Sonya Sorich: When should you stop accepting money from Mom and Dad?

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comApril 9, 2013 

The hardest part is when the dinner bill comes.

It brings back memories of my childhood, when I watched my parents and grandparents argue over restaurant tabs. Both parties were so intent on paying the bill that they'd sometimes even make an advance arrangement with the server.

I observed the scenario and envisioned my future. Someday, I'd be rich enough to fight my own parents for the check.

Two decades later, my bank account is laughing -- and I'm anticipating an upcoming family vacation partially because there's a good chance I'll get a few free meals.

Some of that's a result of my chosen profession. But I'm likely not the only one with deflated financial expectations.

A recent Wall Street Journal piece cites Labor Department statistics indicating "there were 284,000 (college) graduates -- those with at least a bachelor's degree -- working minimum-wage jobs in 2012, including 37,000 holders of advanced degrees."

It adds, "That's down from a peak of 327,000 in 2010, but double the number in 2007 and up 70 percent from a decade earlier."

So if you're currently in college, you might want to save some of that Top Ramen for after graduation.

The rough economy means many of us haven't completely abandoned financial dependence on our parents. A 2011 Forbes report points to survey results suggesting "59 percent of parents provide financial support to their adult children who are no longer in school."

Accepting the generosity isn't always easy.

Outsiders might roll their eyes at headlines about monetary allowances that extend beyond college. The news attracts discussions of an entitled generation composed of young people who operate under the comfortable reassurance of a financial safety net from their parents.

For some, that might be the case. But for others, sustaining those financial ties comes with some guilt.

When you're an adult, the prospect of financial assistance from Mom and Dad often seems to exist in direct opposition to the natural progression of independence. You say you're all grown up, and ready to deal with the grown-up consequences of shaky finances. Then, reality hits: "Without this check from Dad, I can't pay my rent."

I assume many of you shared my childhood dream: a vision of acquiring a salary awesome enough to one day buy your parents a fancy dinner, or maybe even something greater like a vacation or a car.

Few of us plan to abandon that dream. We're left trying to grasp an unplanned debt to our parents. In the absence of a quick fix for the national economy, I'll advocate the only solution I know.

Pay them back with love.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/sonya to read her columns.

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