Growing up, my family was middle class. Some might have even considered us upper-middle class. Either way, we were pretty well off. My parents were able to buy new cars when they needed to. They sent my brother and me to summer camps at private schools, paid for me to take gymnastics and dance lessons, kept my brother appeased with the latest in video gaming technology. We always had big Christmases and birthdays and took summer vacations every year.
Even when my mom quit working (read: lost her job when her company moved and we couldn’t sell the house) when I was in 6th grade, we still lived comfortably. Though we were told that Santa Claus might not bring us as many toys as in years past (to which we replied, much to my mother’s dismay, the jig is up. We know Santa ain’t real), Christmas morning really didn’t suffer that much. But when I was a senior in high school, things got a bit rough. My dad lost his job. And here I was looking to go to college at not-so-cheap universities. In fact, I ended up attending one of the most expensive colleges around (Pepperdine’s tuition costs more than many Ivy League schools). I am extremely grateful to my parents that they allowed me to go to the school of my choice despite the financial hardship my family was experiencing. I don’t think they knew it would be four years until my dad would get another job, or that I would receive zilch in financial aid from Pepperdine or the government. But it didn’t matter. That’s how much they love me. To be honest, the situation makes me feel a bit guilty, all the loans they had to take on for me to get an education, but I am literally forever in their debt (and my own).
Even with my dad’s new job, which he had for the last three years or so, things were a bit tight. And then, the recession hit. And my dad got laid off. Again. Though my mom is working, being a manager at Starbucks doesn’t pay much. The reason I am thinking about all this is because I am now in my own financial crisis. Living on my own, paying my own way, being an adult—it’s hard, even without the national economy in the toilet. But I can no longer turn to my parents for help because we are in the same boat. It is one of those moments where you realize, wow, I really am an adult now. You are talking on the phone with your mom, complaining about having to pay bills and rent and that you don’t make enough money and your mom says, “Me too.”
Sure, they would find a way to help me if I really needed it and was desperate enough to ask. And if we go out to eat, they’ll pick up the tab. But they can’t afford to buy me a new car when my current one breaks down for good (which it will surely do in the near future).
I have never been that good with money. Not to say I am unable to handle my finances but I have been known to miss a credit card payment or two. I don’t follow the stock market, I don’t balance my check book, I don’t organize my receipts, I don’t have a savings account—though not for lack of wanting one, but simply because there is nothing to save. Sometimes money seems to fly out of my wallet! (Do you ever get that feeling?) But really, I didn’t worry too much about all this before. And yet now it seems like all I can think about is money money money. And how I went from being middle-class to living in a state of perpetual poverty, practically paycheck to paycheck (this week especially!).
Perhaps that is not so uncommon for a 20-something just out of college. My question though is, when will things change? When will I again feel like, OK, I don’t have to worry about money? Is that even possible if you are not Donald Trump? I guess what I am saying is my fiscal future looks pretty bleak (Yoo hoo, raise? Where are you??). The optimist in me says, you’re fine, everything will work out. The realist in me sees the expenses mounting—like, how am I going to pay for the trip to Canada that I'm taking in two weeks for a friend's wedding?—and wants to run and hide. AKA, move home where the room and board are free.
Please forgive the ramblings, but this is just what’s on my mind. I am thinking some of you can relate to these thoughts running through my head… Let’s commiserate together.
What did Notorious B.I.G. say? “Mo money, mo problems?” Hmm, I don’t know about that, Biggie. I think I am more inclined to agree with Fergie: “If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home!”