I have a dirty little secret: my parents still pay my cell phone bill.
There, I said it.
Here I am, a woman staring down 30, a personal finance expert who makes her bed every morning, who schleps groceries up a three story walk-up with her own two biceps and who sends handwritten thank-you notes.
As you can see, I’m an adult in every other way.
But here I am, holding on to this one last piece of parental charity.
Since I’ve never paid for my cellphone bill, its absence barely registers. Until, that is, my friends berate Rogers and gripe about expensive data plans — at which point I gracefully exit the conversation.
Those casual conversations do remind me, however, that I’m not truly independent.
If I had to shell out that extra $50 per month, my budget would have to concede elsewhere — less drinks, less savings, less brunch! But justifying the money is the hard part. It sounds like freedom — having more money to pay for my eggs benedict addiction — but it’s actually the opposite. It’s a dependance on something that’s hard to turn down (in this case, my parent’s generosity).
If I had to shell out that extra $50 per month, my budget would have to concede elsewhere — less drinks, less savings, less brunch!
I reached out to some friends to find out who else faces this financial angst.
My friend Kristen feels the same unease I do over accepting cash from parents. When her husband went back to school, his folks supplemented their income by $200-$300 every month.
“I hated it,” she told me.
As a 29-year-old marketing coordinator, Kristen says she wants to do things on her own time.
“This is why I moved out,” she says. “I want to live within my means. Taking money from my parents is not within my means.”
We share the same twinge of discomfort with someone subsidizing our lifestyles. Other millennial friends of mine, however, seem to be okay with it.
As I survey them, a theme emerges. My friends who are making a higher salary are totally off the parental payroll, but those making under $45,000 often get help from their folks — most to the tune of $100-$300 every month. A cell phone bill, car insurance, optometrist appointments — whatever. They need help making ends meet.
As I survey them, a theme emerges. My friends who are making a higher salary are totally off the parental payroll
Madeline, 29, for example, makes about $40,000 working in sales and her parents regularly pay her debit overdraft, worth $200-$300 a month.
“I’m appreciative, but upset that I don’t make enough to cover the bills,” she tells me.
Usually when I hear people say they don’t make enough money, my standard comeback is “Spend less. Get a roommate. Buy produce in Chinatown. Negotiate your internet package.”
You know, standard annoying personal finance advice.
But if they ask me about taking money from their parents, I’m changing my tune.
Our parents, unlike us, established their careers and savings in a time of high public investment and economic growth. Homes were much cheaper. Jobs out of university were plentiful. Almost everyone had a workplace pension.
So why should millennials cut back on their lifestyle when a few hundred bucks can help bridge the gap to comfortable existence? As long as it doesn’t fund the existence entirely, I don’t see a problem. Hey, financial independence should never be the sole measure of adulthood.
And let’s be honest, we’ve all seen even boomers, despite coming of age in a time of plenty, get help from their parents for extras like vacations and school tuition.
So the secret’s out: my mom and dad are picking up my cell phone bill.
But don’t worry, brunch is on me.