Parental Help

Two of my favorite bloggers, Stacking Pennies and Fabulously Broke, recently wrote about what they've received (and not received) from their parents money-wise over the years, and I thought I'd chime in.

Elementary School - High School
Basically, my mom paid for nearly everything (my dad was a cheapo), including food, clothes, everything school related (including all field trips, fundraisers, book fairs, etc), weekly trips to the comic book store, vacations...

[I've never given much thought to how much she spent on me when I was young. It kind of makes up for the few years I was paying for her cell phone plan... but I also paid her ($2000/mo) rent for a year; I'm not sure it makes up for that. (This was after my parents separated... my mom was jobless and left with nothing. I had sympathy, and I still have sympathy. But it was a tough burden to bear, especially considering she used my credit card without my consent a few times... once maxing out my card. It destroyed my trust and confidence in her.)]

The one thing I remember my dad buying me in high school was a prepaid cell phone (after a lengthy debate over why it was necessary (I said it would help me feel safe -- I was taking night classes at a community college for fun at the time)). Oh, and I remember there was even a debate over re-taking the SAT. My score only went up 20 points, so he thought it was a waste of money to take it a third time.

My dad paid for 2 quarters tuition (after I lied to him and told him I couldn't get a student loan; I would estimate it was about $5k, but it could have been less). He also paid for a normal cell phone & plan. He also paid for half of my first car (about $1800; which I received a couple months after graduation from high school).

My dad is currently paying for my car insurance. Otherwise, I have been entirely financially independent since my last year of undergrad.

I have some bitterness that my dad didn't help me out more in undergrad. I worked non-stop from when I graduated high school until last summer (midway through law school). At one point I was working two jobs. My grades were good, but not great, and I think if I had worked a few less hours, I could have changed that. Then maybe I could have gotten a scholarship to law school...

M and I have argued before about my sense of "entitlement." However, I think he has a skewed perspective because his dad is very generous, and will basically give him and his siblings anything they want. The fact that M has never really wanted anything is beside the point. I do think that parents should start a college fund (including tuition/living expenses) for their kids. I think it's healthy, and good experience, for kids to work (or volunteer) when they hit the latter years of high school. But education should be the primary focus, and parents should enable it to be the primary focus.

You brought the kids into this life, it's your responsibility to help them get through it... at least to a certain stage - in my opinion, the cut-off is graduation from college. I wouldn't be supporting my kid anymore after that, unless something catastrophic happened.

I keep hearing about friends of friends getting pregnant, and it irks me so much because they're nearly kids themselves and have little means to support a baby (and they have little chance of developing the means in the future). So incredibly irresponsible. There should be a law that states that parents need to provide proof that they've saved up a certain amount specifically earmarked for their children before they're allowed to get pregnant. (I realize that would be impossible to enforce, but I can dream. :p)


FB @ said...

Thank you for posting that and linking back to moi! :)

I do agree that parents should set aside a fund AND help out their kids if they can. But to be honest, they helped you out a lot more than my own parents did for me.. your mom was a superstar.

And did they promise to pay for your tuition? Because mine did, and then pretended they never said that which hurt more.

The bonus to my story is that I don't have to feel obligated for anything now. I handled myself at an early age and they can't say boo.

M's parents sound just like the parents I want to become, but I do think he's partially right on some points, but I know how you feel.

Miss M said...

I'll have to write about this some time, my parents didn't save up a college fund for me. Wouldn't seem so strange except, my dad's a college professor and my mom has worked at universities her whole life. They did help out though with room and board and a car. They never paid a dime of tuition and I paid for books.

SLJubilee said...

It is tough on parents. The last generation lived in the best economic times in the history of the world.

For example, many boomers lived great lives without an education, and they have the "Dave Ramsey" approach that one ought to work for everything starting from scratch, and that everything they have is because they worked for it.

This is false, but one must empathize with the massive false learning that took place for fifty years. There are no more General Motors high paying factory jobs.

Parents don't have an understanding at how expensive it is to get a good education now - even if they understand the numbers, they don't have the gut feeling.

And it is not their fault. The zombie debt of student loans, with repayment terms of 30 years, is what allowed universities to vastly increase tuition.

Bayjb said...

Wow I might have to post about this topic myself. Very polarizing. My parents could help me much either during school, especially high school and beyond so now, I have zero shame taking things from them for free. I call it back pay.

Mentally Sane said...

I'm not sure I agree with you that parent's should be required to pay for education. I think if they have the means to, then it would be nice for them to do so, but it's not required. There are other methods of paying for a college education, such as scholarships, grants, and finally student loans. It's nice to leave school with no debt, but the reality is that parents have their retirement to think of. Many of them can't fund both retirement and college - particularly if they had a late start due to their own student loans.

College is about learning to fend for yourself. I've paid for school myself, worked two full-time jobs, and continue to work on my screenwriting - even picking up some acting classes. I still manage to make A's in my classes. The most my parents have done for me on the education front is to make sure that I have a computer that works. Admittedly, that's been a big help in my education costs, but still. I have to agree with M about your sense of entitlement. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but it's not your parents responsibility to support you when you enter adulthood. It's nice of them to do so, and most will, but some parents feel it's time their kids learn responsibility. And sometimes, they only learn by being thrust into the situation.


Sunflowers said...

@FB: You're very welcome. :) And you're right, my parents (especially my mom) were a lot more generous than yours...

I don't think there were promises to pay for my education. I don't think we ever talked about it. My parents were always preoccupied with their hatred for each other. I do remember visiting my grandma (dad's side) when I was 14 and she giving me this long speech about how my mom was destroying my dad's finances which was why I should probably go to a community college. I wanted to punch her in the face... it was such bs. My mom had really good jobs throughout my childhood, but had to keep giving them up because my dad moved us around so much. She started her own business when we settled in CA. She paid for everything for me, because my dad would get so annoyed about anything money related. And then she lost her job, and she got screwed... anyway, I digress. I am definitely going to be a generous parent. Not to the point of spoilage... but I don't want them to come out of college with 20k worth of loans. I want them to have a clean slate into adulthood, but also be educated about financial matters.

Miss M - yeah, you'd think they'd know first hand how much of a burden loans and working are on a student... :\

@Kristy - They would be able to fund their retirement and their kids' education if they PLANNED AHEAD. People are so eager to pop out babies without any kind of savings. I think it's selfish. Tuition costs now are a world above what they used to be. I think we wouldn't be so much in debt as a nation if parents felt more obligated to help their kids out. Once the kids are on their feet, then they can help their parents out when they get old.

I'm likely going to be making student loan payments until I die. You can be sure my parents will never see a dime of my money when they get old. (well, except my mom. I've helped her out a lot and will continue to help her later in life if necessary)

Angie said...

I think you are acting like a brat thinking your parents should be obligated to pay for your college education. You are the one benefiting from it by having further job opportunities, not them!

Yes, it is hard to not be bitter towards friends who have no student loans. But that is life. You should never have to expect someone to give you something. Especially of such high costs.

My parents didn't give me a dime. I graduated with over 100k in student loans. I too will be paying them off for years to come. But my parents now their whole retirement funds are halfwaywiped out due to the economy. Had they paid for my schooling on top of that, they would have nothing. And certainly would not have been able to pay down their mortgage.

Stop blaming YOUR student loans on your parents just to sell a sob story. Parents are there for guidance not for money. I think they should solely be there to make you realize the magnitude of the loans you are taking out. Mine certainly didn't and for that I hold a slight grudge. But certainly not enough to say "You can be sure my parents will never see a dime of my money when they get old."

Sunflowers said...

@Angie: Awesome! My first inflammatory comment.

And actually no, my parents would most definitely benefit from my having future job opportunities. Neither of them have much of a retirement (and it has nothing to do with the economy), and I WOULD have loved to help them out at that stage in their life. However, I (very likely) won't be financially able due to the amount of debt I have to pay back (QUITE a bit more than you).

I'm certainly not squarely "blaming" my parents for my student loans. I made the choice to go to the schools I did; I made the choice to take out the loans. But I do think they should have built up a college fund either prior to having me or while I was growing up. It's the responsible thing to do. It's not being "bratty" and I'm not saying it to "sell a sob story."

Clearly you have some misplaced anger... resentment at your parents for not "giving you a dime"? You can make excuses for it all you want. GOOD parents, if they are financially sound (which should already be a requirement before getting pregnant!), should contribute to their children's education, and good children should help out their parents when they get older and in times of need. It's called reciprocation. Feel free to disagree... but turn the bitchiness down a notch.

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