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cutting the financial umbilical cord
getting money from mom and dad as a grownup
by alex b (@Lexistential)

At the moment, my bank account balance is low. Depleted from this month's rent and an obnoxious cable charge I plan to cut in favor of Hulu (take THAT, Time Warner), the remainder is an amount that would pay for a great night in the Third World, or comfortably support a Jane Austen character for a year.

In New York, it's an amount I pray to stretch like taffy till my next pay period.

Luckily, I'm not totally alone. Thankfully, my parents provide a small amount of regular support for me in the course of a month- a gift card for groceries, or extra cash varying between fifty to eighty dollars. Though I'm relieved to have the additional money and am not expected to repay it, I can't help feeling guilty.

After all, I'm close to thirty-seven (ugh). Apart from expecting myself to be wiser than I was under my parents' roof, I believe I should be financially independent. At what point is it no longer appropriate (or simply just wrong) to accept financial support from parents? How much is too much?

In discussing this with various friends and neighbors, I've come to understand that the answer is subjective. There is no universal etiquette or boundary; the rules of financial help between parents and adult children vary along family backgrounds and income levels, and are subject to relevant reasons of need- a lost job, small budget, or tuition costs. Special occasions even make financial help traditional- weddings, childbirth, or the purchase of a first home.

However, I've also noticed that no matter what family and how much money is at issue, all support hinges on grace and affordability. If parents are willing to donate financial help to their adult children living outside of their roof and can do so without compromising their funds, then it isn't my business (or anyone else's) to criticize the recipient.

But, when I run into exorbitant instances, I feel free to judge.

While discussing finances with a guy I dated (who, like me at the time, worked a bartending job while pursuing a creative goal), he blithely contradicted my parental guilt and informed me that he'd taken out a ten thousand dollar personal loan- with his mom as a cosigner- to set himself up in New York and pursue his life. Though I've never forgotten he's a talented guy, I also remember feeling shocked at the cost his mom agreed to undertake, and exasperated by the amount of Apple products in his bedroom.

And, when I watched Lena Dunham try to negotiate $1100 a month from her parents (to subsidize Williamsburg rent, a smartphone and her unpaid internship) in the pilot episode of HBO's recently broadcast series "Girls", I instantly wanted to choke her. In a case where niche life mirrors a TV show, Williamsburg is indeed full of enough fake-geek, MacBook-wielding, sort-of-artist hipsters who assume it's fine to eat organic while their parents pay their rent. "Girls" may well be HBO's latest darling, but I don't need to see the financially entitled side of hipster life being validated further.

In any case, dwelling on judgments for longer than a couple minutes isn't good, especially when it comes to other people's money. And, even as I question the financial standards of my peers and pop culture, I'm aware that I may be doing so because I resent New York's high prices for everything, and would like to spend a few hundred bucks on shoes instead of rent. And due to unseen strings, I may also be jumping to the conclusion that having more parental financial help automatically leads to less stress and more happiness.

Heck, to someone else on a tighter budget, I may even seem ridiculous for complaining about what's on HBO.

So, I should quit whining, and set aside the grumpy jealousy that simmers at the sight of someone more parentally subsidized than I am. The best option for me is to remain focused on the positives my own life. Simpler as they are, I can afford them with a little help.

And, I'm going to thank my folks.

But, if I meet a new guy who uses loan money for comic books, I reserve the right to kidnap his good stuff.


An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.

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dirk cotton
6.12.12 @ 12:33p

I'm a parent of three kids in college (actually one is in med school) and I support this message!

Seriously, though, to me the issue boils down to two questions: does the child genuinely need the money and can I afford it. If both answers are yes, my kid gets the help; I don't care if he or she is 60.

"Need" is the big question. If my kid is working or is in college and is making an appropriate effort to support himself and needs help to get by, I help. If I'm being asked to replace money I believe is going for beer, cigarettes and/or drugs, I wouldn't.

If I couldn't help or didn't think it appropriate, I wouldn't give my child financial assistance, so I hope that when I do they appreciate it and don't feel guilty. Nice piece.

alex b
6.13.12 @ 1:36a

Thanks Dirk. I came up with this not just because of my guilt (and pride and annoyance), but also since I hear of parental financial assistance more and more. And, it seems to go hand-in-hand with folks moving back home with their parents.

Everyone seems to have their own definition of "need", but some seem more entitled than others. And while certain contexts are understandable, there are other ones I can't wrap my head around- like the guy with a cosigned 10K loan, and hipster kids in Williamsburg "finding themselves" without actually *paying* for themselves.

I can't knock anyone for getting help when he or he needs it. I just get aghast at peers who goof off while mom pays rent (and pretend she doesn't).

dirk cotton
6.21.12 @ 6:31p

The Dad helps those who help themselves. :-D

alex b
6.21.12 @ 8:47p

But, would the Dad go so far as to incur debt in the interest of me owning a MacBook, eating organic, and only working part-time while in acting classes?

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