May 02, 2008
Let me guess...they're retarded?
The 28-year-old New York resident has a master's degree from a prestigious university, a successful career in photography, stamps in her passport from around the globe and, until recently, personal finances that were out of control.
"[Her accountant] wrote me a letter that said, 'You've got to get your life together! Most of these bills aren't even open.' It was a really humbling thing," Wallace says. "But the next time, all my receipts were on a spreadsheet. No one had ever taught me to make a budget or balance a checkbook."
You're kidding me with this, right? No one ever taught me this either. Actually, that's not true: I think I remember having to balance a fake checkbook sometime around middle school for a math class assignment.
But for real, you have a Masters degree and it never occurred to you that you should keep track of your money? Like maybe use Excel or something, the easiest thing in the world. It does the math for you! I'm sure you're also, like, a total math-ophobe. Like numbers and stuff, ick. Who can do that?
"We're in a generation that was kind of shielded from a lot of financial responsibilities," says Wong. "Twenty years ago, when you were in college you didn't have a credit card, and (now) all of a sudden we had to take on debt to go to college. Then we get out of college and we have to have that handbag and an iPod," she says. "It is so easy to take on debt."
OMG, you did not just say that.
Many of these attitudes are evident in our relationships with our parents. Not for nothing have we been labeled the "boomerang generation": We may not all be living in our parents' wood-paneled basements, but a recent Pew survey found that 68% of baby boomers with kids are supporting an adult child financially.
Yep, I know several of them. And on the other end of the spectrum, you have people like me and my husband who, three years after we got married, sent our parents money for all the things we owed them for over the years. The laptop that I swore to my dad I would help pay for when I was in college, yep, never did. So I paid him back three years after I had passed the laptop on to my brother. Because he's my father and not some money tree. Once I realized the true value of money, I realized how much I'd asked of my parents over the years. And I paid them back.
Because I'm a grown-up, and grown-ups don't whine if they can't afford an iPod and they don't take advantage of other grown-ups, even if they happen to be mommy and daddy.
Why do we seem to get article after article these days about why 20 and 30 year olds can't seem to get their shit together? Quit making excuses for them like they weren't taught this in school or it's predatory lenders' fault. No one made her buy the handbag. When I was in college, I had a credit card with a $10,000 limit. I never put a dime on it. It was for emergencies only, and I knew the freaking definition of an emergency. It sure isn't Needing An iPod.
And no one had to teach me that! My parents didn't have to sit down and tell me what I could or could not put on a credit card. It's common freaking sense to not spend money you don't have.
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