6 Millennials Get Real About Taking Money From Their Parents

Have you ever worried that you’re the only 20-something who still has financial help from mom and dad? Do you ever feel like everyone in your industry has a family member to bankroll rent checks while you hustle just to stay afloat? Do you feel guilty because you have no student loans and all your friends do?

Whatever the case may be, chances are you are not alone. People love to stereotype Millennials – but the truth is, our experiences all look very different. That’s especially true where finances are concerned: There’s no age at which people must be cut off from familiar help. There’s no one size fits all situation.

We spoke with six Millennials – Karis, 23, a New York City-based “pizza slinger by day, freelance writer and unpublished novelist by night/weekend/all other times”; Chris, a 31-year-old single father and digital marketing consultant; Jenny, 22, a recent college grad and advertising account associate ; Julianna, a 22-year-old a government agency employee; Arielle, a married marketing-pro-turned-freelance-writer who is 26; and D, a married 32-year-old alliance manager at a university –  and asked them to come clean about their levels of financial independence. Here’s what they had to say.

Related-ish: I Don’t Need A Man To Spoil Me – I Work Hard Enough To Spoil Myself


Have you ever been financially independent? If so, at what age were you 100% supporting yourself?

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Karis: Up till now, I would say I’ve never been financially independent because my parents were sending me monthly allowances through college. However, I’m currently taking a break from school and working full-time at a pizzeria, which means I’m no longer receiving money and for the past few weeks have been dipping my toes into the pool of financial independence. I am repaying my father for a loan, which is how I know I’m independent now.

Chris: I started working when I was 14 years old to support myself, bouncing from friends’  couches to couches until the age of 17, when I moved out on my own. I dropped out of high school, got my high school diploma from a mail order charter school and moved to college. At this point, I was struggling. I took out student loans to support myself through college in addition to working. At age 21, [as] a junior in college, I had a daughter.

To support myself I worked weekends bartending at a high-end restaurant and attended classes through the week. There were days I took my daughter with me to class—she was my motivation! Two years later I graduated with with a B.A. in consumer marketing and public relations. At age 25, I landed my first professional gig at an ad agency making $30k a year. I quit 11 months in. Since then, I’ve more than quadrupled my income in six years. [Now I’m] making close to $150,000.

Jenny: Yes, at 22.

Julianna: I would consider myself financially independent, but others may not. I pay for all of my own expenses but I’m still on my family plans for cell phones and car insurance. My parents have indicated that that will stop in the next few months. The “financial independence“ started as soon as I got my first paycheck, a few weeks ago, so I was… 21?

Arielle: I became financially independent from my parents when I moved out of their house at the age of 23, however, my boyfriend (now husband) has always made substantially more money than me, and he helped to carry much of the weight for about a year and a half.

D: Yes, at 29. Living in New York City required some help from my parents. When I moved to Portland, OR I was able to live on my own. 

Are you surprised by your level of financial independence?

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Karis: Yes. Never thought I’d be a 23-year-old living in New York City with a customer service job, supporting myself.

Chris: I’m not at all. Growing up, I had an “every man for himself mentality,” doing whatever it took to feed myself, make rent and eventually support my child. I set rigid goals driven by financial milestones and I’ve achieved all of them.

Jenny: No, I slowly worked up to it through college.

Julianna: Not really, I was pretty focused on getting a job that allowed me to pay my own rent and living expenses outside of college, and then finding living circumstances that allowed me to live within my means that was always a goal.

Arielle: Yes, I am. I had $120k in student loans that I would have struggled for 10+ years to pay down, and then in early 2015, my aunt passed away and unexpectedly left me and my sister much of her estate, netting me a windfall of about $250k. I was able to pay off all of my loans, buy a new car, take my husband on a two-week trip to California, and still save about $40k.

I had a salaried position in marketing and was miserable, and a few months after this windfall, got laid off. Instead of rushing back to get another full-time position just to pay the bills, I was able to pursue my dream of freelance writing, which pays next to nothing, but now I do not need to worry about money since I am free of the student loan debt. This is never the path I imagined for myself and figured writing would just be a faraway dream.

D: Yes – in the way that I thought I would be farther along at this age. Being married to a resident doesn’t make it easy!

If a family member offered you financial help would you take it?

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Karis: Yes. Especially if it was a one-time gift to help me get through a tough time. I’m proud of being independent now, but not too proud to realize that help could give me things I want that I can’t get for myself.

Chris: I’m a very independent person but unfortunately I over-borrowed for college so I have about $90k in student debt. I’m chipping away at them in large sums. However, if a family member offered to pay for them—of course, I would say yes.

Jenny: No.

Julianna: Well, my grandparents straight up paid for 100 percent of my college. So, yeah, I definitely accepted that financial help because we didn’t qualify for aid but still wouldn’t have been able to afford me going to college without it. Going to the best school possible was always an expectation and something my parents told me to never worry about re: finances. Speaking currently, If the expense was large enough or it was an emergency [or] I didn’t have cash for something that required it immediately, yeah I would accept the money.

Also, when I visit my parents, they don’t let me split the bill and they give me “presents” like… cans of soup and old pots and first apartment stuff that I wouldn’t get myself. I often make life choices that my parents don’t agree with for financial reasons (eg taking the subway versus taking cabs) and they often try to give me money to “fix” what they see is a problem, which I sometimes accept and sometimes don’t. A lot of the time it feels like they’re paying for my problems to go away, which is both extremely frustrating in that I feel like I am being patronized, but also… it is really, really nice for someone to be able to literally pay to make an inconvenience go away and do so out of love – which is absurd. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to just anyone which makes me feel guilty and I pride myself on being a really independent young woman and not accepting charity. As I get older I’m realizing it’s a generational thing and (especially for my dad) one of the ways he shows care – it’s his idea of how to take care of someone and express love, which isn’t as fucked up as it sounds, I promise. I think I try to mitigate that by asking for things I need as presents instead of things I want – for example, I got a suit for my last birthday and plane tickets for Christmas, because I feel guilty just asking for stuff because I know they’ll get it, it seems like a waste of their money and like I’m taking advantage of a system I have no right to have access to.

Arielle: I would not, however, my aunt’s death saved my life and allowed me to pursue my dreams. I consider myself incredibly lucky that I pretty much won the lottery at age 25.

D: Yes, but only as needed for basic necessities (food, clothing, shelter). Though help on a down payment for a home wouldn’t be turned away!

Do you feel proud of your level of financial independence? Do you ever feel ashamed by it?

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Karis: I’m proud of where I’m at now, but I’ve never been ashamed of being dependent. I’ve never not been in school and the more I’ve grown, the more I’ve realized that there’s nothing wrong with relying on your parents; that’s kind of what they’re here for.

Chris:  I’m so proud of myself. I overcame adversity so many times in my life and to be financially independent is an amazing feeling.

Jenny: Yes. No.

Julianna: I don’t really feel proud, I often feel guilty that I have parents who give me money even when I objectively don’t need it and when so many of my friends are having a really hard time with finances. I feel proud that I don’t have credit card debit and can stick to a budget and be creative within the confines of my income, while acknowledging that my family circumstances allow me to avoid most large expenses like supporting my family, college debt, or large medical expenses.

Arielle: Often times I do feel ashamed because I work from home and have a cozy life with my husband. Aside from my windfall, he makes $150k a year, so we are very comfortable for being in our mid-twenties. We have a beautiful apartment, two brand new cars, and the ability to travel on a whim (we have a trip to Tokyo and another to San Diego planned before the end of the year) and sometimes I feel guilty because he works incredibly hard to make his salary, and I lucked into a lot of money unexpectedly. People don’t treat my writing career as if it’s a “real thing” and think I spend my days doing nothing, but I work hard — it’s just not a typical 9-5 office job. I am still getting used to my new reality.

D:  I don’t think I feel proud – just accepting. I don’t think I feel ashamed, but rather jealous of friends that are further along financially (home owners, vacations, more saved up, etc.). I feel ashamed that I don’t know more about finance considering that is what my dad does for his career.

How do you think you compare to your peers in terms of financial independence?

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Karis: I would say I have two sets of peers: those that are in school, and those that aren’t. As for those in school, I’m definitely more independent. Many of my classmates have their parents paying rent or groceries or both, and that’s crazy to me. Even when I was still dependent (for the past year), I was only getting a couple hundred dollars a month. Enough to cover maybe my phone bill and some groceries. As for my out-of-school peers, I’d say they’re a little more independent than I am.

Chris: I feel like I’m significantly more independent than my peers. And unfortunately this creates social barriers for me. For example, finding friends to go to a nice dinner or on a weekend trip is challenging. I think a lot of people at my age get sort of comfortable with their situations and don’t understand the grind and the hustle. That excites me.

Jenny: I think I am more financially independent than my peers.

Julianna: I think for a lot of reasons I had a lot fewer barriers to financial independence – I had no student loans, I’m the fourth generation to get a college degree, both of my parents make six figures, have graduate degrees, a lot of equity, and are empty nesting – so if I mention being worried about not being able to afford [something], they have the ability and the generosity to immediately pay for it and (I think) it makes them happy to do so. That wasn’t always the case, but I think they miss me and my siblings and so spending extra money for us to be happy is their way of showing affection from afar. I recognize that there are many levels of financial independence and I’m definitely more comfortable than most.

Arielle: I think my husband and I are definitely an anomaly as most people in their mid-twenties are at least somewhat struggling financially. I feel weird when I go out with my friends and they complain about drink prices or having to pay off student loans, because I feel like they judge me for not having to worry about it.

D: I’m probably a bit behind. My husband is a medical resident and a large portion of my salary goes to paying off his student debt.

Do you judge others who are financial situations that are different than yours?

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Karis: Unfortunately, I do, a little bit. I don’t judge people who are on their own or who receive a little help, but I have a hard time taking someone seriously if they’re my age and not paying their own rent.

Chris:  I don’t judge but I get disappointed that so many people take their situations for granted and don’t try a little harder. It’s disappointing to see people live paycheck to paycheck and expect some miracle to happen overnight. I’d like to see everyone get out there, find their place, create something and own their lives.

Jenny: I judge those who make an exorbitant amount of money (bankers, consultants) but it’s more of a systemic thing than a personal thing.

Julianna: No, I recognize how absurdly lucky I am to be here and how hard my parents worked to give me and my siblings the quality of life and opportunities we had, but I don’t take it for granted either way. I definitely avoided seeking jobs in certain industries because I wouldn’t have gotten the same starting salary or living in certain areas because it would have been like 50 percent of my income.

Arielle: No way! If anything, I feel people are judging me. I expected to be paying off loans well into my thirties, stuck in jobs I didn’t enjoy because I needed the money. I’m not sure why I was given such a lucky break, but I never judge anyone who wasn’t because I was there not so long ago.

D: I try not to but I think it depends on the situation that it comes up. It’s part of human nature to judge if we don’t have all of the information.

Do you think your family’s financial position has affected your career in any way?

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Karis: Yes. My parents don’t have typical jobs (they’re missionaries), so I was raised knowing that you can make things work financially with a little creativity, a willingness to ask for help when needed, and being frugal. Still working at getting better on the being frugal, but I definitely know I can have an unconventional career and still have a good life.

Chris: Yes. Growing up extremely poor put a lot of stress on me. I always knew I wanted more and set goals to get there. I hate when people say “money isn’t everything.” That’s bullshit. Because money is. Money creates opportunity. It allows you to explore the world. To learn. And to be the best version of yourself.

Jenny: Yes, I grew up middle class and it has made me a more empathetic/fiscally liberal person. I’ve taken this into account in my life via my personal ethics, my friendships with others, and my feelings toward receiving bonuses/salary.

Julianna: Yes, 100 percent – it made me able to go to the school I went to without having to worry about any cost (tuition, room and board, rent, food, supplies). After my second year, I took two jobs to pay for my own living expenses and supplies because I didn’t like the feeling of asking my parents for money all the time, but in the back of my head, there was always the security blanket of my family in case I needed money. There is a very good chance I would be less successful. I don’t have to worry about loan payments for school, first and foremost. Second, all that stuff that anthropologists and sociologists say about the culture of wealth and how being born into it is 100 percent true. There’s a wide range of opportunities and people I’ve met and been helped by just because of the social climate and culture I was raised in, not to mention there are certain habits and mannerisms and cultural knowledge you pick up in a white collar household that make it easier for you to then go out and get a white collar job. If you measure financial stability as successful and prestige in career (which is a very limited measure of the success of a life) it is 100 percent related to my family’s financial situation.

Arielle: I grew up in an upper middle class family, but my parents did not pay much for my education, and I worked all through college for spending money. So, no. But I definitely think my situation with my husband has affected my career — not many people can afford to work as a freelance writer making very little money without a side gig or a full-time job. His salary plus my lack of student loan debt has definitely given me that freedom, and I will stop at nothing to see my dreams out to the fullest.

D: Absolutely – 100 percent. I have had access to higher education, many job opportunities, career resources and internships because of parent’s financial position.

Related-ish: 10 Women Talk About The Reality Of Dating Older Men With Money.

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