Financial independence is not within the reach of most young adults, but pride may prevent them from asking for help, anyway.
This was previously published on Student Loan CPA.
As a young adult, I had a huge problem with my parents. I thought they didn’t care about me. As I went through college, I observed that nobody ever asked me how much school cost, or what I needed. There seemed to be an expectation that I would make it, but nobody ever asked how. The real truth however, is that I did not ask for help.
As far back as maybe age ten, I haven’t really asked my parents for things they didn’t already know or expect. I was in Zimbabwe at the time, dealing with a culture that was new to all of us, and as the youngest child I felt no basis for non-routine requests. Whenever I did something new, like playing baseball or rugby, I was the first in my family to do it. I had a dilemma: As the youngest in a family where wisdom is considered to be a function of age, how was I to convince them that I needed specialized sports equipment? (Silence? That’s the same answer I came up with back then.)
I felt that everyone looked at me like a weirdo, and I thought they were justified. If you had four children and one of them departed from the norm set by the first three, wouldn’t that qualify as weird? If he asked for something that he thinks he needs, how will you judge whether he really needs it? Isn’t it likely that you’d be wondering why this child isn’t falling in line like the others? I carried these thoughts with me for years and it was only magnified as I moved to the U.S. and became the only child to go to high school here. How was I to convince my mother to buy prom tickets, when I couldn’t get her to buy me school clothes?
I made up my mind in high school that I would leave my parents’ home at eighteen and never go back. This sounds noble when you first hear it, but in retrospect it was foolish and naïve. I was operating on the uninformed assumption that independence was within reach, and it really wasn’t—not for most people my age. I succeeded in getting a scholarship to the University of Missouri-Kansas City that paid for virtually everything for the first two years, and most things during the last two. I thought I had made it, and even gave my mother some money out of my scholarships. Unfortunately I didn’t think about living expenses, and as of today, half of my collegiate debt resulted from such items.
I can blame my parents for not working harder to understand my “weird” needs—and expecting that they would be very different from those of my older siblings—like I really want to. I certainly believe that all parents or soon-to-be parents reading this should make note of this situation, and ensure that their children always feel comfortable asking for help. However, it’s not my style to wait for things to be given to me, so I’ll blame myself: I should have found a way to ask for help. I could have even asked for the help of my teachers in talking to my parents; if my parents understood that my requests were normal for my environment and age group, they probably would have budged somewhere. Perhaps I should have asked the teacher to convince my brother who had a stronger voice in the family than I, and then he would in turn speak for me.
I should not have been so anxious to become independent either, because in these rough times there are not enough scholarships (or part-time-jobs in Austin, TX) for cars, car accidents with uninsured drivers, clothes, gas, auto insurance, rent, or even pocket money. I should have also asked my parents for an allowance during college, and as implied in my article about economic outpatient care, graduation does not mean it absolutely has to end. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would get used to telling my parents my dreams, and giving them the chance to contribute whatever little they could afford. For young adults busy in college these days, borrowing is often the only alternative to begging, and since the lending ‘wolves’ have a healthy appetite, we should refuse to play ‘sheep’ as much as possible.
When you think about your college career and your borrowing history, do you think you could have asked someone for money instead? Who was it, and what was your reason for not asking? Do you think it’s too late now?
Money in, money out for college fund image courtesy of Shutterstock