I talk a lot of talk about how hard I work to keep myself afloat. And the truth is, I usually genuinely feel like I do. For my age and in my situation right now (21, still a full-time student), I work a considerable amount (30+ hours/week between a few different jobs, on top of a sometimes 18 credit class schedule) and make enough money to support myself if I had to, especially when compared to some of my peers.
However, I do live with my parents, and I am not paying them money for rent. This is not usually a point of great insecurity for me, however yesterday, many comments I received on a post I wrote had me questioning the decision I have always been comfortable with.
I am one of those people who is somewhat parentally funded, but not to the point of being entitled (in my opinion), or enabled to be completely financially irresponsible. I make all of my own money for all of my expenses besides my housing and many of my meals. In return, I pick up things for the house when needed, do a decent amount of the cooking and food prep for the family, and contribute in other ways to household upkeep.
For a few years now, I’ve been teetering back and forth between feeling fully capable of moving out and assuming all financial responsibilities in my life, and feeling so utterly lost and defeated by the few times I’ve tried and failed, only to come falling back into the safety net of my wonderfully supportive parents. This is partly because I dropped out of school for a while, and worked full time in order to build up my savings and pay for the rest of school more easily, and partly because I am simply young and figuring it all out.
In all honesty, I could probably pay my parents for rent. I could also probably afford my own (very tiny and likely very shitty) apartment if I really needed to. But every time I sit down and create an imaginary budget as if I were ~On My Own~ I find that paying the bare-minimum of rent would leave me with probably about $30 a month after paying all of my other bills (car payment, loans, insurance, phone, etc.) and necessary expenses such as gas and food. The money that I’m putting away each month is going towards helping me build a (very necessary) emergency fund. As a student trying to just work her way though university and save some money on the side, I am clearly not yet financially stable enough to take over — but it is something that I am working towards every day.
The truth is, many full-time students my age still live with their parents. Many post-grads do too – and that it totally okay.
The issues I see in regard to living with family into your adulthood are more emotionally-based. Living with your parents out of necessity because you are completely financially irresponsible is a totally different thing than living with them because there is no reason for you to leave yet. Living with your parents and genuinely enjoying it, being a working and contributing member of a household with roommates whom you respect, love, and appreciate, is a totally different thing than living with your parents and feeling emotionally stunted, or like you have completely overstayed your welcome.
For example, last week, an article was posted on TFD about putting personal freedom above the idea of building a savings account, and moving out from your parents’ house and taking the financial hit in order to gain some much-needed freedom and life experience. After I read through it, I began to think a lot about moving out. I sat down and created, once again, an imaginary budget. I also broke out the yellow legal pad for a good old-fashioned list of pros and cons.
Pro: The obvious freedom — dates can come over at my leisure, no one will call me and ask when I’m coming home, I can eat ice cream for dinner instead of cooking a healthy meal.
Pro: I can get my own tea kettle in whatever color I want. For some reason I’ve always really cared about that.
Pro: My décor would be on freaking point.
Con: I’ll have a lot less money.
Con: The amount I work would have to increase in order to maintain a steady enough income to pay rent, which could conflict with my 18-credit school schedule.
Con: What if I die and no one knows for many days? I feel like that’s the scariest part of moving out.
I looked at my list and began to ask myself the more serious questions. Would the financial hit be worth it for me at this stage in my life? Is it nothing but a huge money mistake, or something that will be so emotionally beneficial for me that the money won’t even matter? Will I regret it in a year or two, if I have an emergency and no emergency fund to speak of because I stopped saving in order to pay my rent? Will I regret it if I graduate, can’t find a good job, and have to move back in at 25 instead of just spending an extra year with my parents at 22? And, perhaps most importantly, does it make sense in any way to completely change a lifestyle that I am deeply happy and comfortable with, just so a faceless internet troll will stop thinking I’m spoiled?
Right now, the answer to that last question is a firm “hell no.”
I don’t feel insecure about my situation. I don’t feel irresponsible. I don’t feel entitled, spoiled, or immature.
I feel 21. I feel like a student who hasn’t started her career yet. I feel like the incredibly lucky daughter of two wonderful parents who have raised me to be aware, responsible, and prepared for my future, even though it hasn’t quite started yet.
I am young and I am still learning, but I also understand myself and my life enough to know that what I’m doing right now is what is best for me. I have chosen my choice because it is the one that makes the most sense – and I see no reason to be ashamed of that.
Mary is the summer Media Fellow at The Financial Diet. Send her your summer intern stories (your lessons, failures, triumphs and good advice) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image via Pixabay