‘I’m 29—and My Mom and Dad Still Help Support Me’

Photo courtesy of Twenty20.

Photo courtesy of Twenty20.

In the LearnVest Personal Stories series, everyday people share the details of their money lives, discussing the individual choices they’ve made and how it’s impacted their financial journey.

Today, one Millennial shares why he is OK with occasionally taking money from his parents.

I’ve always taken pride in my ability to support myself. But like so many other Millennials, I admit I haven’t been consistent when it comes to paying my own way.

I didn’t pay for my college education. My parents covered some of my tuition and expenses, and my grandparents also contributed greatly to the savings account my college costs were paid out of. I did some unpaid internships and made a little cash working on the school paper and freelance writing for newspapers and magazines, but the money was inconsistent.

I was definitely glad I didn’t have to pay for college, and I realized how fortunate I was when I saw some of my friends saddled with student loan debt after graduation.

Since I was debt-free, I was able to move to New York City and take a relatively low-paying copywriting job, as well as get a starter apartment with a roommate in Brooklyn. I wasn’t making a lot of money. But what I did earn, as well as the small deposits my parents sometimes put in my bank account, allowed me to make ends meet without having to sacrifice like crazy to repay loans.

A Generous Offer

The thing was, I realized pretty quickly that I hated my job. At first, my parents advised me not to quit until I had another one lined up. But the more I looked into what kind of jobs were available, the more I realized I wanted to go back to school to study advertising.

This was a field that I was passionate about and I wanted to get a degree in it and then make it my career. But I wasn’t sure if I should take the risk—I was barely making ends meet, and I didn’t want to accumulate crippling debt.

But once my parents understood my plan, they were very supportive. “If this is what you want to do, we’ll help you with the money and make sure you’re OK,” they said, meaning that they would contribute to the rest of my living expenses while paying so I could get a graduate degree.

Initially, I didn’t want to accept money from my parents. Millennials get a bad rap for being lazy and entitled and letting their parents support them. While a lot of my friends do get financial help from family members, more often than not it’s because they’re working hard to make ends meet yet are still struggling, so their parents offer to step in. Laziness has nothing to do with it.

Some of my friends are totally cool with this type of setup, but that wasn’t me. I’d tell my parents they should enjoy their money. They’d point out that their house and car were paid off, and they wanted to pitch in.

A big part of their motivation has to do with my dad’s background. When I was young, he ran his own auto body shop, which he loved. But to better support his wife and kids, he eventually took over my maternal grandfather’s grocery store. He was able to make a good living at it, but he wanted me to do something career-wise that I was passionate about.

Because my mom and dad were so enthusiastic and made it clear that they could afford to cover me, I came around to the idea. It wasn’t one of those things where they were like, “We give you money, so you’ve got to do what we say.” They genuinely wanted to assist me so I could live the life I wanted. And honestly, it was a relief to finally be able to leave a job I hated and go back to school without worrying about debt.

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Relying on the Bank of Mom and Dad

My parents helped in a few ways while I was getting my graduate degree. They paid for the majority of my tuition—although I helped with some of it by freelance writing on the side.

A lot of that tuition money came from the savings account they’d set up to cover the college costs for me and my three siblings. By the time I returned to school, my siblings had gotten their undergraduate degrees, so I was able to use the leftover cash in that account. Plus, I had a trust fund from my grandfather that defrayed fees. All told, my family kicked in about $15,000 for tuition.

My parents also picked up most of my rent. I paid something like $800 a month to live the same Brooklyn apartment I moved into after college, but now they were pitching in $500 monthly. They also shelled out for my health insurance, since I was no longer at a job with benefits. That came to about $500 per month. I was still freelance writing, and I put the money I made from that toward living expenses.

I ended up leaving grad school after being there for about a year. Even though I’d started a two-year program, I’d built up enough of a portfolio to get a full-time job at a marketing and ad agency. At that point, I didn’t need my parents to help me financially anymore. Or so I thought.

Unexpected expenses cropped up. Last year, I was planning to move with my roommate into a bigger apartment with two of our friends. But after we ended the lease on our current place, the two friends realized they couldn’t afford to move into the new apartment. Then, my roommate was laid off. I suddenly found myself looking for a new place on my own, and there was no one to help me pay a broker’s fee, security deposit or moving fees.

My parents knew I was stressed about the situation. They assured me, “Try not to worry about this as much as possible. If you find a place and you have to pay a fee, we’ll help.” Ultimately, they ended up funding the broker fee (approximately $1,600) and they also paid for a moving service (about $1,000).

This time around, I didn’t go through the mental back and forth of deciding whether I wanted to accept my parents’ help or not. I was just very thankful I could lean on them because it was a relief to not have to sweat my living situation.

RELATED: ‘How I Saved $150,000—and Bought My First Home’

The Case for Taking Parental Cash

While I’m supporting myself now, if I need help in the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom and dad stepped in again. I’m incredibly grateful to have parents who are so willing to support my pursuit of my dreams. I know from talking to my friends that getting this kind of assistance isn’t uncommon, especially in New York City. It’s hard to find a lucrative job in a creative industry here, yet the cost of living is high.

I have friends trying to be actors who haven’t quite made it yet, and their parents contribute to their living expenses so they can continue to work a part-time job and try to land roles. Another friend of mine is basically a career student. Her parents are wealthy, so they cover the costs for her to live and learn.

Sure this setup is baffling to some people, but I don’t think it’s that big a deal. So many Millennials are struggling, and some demand help from their parents. But in other cases, their parents are the ones coming forward and offering to help first.

Maybe a generation or two ago, more young people found solid, self-sustaining jobs and didn’t need cash from their parents. But in today’s economy, that’s often not the case. Perhaps some people view it as financial coddling, but that’s not how I—and many of my friends—see it.

RELATED: 5 Things Every New Grad Needs to Know About Money … From the Money Professors

  • Rita Mcdonnell-Dougherty

    He mentions that he was able to draw on the education account because his siblings had their degrees. I wonder what would happen if they wanted to go to grad school.

    I would really love to hear this story from his siblings’ point of view.

  • LoriLynn

    This is not an occasional loan from a parent to help a child out. This is an adult child taking advantage of his parents. He did not complete a masters degree and now his parents will never see a return on that investment. This child is still fully dependent on his parents even at 29.

  • jz

    Sounds like instead of drawing upon a savings account or emergency fund or short-term loan, parents have basically filled that role. Since it’s not addressed in the article – why hasn’t the author been able to save? Whether it’s because the author is living beyond his means and refuses to pare down, or because circumstances with his career and lifestyle choices won’t allow him to pare down….this isn’t exactly making a great case that taking parental cash was compatible with sound financial decisioning-making (in this case, anyway). And what’s up with these friends who suddenly decided they couldn’t afford the apartment they committed to?

  • Kathleen Strykowsky

    I REALLY hope that he will be EAGER to insist helping his parents out with their expenses every month when they retire. It doesn’t sound like they can rely on pensions, just Social Security and hopefully a good amount of their own investments. It would be fair if he spends 10 years delaying his “wants” and non-necessities and pays to send his parents on some nice vacations and pays for them to get help as they get older, since they were so generous with their money with him.

  • BeeBee

    Ugh. Just…ugh.

  • GK

    Written like a true millenial.

  • kytravelrn

    Another entitled millenial. Are your siblings glad you hogged the rest of the education fund? 29 years old and bleeding your parents…you should be ashamed….man up!!

  • flours

    I wanted to finish this article with a sense of ‘finally, an article where I don’t feel like the millennial is taking advantage’…too bad that’s not how it happened…it certainly didn’t help extinguish the negative stereotypes…$15,000 for one year of grad school? I’ve been exploring grad schools & plan to attend part time so I can afford it on my own without loans…of course, my mom would laugh directly in my face if I asked her for money…she told me a long time ago that once I moved out I was on my own…she has her own retirement to pay for & good for her

  • Lily

    As a “millenial” who took a reasonable amount of financial assistance from my parents to cover the cost of college – yet also took on significant student loans, put myself through graduate school, and have been living without their assistance since college (I am now 27), I find this article ridiculous. This article does nothing except further the stereotype that millenials are all lazy and entitled. This individual did not make smart decisions, and his parents simply footed the bill. Receiving support for college (which is worlds more expensive than it used to be, and essentially required to get any job that pays slightly more than peanuts) and the occasional living/moving expense as a young adult is one thing, but this article takes it to an extreme. Mommy and daddy aren’t required to foot the bill for your entire life just because you think you deserve to live your dream life right away, and don’t see the value in grinding it out for a while in order to make that dream a reality. The majority of “millenials” I know, including myself, are the hardest working people I know (often working long hours, multiple jobs, side jobs, etc, to make ends meet and fund their dreams). Please, for the love of all things holy, stop writing and publishing articles like this. They do no one any good.

  • Guen Garrido

    ” Perhaps some people view it as financial coddling, but that’s not how I—and many of my friends—see it.” ::laughs:: Yes. Yes it is.

  • Tanta

    I’m surprised at some of the comments here. Although I agree with some of the opinions expressed, I STRONGLY disagree with the millennial bashing going on. This post is about the experience of ONE millennial, just one. Sure, a very lucky, upper middle class, seemingly self-centered millennial, but still… just one person. I am also a millennial, and although my story is completely different, I just don’t feel it in me to hate on the subject of the post. To each their own. I paid for 100% of my education myself with multiple part-time jobs, grants and loans and I am sitting on 105k+ worth of crippling debt. Don’t misplace your anger or judgement on one lucky individual who had it easy. Be damn angry at the higher-ed institutions and big bank lenders who ripped us all off and continue to do so by offering an overpriced, defective product that offers zero guarantees.

  • Luke Hale

    This has to be a joke.