Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Thank You to My Parents, for Letting Me Be Stupidly Naive with Money (Seriously)
For two years, I lived in a Brooklyn building built illegally on a commercially zoned block, wedged between two factories. Four of us lived in an apartment designed for two, with railroad-style bedrooms. We often barged in on each other while sleeping, reading, having sex. The post office refused to recognize our address or deliver mail. Crack deals sometimes took place on our stoop.
Ah, the glamor of New York City for the young, ambitious, and broke. For Lilit Marcus it was a crack-tastic Brooklyn share where she couldn't even get her mail. For me, it was a sixth-floor walk-up with no windows in the living room. But at least mine was in Chelsea.
I love this article about How I Made it in New York City Without Parental Help. I especially love how this is now a thing, I guess, in the era of Boomerang Kids and whole employment sectors dependent on unpaid interns. When I moved to New York in 1996 it wouldn't have occurred to either my parents or me that they should be financially supporting my choice of where to live. They didn't especially like that I wanted to move here after I graduated (like this writer, it was a wonderfully impulsive, capricious choice to be sure), but I was an adult and therefore I don't think that they considered it to be much of their business.
Lilit was much more conscious and disciplined about money than I was. For years I was baffled by my ever-growing credit card debt. It seemed like everyone here was effortlessly fabulous, and even though I was by no means extravagant I certainly spent more than I should have just trying to go with the economic flow.
When I eventually "hit bottom" financially, I actually did get crucial help from my parents. Some of that was monetary (they caught me up with my past-due bills totalling just under $2,000 as I recall), but the most important forms of help I received from them were instruction and support. My mother sat down with me and together we drew up a monthly budget, and over the next two years as I attacked and paid off $19,000 in credit card debt, my parents cheered me every step of the way.
We are all on a journey with our money. I don't regret a single step of mine, because each peak and valley has taught me something meaningful. In fact, the valleys have been -- if you'll pardon the pun -- the richest experiences of all. I was amazed to discover how safe and secure it felt to know where my money was going, and that I could say no to a purchase or proposed adventure without self-combusting.
I give my folks huge kudos for the constructive way in which they helped me. They did a parent's ultimate job: helping their child develop the skills and capacities to be a competent, independent adult. That's more valuable than paying my rent for a lifetime.