Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I did a guest post over at Debt Kid's website. Nothing major, I was just introducing myself and sharing my story (you should head over there and read it. It's the most detailed I've been) but I noticed something. He's been blogging a lot longer than I have and so obviously has a lot more readers and therefore more commenters. In the comments section I got a vibe from some of the comments that were made and it ties into a theme I've noticed across the personal finance blogosphere.

There seems to be a school of thought that views money given to you by your parent as tainted. It's somehow something bad and a handout. The thinking is, you are supposed to work for every single cent you earn otherwise it doesn't count. Maybe it's an American thing (I didn't grow up here) but it baffles me.

In my experience (and maybe it doesn't apply to most people), parents generally support their kids through college. When they have kids, it's part of the cost the calculate just like buying clothes and what not. My dad actually was confused when I wanted to work at 15. His first statement was, "don't you have enough money?" I did. But I was excited about the idea of being paid. It sounded so grown up. In college, I was given an amount every semester to cover living expenses. My dad made me write a budget before hand of what I thought I needed and usually gave me that plus 200-300 dollars extra to cover fun things. It was enough to be ok but I still wanted to work. After he assured himself I was not working out of necessity and that working would not interfere with my school work (which to him was the whole point of going to school) he was actually satisfied that I had the drive to work.

I wouldn't say I was spoiled. I never lacked basic things and my parents were not tight with money. They didn't buy me everything I wanted but if they travelled they'd ask what I wanted and buy me stuff of the list.

However, the problem lay in the fact that I was not allowed to have pocket money. Ever. If anyone ever gave me money as a gift (relatives and others) they would take it away from me and say they were "keeping" it for me. The reason I call this a problem is that because of this, I never learnt to budget. I never learnt to save. I never said, "if I buy this, I won't be able to buy that." The end result was that when I finally got my hands on some "money" I went a little crazy. To this day, I keep having to remind myself that you are supposed to save up for things you can't afford. That just because you see something and it IS a good deal doesn't mean you can buy it. I posted a while back that I had to learn the phrase "I can't afford it" and that it just doesn't apply to unimportant things like electronics and clothes. That sometimes you really can't afford to go to your brothers graduation in another state or that you might not be able to afford to go out to eat with a friend that's in town for the first year in years.

I don't want to veer to off topic here so i'll leave it at that. I think my parents also made a mistake by not talking about money with me. I had no idea (and still really don't) what my parents made growing up. Money was just something that was in the background. I wouldn't be able to tell you what, if any financial difficulties they might have had and I think all this fed into the excessive spending I did a while back.

I just wanted to know what you guys feel about parent's giving money to their children. I hope to have some great discussion going on in the comments.


  1. Free money feels different. Don't get me wrong, I would take it in 20 seconds, but there is a difference.

    If you save for your down payment for years (as I am now), it feels different than if the money just appeared.

    That said, the comments on that blog are just mean and nasty, as some bloggers attract nastier comments than others.

    And in defense of those commenters, you do present yourself as a sort of clueless trust fund kid in that guest post.

  2. Well, I haven't seen the guest post yet, but I agree with Dog that free money feels different.

    I was encouraged to get a job at age 15 because my parents believed that teenagers, while still dependents, should start earning their discretionary money. Meaning that Mom would still buy clothes and necessities, but I should start learning independence by funding non-essential purchases with my own money (actually I started earning money babysitting in the neighborhood at age 12.) I thought this was pretty typical for most families.

    At times she would chip in half-and-half for certain purchases, but really, she let me decide what was important and pay for it myself, like a membership at the local pool, lessons for a martial arts class I soon tired of and quit, a uniform for that class... and I quit before buying the uniform. Saving up the cold, hard, cash in my own under-bed shoebox made me think three times about buying the pricey uniform and I ultimately saved the money and quit the class. I bet if Mom had bought the uniform I would not have thought twice about her outlay for it.

  3. I read your post and the comments. Yeah, PF bloggers can be a bit harsh. Some authors and commentators have a downright holy than thou attitude, lots of us get it at times. I see it this way, there are a lot of blogs out there written by "baby bloggers" (this coming from someone who is in her mid 40's). Many of these bloggers ran up huge amounts of Credit card debt,plus student loans, plus car loans, etc. Many of these bloggers were also given money by parents and never taught how to budget or manage money. Now a few years out of college, they are hit with these massive bills, unable to pay for them and some of these bloggers do whine about the amount of debt they racked up. I guess the motto is don't expect a ton of sympathy when your story goes out to the blogsphere, no matter the circumstances of how you got into debt. PF bloggers don't seem to take kindly to folks who were given money and now are in some sort of a debt mess. I'm always interested in how folks get out of debt or increase savings.

    That being said, you have a very valid comment about parents giving kids money. I think parents should give kids an allowance, allow them to keep gift money, etc. I do think parents should encourage savings by opening up a saving account (my grandmother did that for me). I think parents should be able to say to kids, we are saving for a vacation, we are saving for a car, we can't afford private ballet lessons. I don't think most kids/teenagers need to be privy to parents detailed finances, but having an overall general picture is important. I mean, do you think that at age 16 you (or most kids) would have really comprehended your parents 401K? I think most kids might see it as money to be spent and not being saved for retirement. I know it never registered on my radar as a kid/young adult.

    I'm curious to see what others have to say.

  4. @everyone
    I enjoy reading what you have to say and like bouncing back I want to see what others have to say. I'm actually not too bothered by those comments I just thought they were interesting. The biggest thing that hits me is that I think it's hard for Americans to imagine "normal" in a context that is different from their reality. Where I grew up it is "normal" for parents to support their kids through college because there are no such things as part time jobs for non-colleger goers (obviously excluding things like hawking on the streets and other forms of menial labor). Even fast food places won't hire anyone under 24 or so. That's a side point though.

    @dogatmyfinances - maybe i did present myself as naive, I don't know I have to go back an read my post. I agree that money saved up feels different and I guess that was the point of this post. I'm saying I never heard my parents talk about it and I couldn't tell you if it was because they had so much money they didn't need to save or because they kept those conversations private.

    I agree with bouncing back. I think parents should make money a part of the conversation with their kids. Not necessarily saying mom makes x and dad makes y. Just comments such as "we won't be able to afford that unless..." or "if you get this you can't get ..." I feel there might have been things I asked for my parents could not afford at that time. However, they just said no. I was never given a reason for the no. It might have been a "no because I said so" or "no because we can't afford it".

    Let's keep the conversation flowing

    N.B. I'm not complaining/whining/blaming my parents for my actions. I'm just interested in analyzing my behavior and where it stems from

  5. My mom and step dad had this huge issue with money (when they had it they blew it and when they didn't, they really didn't). It was from one extreme to the next. I was perceived as a spoiled brat at school and little did they know that some months the mortgage wasn't being paid. I lived at home until December last year and one thing I picked up was that my mom influenced my spending quite a bit and why I'm in the financial mess. It's just not good to rely on your parents for money because if they get into trouble, chances are you are not prepared for it!


Hit me with some tough love