibility, to be harsh I don't think I'm any happier simply because of that. I'm not sure that it is, fundamentally, Good.
posted by SomeOneElse at 4:34 PM on July 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


I would kill to be financially independent...

Really? Then meet me down at the docks at midnight. The Don and I have a proposition for you.
posted by lekvar at 4:36 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


This explains the economies of the sucker cities (NY, LA, DC), which are packed with young people, despite the outrageous rents. In a non parent-subsidized economy, these young people would be lighting out for the territories, and creating new outposts for themselves in cheaper surroundings. As it is, all their energy, creativity and cash goes down the big-city rent hole. What a waste.
posted by Faze at 4:37 PM on July 25, 2008 [11 favorites]


My lawn.

Off of it.

Now.
posted by languagehat at 4:39 PM on July 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


I want to believe that every generation gets this kind of "kids these days..." attention from the press but it just seems so rampant now that I have a hard time imagining it. I'm 22, live far away from my parents and have been financially independent for awhile (in fact, I have the highest income in my immediate family). It's really irritating to hear that people at the company I work for are going on management retreats to learn how to handle "kids like me". I feel I am no different than any of my peers, yet for some reason I'm expected to be some kind of sandal wearing, come into work at noon, no good free loader. What gives?
posted by saraswati at 4:49 PM on July 25, 2008


When people become so sheltered that empathy dies completely, do you think they'll serve moneywine at the funeral?
posted by invitapriore at 4:50 PM on July 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


I cannot understand any young adult who is willing to live with their parents, but obviously some people have different family dynamics than I had. I cannot imagine how depressing it must be to see your 2x or 3x year old kid still living in the house, but I'm not a parent, I imagine your POV changes.
posted by maxwelton at 4:53 PM on July 25, 2008


For one year after college, my parents essentially paid my way. In the subsequent two years, I am now much more financially secure and significantly better off career-wise than just about anyone i know who took a standard entry level job to pay rent right after graduation. I took a huge risk, lived on rice and beans for that year, and did something amazing. Because my parents trusted me to treat their support as an investment as opposed to a gift, I'm doing really well these days. It was as if my first year after school was an extension of my education.

True: I had support that very few people in the world could ever hope to receive, and frankly, it's a huge part of the reason why I am where I am today. However, if you don't take an opportunity like those offered to the people in this article and do something constructive with it, they deserve their eventual and inevitable doom.
posted by Freen at 4:55 PM on July 25, 2008


Building Credit = "Bend over a little now so that we'll let you can bend over bigtime later!"
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:59 PM on July 25, 2008


Go entitlement!!

Anyways, these douchebags have always been around. There's just a few more of them now, because more parents can support them. When the number of parents who can and are willing to let their kids mooch slowly ebbs, the amount of leaches will decrease.
(The above is pure conjecture and opinion.)

The upshot is that it guarantees a large service sector workforce for those of us who can get our shit together enough to find yet another way to get the boomers and irresponsible spenders to fork over their cash.
(The above is just me being hopeful.)

In summation, put your money into healthcare (for the aging parents) and temp agencies (for the mooch-set).
posted by terpia at 5:02 PM on July 25, 2008


I just wanted to say that I'm an English Major. A proud successful English Major! Yes! Obviously, it takes hard work to be successful in whatever field you pursue. There are plenty of lazy people in other majors too.

Also, I'd point out that people live in cities because "cheaper" i.e. rural places are full of fucking hicks and are often not suited to civilized life. Personally, I am a rural-refugee. I can not return knowing what I know, nor would I be accepted, sadly.
posted by Craig at 5:02 PM on July 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


Caduceus, what are you studying that makes you terrified of not being able to find a job after graduating? As noted re backseatpilot's brother and kittens, most employers aren't looking for English majors.

Yeah, that was my problem for the year and a half before I started grad school. The program I'm in is a publishing apprenticeship program; I am, as I write, taking a break from copyediting a YA historical fiction novel the school press is going to publish next year. When I'm done with that (which I hope will be tomorrow or the next day), I'm going to be back to working on a developmental edit for a history of labor in Oregon, which we are also publishing next year.

I'm going to graduate having essentially worked for a publishing house for two years, which would have been fine if the economy weren't going down the toilet. As it is, unless it gets good again real fast, I'm going to have a real hard time getting a job at a publisher which actually pays; that's a difficult proposition when the economy is good.
posted by Caduceus at 5:10 PM on July 25, 2008


My sister and I alternate months making our parents' mortgage payments.
posted by Zambrano at 5:22 PM on July 25, 2008


A very nice girl at my school (who happened to have stinkin rich parents) parked wherever she wanted, because the $20 every time she got a ticket was meaningless to her.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:23 PM on July 25, 2008


This explains the economies of the sucker cities (NY, LA, DC), which are packed with young people, despite the outrageous rents. In a non parent-subsidized economy, these young people would be lighting out for the territories, and creating new outposts for themselves in cheaper surroundings. As it is, all their energy, creativity and cash goes down the big-city rent hole. What a waste.

Err, maybe. Alternatively, parental support is the only thing staving off a generation of young people from turning tricks to make ends meet in the big city, then taking the bus to Florida because of some orange juice jingle they heard. It's a close call.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:25 PM on July 25, 2008


i think it makes a lot less difference where a person lives (at home with mom & dad or in some squalid tenement) than why they're living there. i keep seeing kids going off to school who are busily conferring with their soon-to-be roommates over matching bedspreads & draperies for a dorm room! and trotting off to pier one to spend a bundle so they can 'personalize their space.' oh. and lots of them are taking the summer off because it's their last summer before they enter college. wtf?

i'm just not encouraged that most of these kids would ever condescend to eating ramen and living in a studio apartment without a bathroom door. they've never had to do without, and i can't imagine them starting when they graduate from college.

from where i sit, the world doesn't need any more people who can't take care of themselves. especially brattish nits who have all the privilege in the world.

and hahahahaha! go ask your parents for that loan *now* & see what they say with the stock market in the dumper like it is. whoever your parents are, there are plenty of folks who lost more than they'll ever have.
posted by msconduct at 5:34 PM on July 25, 2008


Terpia-the mooch sets don't need to get a job through temp agencies-they can be hired by a friend of the family. Networking at its lowest form.

I can't help but feel a little bitter when reading articles like this- I'm twenty-two, and when I asked for some help covering move-in costs as a birthday present so I could take a job offer in NYC, they refused to even cosign the lease. I was looking for a room in Brooklyn or Jersey City, but was having difficulties finding one in my price range that fit my definition of a room-four walls, a door, and possibly a window. After first suggesting that I mooch off my friends (all of whom were also recent transplants, none of them had couches), they suggested that I move in with my unemployed brother and his two roommates in a two bedroom apartment in a city that was halfway across the country. This meant moving 1300 miles away from my girlfriend (the relationship didn't last), and far away from anyone I knew, besides my brother. Moving home was never even an option. My parents have been good about teaching me how to be financially independent-and I'm doing all right now, but the first six months were really crappy.

My parents did help me through college-I still have some loans, and had a work study job for four years (and worked when I could during the summer), but I could have *used* that handout! I'm sure I could have taken the emotional repercussions of not being completely financially independent. If I'm going to be blamed for being an infant, I want to at least reap the rewards.

That being said-I'm skeptical about how widespread this phenomena really is. How many people can afford to throw $3000 a month at their children so they can live in Manhattan? I read an article in the NY Times that talked about people building giant rec rooms with giant tv's and projectors for movies-and really, how many people can afford to do that? It seems like people are equating upper-middle class as the norm, instead of being a polite term for being rich.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:45 PM on July 25, 2008


Its cultural, across Asia, 'kids' live with their parents until they marry or even after that.
posted by infini at 6:06 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I work with a woman that has two college aged kids and a 16-year old high school kid. None of them have jobs this summer. They are all at home, sleeping past noon, without jobs. She said they couldn't find one, "and besides, "I don't want them to work just anywhere."

I don't think there is anything wrong with supporting your child completely, especially one that hasn't graduated high-school yet, so they can concentrate on academics. But there is something strange about a college kid that doesn't work, at least part-time. I've always had a job. Since I was 14 years-old. I never took out a college loan. My parents paid the first two years of my schooling and I paid the rest for the remainder of my degree. Granted, I was at a state university, had a good part-time income and paid as I went. One year I did qualify for a small grant that paid for a couple classes and a couple text books. I was also always welcome to live at home rent free as long as I was in school. I can understand if you were studying something particularly grueling, but for the average bear college student there is no reason not to work and attempt to support yourself. If your parents are supporting you or supplementing your income after college, it's kind of pathetic.

Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe these people are the smarter ones. Maybe since my parents were "working class" I adopted a working class mentality. Now, I'm fortunate enough not to have to work much because my husband is cheap as hell and we live below our means.

I work in a very affluent part of town in outpatient care. I know of at least five elderly adults who are supporting their grown children. It's a big source of stress for them. I can't help but to wonder what went wrong. Were they coddled? Were they given handouts on a regular basis. Did they become lazy and unmotivated? And why aren't they kicking them to the curb?

I also know of many married couples that are supported partially by their parents. The grandparents pay for ballet lessons and they pay for their plane tickets and private school tuitions. To each their own I suppose, but I wouldn't think of asking or accepting money from my parents. My parents now have some money to throw around. But, my children and hobbies are not their responsibility. My parents are entitled to save and enjoy their own money without handing it out to me. Besides, if I asked (I would never) they would tell me to get a job.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:13 PM on July 25, 2008


funny that 'building credit' is seen as virtuous, compared to sponging of your parents.

whatever happened to 'saving'?
posted by unSane at 6:16 PM on July 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


This explains the economies of the sucker cities (NY, LA, DC), which are packed with young people, despite the outrageous rents. In a non parent-subsidized economy, these young people would be lighting out for the territories, and creating new outposts for themselves in cheaper surroundings. As it is, all their energy, creativity and cash goes down the big-city rent hole. What a waste.

As someone who lived for four years in DC and just moved to a cheaper urban area (Atlanta) only a few months ago, this is silly. "Creating new outposts?" People who want to work in government have to live where the government is. The two guys I lived with last year who worked for the DOJ couldn't exactly live in Wisconsin. Likewise, I worked for a non-profit, which in turn had to have its office close to the government because that's how lobbying works. You may as well complain that LA has high rent that could easily be solved by people trying to make movies and television shows in Idaho.

"Suckers?" Give me a break. There are two main groups of people who live in DC- people who moved there deliberately, specifically to find opportunities in a filed that is centric to our seat of government- and calling us "suckers" somehow implies we were tricked. The other major group are the incredibly poor, who are stuck there, and don't have these precious resources to "light out" somewhere. Telling a kid in a housing project that he should just up and move is a much more audacious statement than suggesting someone like me only lived there because my parents gave me money. Neither are true.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:25 PM on July 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


I actually have seen a lot of monetary irresponsibility amongst my peers. I'm 19, so most of us haven't had a ton of opportunities to show off our values re: money on a major scale, so I assumed most of my friends were sensible. Then comes the college decision...

Basically, it's a pretty rich neighborhood and the assumption is parents will help out with college. Most of our families are in the position of not getting need-based financial aid for school, but not being rich enough for that to necessarily be financially sensible (have you seen the costs of some schools these days?)

Now, parents paying for some education is fabulous. I hope to save up enough to help out my kids, one day. But the degree to which people take advantage of their parent's generosity horrifies me.

Many of my friends were offered partial-or-full-rides to our absolutely fine state school. I took one, because DUH, when the other option is paying 200k. I'm a liberal arts major, and my parents are about to retire: none of us can afford that sort of debt (though they offered to help pay, I wasn't about to accept.) Most of my friends chose to pay full price at privates (some prestigious, some honestly not at all.) And of course, they may be taking out loans but they're not footing most of the bill. Their parents are.

I don't understand it at all. It's like their brains break and they follow this sort of reasoning:

1) I want to go to an expensive private college.
2) My family can't afford it.
3) ???
4) Enroll at expensive private college!

And this is among friends who I consider pretty reasonable about money (not spending a ton on clothing, music, etc.) I can't imagine what they're going to do for grad school, which they all plan to attend, and afterwards. I don't know what their families are going to do for retirement. Some of them aren't even getting great grades. It's absurd. I don't like sweeping generalizations but I can absolutely see some of my friends developing into the people discussed in this article. The sense of entitlement is astonishing.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:27 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nobody— and I mean NOBODY— should feel guilty getting money/help from their parents IF their parents can afford it and are willing to help.

I left home at 17 years old. Went to college. Never came back from more than a couple of weeks during summers until I was 21. And I've lived on my own sense. Occasionally I would get the nerve up to ask my parents for a couple hundred bucks here and there. But it made me feel like shit. Most often no matter how broke and pathetic I was my pride got in the way. I figured if they don't offer I can't ask.

And that is completely fucking wrong.

I found out my sister, who is 9 years older than me, got a "no interest loan" for her first house. So did my older brother. I also found out that my sister would ask my parents for money through out her early twenties. My wife and I asked them to co-sign for us... but then I freaked and ended up borrowing from my 401k instead.

I never got any of that. I was PISSED when I found this out. I suffered extreme financial humiliation in my twenties trying to work in the movie business. Living off of less than $12.00 of groceries a week, having up to six room-mates, or, worse, mooching off girlfriends. At any given time I held at least two or three part-time jobs. Working grave-yard shifts. Though sometimes there were stretches of four or five months of NO income. It was awful. Fucking awful.

But still I could not really ask my parents for help. Unless I got really desperate. And I would chicken out and ask for maybe $200 dollars here and there.

I held a grudge about this for years. Then I met my wife. She would call her parents and ask them if they had any money becuase she was broke. My parents had more money than hers... so this blew me away. But they would send her money when ever they could BECAUSE SHE ASKED. And they knew she was not irresponsible.

When my dad got cancer a few years back and we started "talking" more, I jokingly brought this up. I told him how broke I really was. How I often only ate once a day back in the 1980's. Why it was I never went on the family vacations to go skiing or fishing because I couldn't afford it. How I got sick once from exhaustion and malnutrition ended up in the hospital, had no insurance, and was sent to collections for the MRI scan I didn't need. How, because I couldn't afford to drive it or fix it, my car wracked parking fines. How I would get up in the middle of night to push it to a new space to avoid tickets. Occasionally, since I worked graveyard, I would miss moving it in time and I got tickets. That, and an unscrupulous boss who told me he would pay for tickets I got while running errands for him, wracked up over $2400 worth of parking fines. I told him about the shenanigans I had to pull to still keep my license.

He was horror struck. Because he did not know.

He told me this:

"People who can't afford to support their kids should not have kids. We always figured you were the independent one so we never offered like we did your brother and sister. We figured you'd ASK. I feel ashamed."

Now at the worst we accuse the kids in this article of abusing the good will and love of their parents if they are not "surviving" on this money but rather are BLOWING it.. and worse maybe on false pretenses.

But you know when I'm rich, and I fully intend to be, I will give my kids every fucking dime I have—as much as they want — and I HOPE to Christ that they enjoy that cash and do some fun things in their twenties. Like I never got to.
posted by tkchrist at 6:37 PM on July 25, 2008 [52 favorites]


As it is, all their energy, creativity and cash goes down the big-city rent hole. What a waste.

Yes. Becuase working at WAL•Mart or Starbucks in the burbs is SOOOO much more fulfilling than pursuing your dream to be an artist surrounded by other artists in a thriving major city.

Dang! Just think of all the wasted opportunities to work in office parks or warehouse stores that are going unfulfilled!
posted by tkchrist at 6:55 PM on July 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


tkchrist, I understand where you're coming from. My sister has had many things paid for because she told my parents about her hardships. They offered willingly. My parents have "bailed" my sister out numerous times. Like you, I rarely talked to them about financial matters. I didn't want to ask. I agree with your dad when he says, "People who can't afford to support their kids should not have kids" Supporting unemployed adults is what boggles my mind, not helping out a struggling adult child.

I should also say that I never really had to rough it. I never went hungry. I went from living with my parents to living with my now husband in an inexpensive town. We both had jobs and some savings and were in decent financial shape. I was probably spoiled. My now husband owned a business that paid well. I paid rent but never had to truly worry about making it because I was in a two income situation at a fairly young age. I guess it's easy for me to judge people that live off their parents. I had "help" by living with a person that could contribute to my comfortable lifestyle. If I had a car that was impounded and didn't have the money, my boyfriend would. At some level, I may have been a little like these twenty-somethings. If If I were single things would have been much different. I still worked my ass off while living with someone, but things would have been much different.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:17 PM on July 25, 2008


"People who can't afford to support their kids should not have kids. We always figured you were the independent one so we never offered like we did your brother and sister. We figured you'd ASK. "

To balance that: Then you have me and my parents.

My finances crashed in 2002; I work in theater and office temp as a day job. Shortly after 9/11, both things took a serious nosedive, and I had to live on my credit cards for a year. I was too proud to ask for help from my family, even though I was going hungry and miserable. And things did get better over the next couple years. Still, my parents kept saying that any time I really needed help, I could ask, and they would help me.

Then my roommate had a death in her family and was going to miss a couple weeks of work, and would be two weeks late with her rent -- but she was good for it. I didn't have enough money myself to float both our shares of the rent, so I asked my parents for a two-week loan of $600, to be repaid instantly when my roommate came back and paid it to me.

You'd have thought I was asking them for a kidney.

To make matters worse -- at the time that I was maxing out my credit cards to make my rent, my parents were giving my brother money to help him along on his round-the-world backpacking trip he was taking with his girlfriend (who is now his wife).

I still rarely ask my parents for money, but now it's for a very different reason.

And people who just lay back in the buckwheat like this and let their parents pay for everything just make me SEETHE.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:19 PM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


The author of the Newsweek article was interviewed on NPR this week. One of the callers, a 20-something man whose post-college lifestyle was being supplemented by his parents, was angry at her having written the article and possibly given some parents the idea that what they were doing was wrong. He sincerely (and somewhat desperately) tried to make the argument that the article was irresponsible, and posited that "30 is the new 20."
posted by fuse theorem at 7:22 PM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


In my experience, the hardest part about living at home is that the parentals don't want you to leave and chide you that moving out is foolish.
posted by Phalene at 7:34 PM on July 25, 2008


Can't really identify, as I've had no parents since I was 12, and not even a foster parent since I was 17. These kids think life is so tough, but it's a lot tougher when you're all on your own at 17 and it's do or die. So I made the Army my parent for four years, to get me over the late teen hopelessness hump. Worked out okay I guess. Didn't much like getting shot at though.
posted by jamstigator at 7:36 PM on July 25, 2008 [11 favorites]


I think most of what pisses people off about this article is the attitude displayed. There's nothing wrong with borrowing money from your parents if you really need it. but taking money for luxuries just strikes me as regressing back to having an allowance. In either case, neither parents nor their money will lsst forever, so it strikes me that these kids are avoiding a little financial pain now for a lot more later (when their support runs out).
posted by concreteforest at 7:52 PM on July 25, 2008


davejay: I have an ...ummm... friend who pays his parents mortgage. It happens.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:57 PM on July 25, 2008


Concreteforest - I agree that the attitude is the worrying part. I don't have a problem with parents giving their kids money if they can afford it, but when kids act entitled to the things their parents earned through hard work, without participating in any hard work themselves? When they don't feel thankful to their parents because, hey, what else are they for? Not a fan. And it is awfully common.

I'm definitely not talking about the really struggling kids who are living with their parents because the economy is so horrible they can't find any job, or have fallen on other hard economic times.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:03 PM on July 25, 2008


I don't begrudge the people in these stories their handouts... they will be making my coffee and serving me my food for decades once the gravy train dries up or dies off.

But don't somehow pretend these people represent my generation. There have always been freeloaders. There will always be freeloaders. There is nothing new under the sun.
posted by no1hatchling at 8:05 PM on July 25, 2008


Nobody— and I mean NOBODY— should feel guilty getting money/help from their parents IF their parents can afford it and are willing to help.

I would put it more mildly than this, but don't disagree. For me, the closer question is what role the parents should take, and whether they should feel guilty if their behavior inhibits independence and achievement.

When my dad got cancer a few years back and we started "talking" more, I jokingly brought this up. [Litany follows.] He was horror struck. Because he did not know.

He told me this:

"People who can't afford to support their kids should not have kids. We always figured you were the independent one so we never offered like we did your brother and sister. We figured you'd ASK. I feel ashamed."


From what you've said, they could have done a better job of advertising their willingness to support you. Perhaps that would have overcome your feeling like shit and your pride, and perhaps you wouldn't have gotten cold feet when it came to the downpayment. Given how your siblings behaved, it sounds like this was largely your issue. In any event, as both a son and a parent, I can scarcely imagine how "joking" this came across, and what a grace note under the circumstances. It's a cautionary tale in how not to treat a child, but in other behaviors as well.

Now at the worst we accuse the kids in this article of abusing the good will and love of their parents if they are not "surviving" on this money but rather are BLOWING it.. and worse maybe on false pretenses.

I don't quite know what you're saying here, but I don't see how your experiences relate to circumstances in which children are NOT in such desperate need for the money (as it sounds like you were), or not as honest as you would have been.

But you know when I'm rich, and I fully intend to be, I will give my kids every fucking dime I have—as much as they want — and I HOPE to Christ that they enjoy that cash and do some fun things in their twenties. Like I never got to.

Your decision. But this is again a very different proposition, and veering to the opposite extreme; it's like a guy who never had cheese as a kid choking to death on gorgonzola. Personally, I think there's a happy medium between your experience and this, and it involves treating your children generously, and affording them opportunities, without diminishing their own sense of accomplishment or retarding their independence. Which sometimes can breed resentment, even, at least in the short term.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:12 PM on July 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


but when kids act entitled to the things their parents earned through hard work, without participating in any hard work themselves

Ha, ha, ha. Because we all know those parent's struggled through college, ate Raman noodles until they were 35, got the first credit card at 40, and took 2 vacation days their entire life. Like this is a new problem? It is just more apparent now.

To me it is one of those self-sustaining problems. College prices are high, because it is necessary and parents are chipping in, making it harder to be financially independent. Entry level houses are higher, despite recent downturn, making it hard to build equity to offset loans, making it hard to be finacially independent. The biggest problem isn't that you have rich kids not working, but you are increasingly depressing class mobility. Without class mobility, capitalism grinds to a halt. Did anyone see the Koppel documentary on China? Those Chinese peasants weren't working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week driving spikes (really) so they can afford a BMW 325i. They were doing it so their kids won't have to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week driving spikes. Maybe we've reached the upper limits of that. Where we all realize that, fuck it, why the fuck am I working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week when there are people working for a fashion photographer in NYC and having their rent paid for at $3k and I can do this all my life and I still wouldn't be living as nicely as they do. And then a revolution will sweep over the land, and we'll all hug each other and we'll give free college education and health care and executives will only make $200,000 and the Protestant work ethic myth will be dead and we can watch a fucking baseball game without our Blackberry. Oh fantasies...
posted by geoff. at 8:25 PM on July 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ha! I wish. I'm a 20-something, and I get to make my parents' mortgage payments so they don't lose the house.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:28 PM on July 25, 2008


I think it's a combination of factors:

1. It costs more to live now. You have to have a car to work in most places, where you don't rent is extortionate (and it's expensive anywhere), and you should really have health insurance. All of that is at least 20k in the cheapest places and well over 35k if you live in an expensive place or have anything wrong with your health at all. Throw in kids or any money issues (loans, etc) and you're screwed well into the 40ks. Child support alone can beggar anyone.

2. Income disparity is greater. Low-paying jobs (<2> career transition is worse. Most low-education jobs used to transition to high-end trades, management positions, or you could just keep doing them forever and still live a normal life (house and family.) Now, low-education jobs go overseas, go to illegals, or go to crappy positions that are around/below where low-education jobs when before (a fast-food manager is higher up the totem pole than his lackeys, but still isn't up to, say, the 1950s factory worker.) It becomes increasingly less useful to work crappy jobs - working fast food might look better on your resume than not working, but only barely, and you're not going to advance in the field to anywhere worth being.

4. Living at home is getting both less embarrasing and - call me crazy - parents seem to want their kids around more. It doesn't kill one's relationship ability so much as it did - if nothing else, everyone else living at home is a valid option.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:32 PM on July 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


I didn't bother to click through, once I saw the link was to newsweek.com. The whole quote was designed to outrage and sell copy. Well OK I went through and read it, but it didn't change my opinion. This was written for grandma and grandpa, who still read printed material.

That said, I wish my parents had pressured me a little *less* to be financially self-sufficient. The scene at the beginning of Into the Wild, where the main character's parents simply assume that he is destined for law school or at least a well-paying job, rang a little too true for me. I had ideas about fun things I wanted to do after college, and I actually followed through on some of them, but for the most part I've conformed to doing what my parents wanted me to do, as far as I could tell. But I don't think it has worked out for the best. Several years ago my dad actually told me that he thought the effort I was putting into my job was killing me. I am reasonably successful, now, but I wish my parents had encouraged me a little more to pursue the things that interested me, and not treat being an adult so damn seriously.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:39 PM on July 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Huh, part of my comment got erased. I think it got interpreted as HTML code.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:40 PM on July 25, 2008


The incredible expansion of real estate values has been an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the young to the old. It really does just take a lot more income to get off the ground now. I'm generally on top of myself and had to ask my dad to pay some application fees for medical schools or bounce a rent check.

fuse: those kinds of callers are why I can't listen to Talk of the Nation, even though they have generally interesting guests. I'm filled with visceral shame on the caller's behalf within ten minutes. The worst is Science Friday, where we dumb something down and learn that it wasn't dumbed down enough.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:44 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't quite know what you're saying here, but I don't see how your experiences relate to circumstances in which children are NOT in such desperate need for the money (as it sounds like you were), or not as honest as you would have been.

I meant IF the worst those kids in the article did was just blow some of their parents money... well big deal. If they did it under false pretenses? Like telling their parents they need it to survive but are still merely blowing it and going into debt on top of that? Well we are talking about egregious dishonesty and irresponsibility. And that's a separate matter.

But all in all if it's just rich people who want to spoil their kids? Seriously? Who cares. If your parents have enough money that you never NEED to be financially independent? Good for you. I wish we could all be so lucky.
posted by tkchrist at 8:53 PM on July 25, 2008


I have awesome credit and a stable financial situation thanks to my folks giving me something far better than cash and prizes. It's called "knowing how to live within your means". A hell of a lot of folks know how to do it, it's just not the sort of thing that'll fly off the newstand.

A generation of twenty-somethings...

I'm guessing they're talking about the portion of that generation who haven't been fucked since birth thanks to institutionalized economic barriers. But consarnit, all those frittering young people get me so darn het up, I just have to buy this Quality Periodical!!!

Tune in next week, when Quality Periodical presents an expose on The Young People: How A Generation Of Twenty-Somethings Are Changing The World and Saving It At The Same Time Despite The Old Folks Who Ruineded It!!!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:55 PM on July 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


but when kids act entitled to the things their parents earned through hard work, without participating in any hard work themselves

Ha, ha, ha. Because we all know those parent's struggled through college, ate Raman noodles until they were 35, got the first credit card at 40, and took 2 vacation days their entire life. Like this is a new problem? It is just more apparent now.

*shrug* I'm talking from personal experience. It's not as if there are two options: no vacations, or no job. Fact of the matter is most money comes from some sort of work and I think a lot of people don't appreciate that.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:04 PM on July 25, 2008


To stop sounding like such a curmudgeon, I'll add that I don't think this is at all new or widespread in my generation. But that doesn't mean I think it's good behavior, while we're taking about it.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:07 PM on July 25, 2008


I keep sending my parents these articles and waiting for the checks to roll in. Still waiting...
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:15 PM on July 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'll readily admit that the worst decision I've made in my life thus far was to avoid working during college. Since my parents had set aside money to pay for my education, I didn't need to, and so aside from a couple years of summer camp I have no experience.

(Of course, now that I've graduated that's a terrifying prospect, and I'm regretting my decision something awful. As it turns out, it's hard for an liberal arts major without any experience to find a job...)

Though I screwed up and squandered an opportunity by not working through college, I didn't slack off -- I did exceptionally well academically, volunteered, won awards, etc. I don't feel like I've taken advantage of my parents' generosity. If that means you think I'm kind of pathetic, fine. I'm working on it. I'm sure there are other groups of people you can judge in the meantime.
posted by danb at 9:59 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Every generation has its slackers. My brother is 42 and still lives with Mommy and Daddy, getting free housing, food, and laundry service in exchange for doing a few chores. He went to law school (guess who paid for his tuition) but currently only works part-time for a college buddy who has a company that sells crap on eBay. Not as a lawyer, just a general crap-handler.

The atmosphere in that house is unpleasant and a little creepy, with everyone behaving pretty much as if time froze 30 years ago. In a sense it did, since my brother was happy to take any handout and always chose the easy path; my mother tries to buy his affection with handouts and help (she's nearly 80 and she's still his Laundry Fairy). In some ways, he's never had to grow out of being a 12-year-old and his behavior is a disorienting mix of grownup and kid.

Mom thinks she's being a devoted mother by indulging him in everything; she was quite poor as a child and never wanted to see her own kids lack for anything. Unfortunately, my brother is not the type to accept only enough help to get on his own two feet - he'll take anything he can get, then ask for more. The result is a middle-aged man who hasn't held a decent job in years, hasn't had a girlfriend in years, still hangs out with old buddies from high school and college, and has never made his own way in the world. I feel kind of sorry for him, even though he chose his fate.

I understand parents wanting to help their children, and this is certainly a rough economy to try to get your start in, but too much help is almost as bad as too little. The problem comes if a kid has slacker tendencies and parents don't see it, and keep enabling the slack. Then the young slacker gradually gets older without really growing up. Eventually the parents will die, leaving a not-quite-adult kid to fend for himself without really knowing how.

My parents helped me too, but I am stubbornly independent and only accepted a little help here and there (and almost never asked for any). It used to piss me off how easy my brother had it, but now that we're middle-aged and the parents are old, I'm glad I took the harder road. I have a job, a house, a husband, some savings, and a reasonable array of coping skills. He's largely dependent on two elderly people who will probably die in the next 5 or 10 years, with little other support beyond his inheritance. Sometimes it kinda sucks to be me, but it must really suck to be him.
posted by Quietgal at 10:31 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm 23, East Indian, and I live with my parents in a house in a suburb outside of Vancouver.
A house, I should add, that I own a quarter of. My brother (32, single) and I cosigned the mortgage two and a half years ago because my parents couldn't get approval for a mortgage without our credit. I chip in on the payments and pay the gas and electricity bills. I've been paying for school since I was 20; my parents covered me for half of my first two years but since we bought the house I've been paying my own way. I've also paid for my orthodontics.
To pay for it all, I've held between two and four jobs at a time for the last four and a half years while going to school (working on a BA Psych/American Studies). Living at home also entails a 1.5hr/way commute via public transit.
Juggling all these things has been hell on my physical and mental health; I know that I can't leave my parents high and dry (and so this grind continues) but goddamn if I wouldn't like to quit a job some time and act my age. My parents, for their part, hate that I have to do this more than I do. I guess, then, that nobody's happy but we're all unhappy together.

so, davejay, 20 and 30-somethings who step in to cover their parents do exist. Maybe not quite as idyllically as you were expecting, but that's life for you.
posted by heeeraldo at 10:39 PM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm conflicted here. If parents have enough money and security to buy a 900,000 apartment for their twenty-five year old daughter, that's really their own business. Remember what F. Scott said. Rich people aren't like you and me (and I've known enough of them to confirm this). Eventually one of their children will squander the last dime on hookers and blow and the next generation will have to pay their own way through college. Twas always thus.

On the other hand:

I am the child of parents, who were supported by their parents (some of whom were supported by their parents). I learned early on that the promise of parental support was predicated on a lot of obligation, entitlement and some pretty irrational expectations (e.g. the money will never run out so let's go to Paris for the weekend and deal with the power bill next month). I could never really count on anything until I, personally, had the money in the bank (which I rarely did). And I could never really count on the money unless I made it myself.

I'm in my thirties now, and I'd be lying if i said I hadn't taken the occasional handout over the years --some even from the very same grandparents my parents have lived off of--but I've learned to live within my means. When my mother was my age, she had a big old house full of antiques and art, a passport full of stamps, the leisure to be a full-time artist and all the spoils of upscale domesticity. I have none of those things (although the passport's not completely bare), but I do have the ability to fall asleep at night knowing that I can make it on my own, that I'm not living at the whim of whatever relative happens to to be signing the check, that if it all comes crashing down on me, it won't be because I've pissed off my father, and that my financial worst case scenario plan consists of more than pawning heirlooms and assuming some rich old lady will bail me out.
posted by thivaia at 11:11 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]



Speaking here as a twenty something.. who's had a number of financial disasters already...

Psychologically, it has a lot to do with whether you know your parents are good as a safety net or not. If you know you're not stuck in your horrible housing situation, if you lose your job or make a rough transition from one to the next, or if you simply come up short one month, and you know your parents, if you ask nicely, will help out - then you'll ask. And if you know they'll say yes, it affects your behavior, how responsible you are with money. Maybe you don't need their help, but it changes how you act if you know they will. It gives you more leeway to fuck up - to find the better job, the better housing situation, the better city even. Or to splurge on clothes or a nice meal.

Most of my friends in their 20 somethings have varying degrees of support from their parents, no matter how financially well off those parents may be. Especially in New York, the margin of error on a low wage income is pretty narrow. Sometimes you just have to have $200 to get by.

In my case my parents went from a state of relative affluence in the late 90s to being almost bankrupt about two years ago. I grew up romanticizing poverty. Once I was in college I pretty much assumed that my privileged lifestyle would continue uninterrupted until I could afford it myself. I assumed, like most young people in my class, that I would simply be taken care of - and part of me, the instinctual part of me that knew what was good for me, wished I wouldn't. I was ashamed of it.

Part of it too is that kids growing up in large houses with all the amenities have never known anything else; we expect to always be able to live that way, even in cities. The parents want their kids to be comfortable and safe, so they fork up more money for a nicer apartment, and so on. Some of my friends went right into college with a weekly housecleaning service. They'll never wash their own dish.

When my parents lost their money the longstanding guilt I'd felt about not supporting myself shook me into not being willing to ask them for another dime. Though I was in college, I took a full-time job and paid my own rent and bills, which in San Francisco was difficult. If I misspent my money, I starved. It made me resourceful. It made life more interesting. Walking for an hour in the heat without having eaten since the day before, dragging bags full of books hoping to get some cash for a burrito.

I'm not saying what I went through is any more difficult than what millions go through everyday- of course I'm much luckier. I'm just saying that kids who grew up in the 90s with big houses and their own car at 16 find it hard to adjust to the reality of being young and poor. Suddenly we just don't have any money for anything, even though we work. Two slices of pizza and a soda is kind of a big expense. Nevermind new shoes. Then again, it's also kind of fun. Sneaking cheap beer from the bodega into bars. Going on camping trips on your bike with almost no money in your pocket and winging it on ramen and cans of chili heated up in the fire. There's something I really like about having to figure out ways to make life good without money to throw around.

Things are a little better for my parents, and they don't have any other kids or anything, so sometimes I ask for money for groceries. I lost my job, times are rough. But the article has a point. You have to be hungry. That dull, everyday fear for your own survival that gets subsumed by habit but is still there, wondering how you'll pay for things, all the time... I don't know, it makes you want to succeed really, really badly. You don't want to spend the rest of your life like this. You dream of a house in the country. Modest things now. Not the big house and big cars of your youth, not your parents' dreams that came true. Just a two story cottage in the country, or an apartment in a nice neighborhood, with windows, light, shelves of books. Small things. Security, quiet. Not the hell of renting and roommates, getting tossed from one apartment to the next when the lease runs out or somebody moves. To be able to afford to buy your friend a meal. That's what you work for, nothing grand. I don't have money anymore. But it's better this way.
posted by bukharin at 11:24 PM on July 25, 2008 [9 favorites]


But you know when I'm rich, and I fully intend to be, I will give my kids every fucking dime I have—as much as they want — and I HOPE to Christ that they enjoy that cash and do some fun things in their twenties. Like I never got to

You know, I went through a very similar experience in my early twenties (I'm in my late twenties now) and came out of it with entirely the opposite conclusion. The difference for me was that the reason I did not ask my parents for money was not pride, but that I knew they didn't have the money to give me. However, I always knew I had options: I could have moved home, for a time, if things had gotten really dire; I could have settled down and gotten a job that paid a decent salary. But I made my choices, and knowing that my income would not be supplemented by my parents made me more mature, and more decisive, and far more aware that I had to take responsibility for myself. And when I'd decided I'd had enough of living like that, I made other choices.

I thought it was fun. Living on bread, eggs, and pasta can get old, certainly. I'm still amazed that I managed to live in a one-room apartment with my then-boyfriend for as long as I did, and I would never want to do that again with any future partners. I can't say I didn't have many moments of doubt and worry and depression (but then, that's just me, whatever I'm doing). But I was out in the world, living my life, exploring, learning things, figuring out what was important to me (including to what extent financial and material comfort is important to me). I could never have had that experience if my parents had been paying for it.

It is so fashionable for us, the educated children of the first world, to tell these hard-luck stories from our twenties as though it was oh-so-horrible (like, OMG, I had to eat ramen! Pity me!) but it's largely bullshit. We knew we weren't going to starve.

I could certainly end up relatively well-off if I decide that's a goal (it isn't, at the moment, but who knows what will happen). And if I do become rich (ish) and have kids, I plan to help them out with college, and provide them with a temporary place to stay should they need to get back on their feet, but otherwise I will tell them what my mom told me: I can buy you a plane ticket home if you need it. But, I'm sorry sweetie, you know I just can't support you anymore.
posted by Quintessence of Dust at 11:32 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


A very close friend was (I feel) irreparably harmed by his parents allowing him to live at home until they died--he was 41 when that happened. Because he never had to pay rent or buy food, he never had to find a "real" job, just coasting by on minimum wage all of his life (and to this day). He's now in his mid-50's working for $8 an hour and running in the red constantly. I did the math and he has about three years before he has exhausted all equity, retirement (from the one halfway decent job, still just above minimum wage, though) and credit. It's tough.

The flip side of that, I guess, is that another friend who lived with his parents after he dropped out of college, despite his father securing him a job at a decent local firm at an OK wage (more than enough to live independently, if modestly), because he wanted a new car rather than pay rent. He moved out a few years later and is now way wealthier than I am, so I guess you never know.

But the first guy above--a smart and decent man--would have been miles ahead to have gotten a few lessons about how the world really works c. age 18 to get a fire lit.
posted by maxwelton at 11:35 PM on July 25, 2008


This is nothing more than America's weird class issues popping their ugly head up again. This article basically boils down to "rich people can afford to do things for their kids that you wish people had done for you, so hate them!" But thats silly. Families have always been giving and taking from each other. Thats what makes it a family. You remember when Generation X had the whole slacker thing because they refused to move out of the boomer's basements? Well, now we're hearing the same shit about Gen X's kids.

And it certainly goes way farther back than that. You know why a lot of cultures have wedding dowries? Because when people are first starting out on their own, they need a leg up from people that are already established. This is just a new more egalitarian version of the sort of thing thats been going on since civilization began.

I know a few people in that generational range that get handouts from their parents, but all of those people are unemployed or underemployed and looking for more satisfying work. Do they want to get handouts? No, they're just like their parents or their parents parents in that they'd like to be independent and be able to be proud of what they've done, but its ask for help or starve.... This meme is just popping up now because stories about how the rich have it so much better than you invariably start popping up with greater frequency as the economy gets worse and worse...

To me, this says less about the psychological problems of America's post-collegiate slacker youth than it does about the job market today.
posted by Kiablokirk at 2:04 AM on July 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


All I can add is this: the price of education in the US is absurd!!! My engineering degree cost me no more than $20 000 for four years of classes, all my textbooks and school materials. That someone needs over $200 000 for the same thing is truly horrendous, making college essentially available only to the privileged. Insane.
posted by Vindaloo at 6:46 AM on July 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


I moved out of my parents troubled house when I was 17. At that time, I was holding down 2 jobs and going to school. It's been 40+ years since and I've only asked my parents for monetary assistance twice. They were poor then and they are poor now. I love them and they love me.
posted by doctorschlock at 8:04 AM on July 26, 2008


I read the article.
Gee, hell is hot. Night is dark. More obvious revelations at 11.
Rich kids have always mooched off their parents. My ex-wife was a rich kid. When her Dad answered the phone, it was usually with the words 'how much do you need and when do you need it?' It was amusing.
I, on the other hand, chose quasi-homelessness rather than take money (I was at war with the world- remember how that can be?) from parents I was convinced didn't love me. They do, they do...they just gave me 40K for a house and are buying me a new washer and dryer when I move in.
Mainly, I think the writer of the article...needs to hang out with a better class of peers. Listen to 'Common People'. Go to a dive bar on dollar shots night?
posted by flowerofhighrank at 8:43 AM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought it was fun. Living on bread, eggs, and pasta can get old, certainly.

Fun? Being poor wasn't a revelation. We were poor when I was a kid being the son of an Army officer. But things did get better and my parents, from owning homes in various places around the country and world, ended up climbing the class ladder by the time he retired. I wouldn't describe the experience of being poor fun. Though there was certainly great times during that period. But I associate that with be free and young more than not having money. It tught me poverty sucks shit. I've been poor and I've been rich. Rich is a whole lot better.

While it's true most of us are bourgeois and wouldn't "starve" to death (though I got pretty sick a couple of times) the point is there are no guarantees in being "successful" even if you hoe your own row and learn to be resourceful and financially creative. Being poor and working part time jobs just to survive CAN and does impact your ability to network and start a real career. It makes you tough. But it also makes you late to the race.

I had friends who got a stake from their wealthier parents which allowed them to work for free (the infamous "internship) for several years (some of which now work at place like Lucas Film and Pixar), opportunities that would have been extremely difficult when you have to live in an expensive city and work four jobs just to pay rent. Yes. It can be done. But it would have been nice to start that at 25 rather than 32 like I did. Timing can be everything in life.

And eggs? We DREAMED of eating eggs.
posted by tkchrist at 9:55 AM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


That someone needs over $200 000 for the same thing is truly horrendous, making college essentially available only to the privileged. Insane.

Well, more or less. A lot of normal level private schools will run you at least 30-40-50k a year, just for tuition/room+board. But publics are usually much cheaper. (10-25k a year.) It would have been 200k for me, and it is for some of my friends, but that's not a universal problem.

But don't get me wrong. These are private schools. Sometimes they seriously mess up (like when people have money in a private business, which they can't sell to spend on college) but they're often just expecting middle-class families to suck it up and stop buying so many nice luxuries for a while. Of course the problem is no one actually does this, and the same people also don't want to compromise on where they send their kids, so... yeah. You get kids in ridiculous debt sometimes not really doing anything about it. It's easy to see how so many 20-somethings get messed up so easily (these aren't even the working-class kids who are in debt 'cause they have no choice.)

This derail might just be my own view of the situation of a lot of my friends and peers. I'm sure experiences differ. I live in an area with a lot of newly immigrated families where going to a prestigious college is a big deal (kids having opportunities their parents' didn't), yet no one is really in the position to pay for it just yet.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:16 AM on July 26, 2008


backseatpilot, I take issue with your assertion that an English major cannot find a well-paying job. I am an English major, living in New York City, and I'm 100% financially independent. Majoring in English does not prevent a person from living in his own apartment. There are plenty of jobs that don't necessarily care what your major is, as long as you went to a reputable school and you're smart and a quick learner.

Just saying.
posted by millipede at 12:20 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno, my kids couldn't get out fast enough. hmmmm...
posted by nax at 12:58 PM on July 26, 2008


I'm of the mindset now that my kids can't be liberal arts majors, unless they pay for it themselves.

I don't think it's ever a positive thing to limit your children's educational opportunities. Good job.

funny that 'building credit' is seen as virtuous, compared to sponging of your parents.

whatever happened to 'saving'?


Me, I'm doing both.
posted by oaf at 4:44 PM on July 26, 2008


Kippers - Kids In Parents Pockets Eating Retirement Savings. Australian article so it's not just a USAnian phenomenon. Along the same lines: Kiddults.

These days, many parents are still living the life of a young adult (motorbikes, playing in bands, surfing holidays etc) and thus relate to their young adult kids on a more friends basis rather than parents basis. Parents are looking to their kids as social role models in many ways. After all, its the world of the new and youth these days. And due to the social isolation of our modern society, for many parents their kids are their best friends.

Frankly, I feel sorry for these kids. There sense of confidence will take a beating once the real world grabs them, due to their propped-up sense of entitlement to be supported (in some cases). Personally, I'm glad I left home at 16, and while putting myself through the final years of high school was not a dream ride, it gave me a lot of confidence and skills. My older brother left home at 15, our younger sister at 18 (and Mum had to push hard to get her out). There was virtually no spare money at home for my brother and me when we were growing up, but our much younger sister was almost an only child and had a lot more financial support due to their being more money. I'm sure that's why she tried to stay.

These days, the brother is a rich man and helps support my mum in a style to which she has become accustomed. I am grateful that he does this as I like my mum not to worry about the phone bill when she calls me, or can she afford the best health insurance (a concern for an 80+yr old).

I asked rich bro the other day if he was going to support his kids through college etc (in the USA) and he said No. They were going to make it on their own. Of course, he would never let them starve or go without medical treatment or not follow a passion to which they were really committed, but he's not going to let them be kippers.

There is a saying. One generation makes the money, the next builds on it, but the third spends it. Parents who have made wealth through social situations (real estate booms) rather than hard work are much more likely to let their next generation spend it because they don't understand how hard self-made wealth really is to come by.
posted by Kerasia at 11:37 PM on July 26, 2008


Kerasia, I heard a different take on that quote that might have some bearing here: "I made money so that my son would be able to listen to great music, and my grandson would be able to write it."
posted by nax at 12:24 PM on July 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


millipede, absolutely right. An English major can easily get a job where I come from - all my friends and I did, anyhow, and I'm making a respectable salary now as a paralegal even with no legal background in my schooling.
posted by agregoli at 5:43 PM on July 27, 2008


backseatpilot -- Well, he's looking for work, but finding a job with an English degree is difficult, and he won't accept the fact that his salary won't be anywhere near what I (an engineer) make. Not to be disparaging to liberal arts majors, it's just that he's disconnected with reality. He also wants to get an apartment for himself alone (or himself and his fiance), and he'll never be able to afford that on an English major's salary in DC.

Bzzt - wrong. Guess again. My only degree is in English, and should my lawyer/hottie wife (another English major, naturally) leave her job, we will be just fine on my salary, in our single family home, in north Arlington, VA. And just to really blow your mind, an English major might also be an engineer.
posted by NortonDC at 8:54 PM on July 27, 2008


On Saturday the N & O ran a front page article about college students turning to food banks for help. I was sympathetic until I reached the last paragraph:
"Before, when I lived in the dorms, I was on the meal plan," the 20-year-old said. "Now that I'm in the apartment, I have to pay for food, and I have to pay my cell phone bill. I don't make enough to pay for both."
Guess it never occurred to her that, unlike food, a cell phone is a luxury. This girl would rather line-up and beg for food from strangers than think about doing without a phone.

I'm beginning to think the level of materialism in this country has reached a point of non-sustainability. Computers, MP3 players, cell phones, and all the other electronics that under-30s take for granted aren't free. It used to be a big shock to move out and discover water and electricity and gas for the car cost money! Now it's text-messaging and broadband and TiVo and Netflix. Digital cameras, MP3 players, lap tops, cell phones, cable TV, DVRs-- these things aren't considered luxuries anymore but necessities of life and my daughter (15) and her friends would never dream of living without them.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:43 AM on July 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Secret Life of Gravy: I've stayed out of this thread because it strikes uncomfortably close to home (almost literally!), but I do have to quibble a bit about your characterization of luxury items. Slate has a piece about the measures of poverty up right now, and while most of the article is irrelevant to the discussion at hand, there is one point that resonates here:
Adam Smith put his finger on the problem back in 1776. In The Wealth of Nations, he wrote: "A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly speaking, not a necessity of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt. ..."

Smith's point is not that poverty is relative but that it is a social construction. A person can lack the money necessary to participate in society ... [people] become poor if something they cannot afford—such as an Internet connection—becomes viewed as a social essential.
Now, if you consider someone with a college degree, you would imagine that they intend on participating in a particular social strata of labor — white-collar jobs, to generalize — where what you consider luxuries are considered social necessities. A case could be made that cell phones are still luxuries even here, though I wouldn't make it personally. Computers, though? And internet access? Those are necessities for those type of jobs.

Hell, many universities require that you use an university-provided e-mail address, and I remember that being a minor issue where I went because of the attendant costs associated with an e-mail address (especially for students on Pell Grants).
posted by Weebot at 2:27 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


It might be preferable to live at home and work your way through college or graduate school rather than taking out $30,000, $80,000 or $200,000 dollar loans (for master's degree, Ph.D.s and law school respectively). To live at home during the first years of your job rather than take out a risky mortgage for a house just so that you can believe you're independent and successful.

That's what I'm doing now for my second postgraduate degree. I failed to get a job with my first (in a field with too many Ph.D.s, natch) and am only not $120,000 in debt because I had a fellowship.
I am considering joining Debtors Anonymous, not because I am now in debt, but so that I can continue to stay out as my peers make "economically rational" decisions that sink them deeper and deeper in pursuit of the American Dream.
posted by bad grammar at 7:40 PM on July 28, 2008


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