Saturday, February 16, 2008

Planning for my future: Am I a parent mooching loser?

Right now I'm caught in limbo while I await the results of my Teach for America interview. It's slightly nerve-wracking to have to wait for weeks, wondering if you messed it up and knowing there's nothing more you can do if you have. The only sensible thing to do is focus on your back-up plans so I'm dutifully putting together my portfolio for the master's program in teaching at my university. I have to interview for that on February 29, but my advisor, who works closely with the teacher education program in the sciences, assures me that that's mostly a formality.

I really hope Teach for America accepts me. It's where I could have the most impact, and it would also be better for my finances to be working full-time instead of in school full-time for another year. Fortunately, the costs of the graduate program won't be too onerous if that's the route I end up taking. The cost of the one year master's program are estimated to be around $12,500, and I have a scholarship that will cover $10,000 of that. My savings will easily cover the additional tuition and books.

The big problem is living expenses. They are covered by my scholarships now, but they wouldn't be while I'm in graduate school. If I had to, I could afford to keep my apartment, but that would drain a sizable chunk of my savings. I could find another place and a roommate and cut the cost somewhat, but it would still be a significant expense. I really would end up living on ramen noodles.

I'm considering moving home. Based on articles in personal finance magazines and discussion boards I've read, moving home after graduation would make me a terrible slacker, drain my parents' resources, and delay my maturation into a responsible adult. I still think it might be the best option. My parents live within half an hour of where I'd be going to school, and staying in their paid-off house could make a lot more sense than renting my own place. It would be for one year, and I'd be doing something productive by going to school full-time and trying to find a part-time job as well. Although my parents have been generous, I don't think I'm draining their resources since my tuition, fees, books, dorm/apartment, etc. were all covered by scholarships.

I broached the subject with my mom last week. I laid out what I hoped to do and why, asked for her opinion, and offered to pay rent, although I would hope to pay less than I would for an apartment. She's fine with the idea as long as I contribute to the household chores and wouldn't hear of my paying rent, but I am going to try to negotiate an arrangement to at least pay my share of utilities and groceries. (You may be wondering why I didn't ask my dad. Well, when I was in junior high school he said I had to live at home until I was 35 or had a master's degree. He didn't seem to be joking.)

What do you folks think? Am I taking advantage of my parents' good natures and generosity? Does finishing my B.S. mean that I need to sink or swim on my own, or is it ok to accept one more year of some parental support? If I were your kid, what would you suggest?


DogAteMyFinances said...

I lived with my parents when I graduated from grad school. It was between grad school and my job, and it had a set limit: four months.

MISERABLE. I love my parents, they're cool, and I thought I could do it. But it's hard to date, it's hard to eat what you want, watch what you want on TV, just be an adult.

It was far harder than I thought, and you couldn't pay me to do it again. I moved out after two months. I just sucked it up and paid the extra money. I would do it again in a second, even if it took all the money I had.

A said...

I lived with my brother and his newly married wife in their new house for the final three months of graduate school. That was miserable. I promptly moved home for the four months I had until my teaching position started.

It was a great way to save money and although there were relatively few rules, I lived by their lifestyles / habits during that period not mine.

I would do it again in a heartbeat, I tend to live like an older person any way so it worked for me. I saved money, contributed to the family and for someone who's used to living / being alone it was nice to have some constant company.

Mrs. Micah said...

If your parents are comfortable with it and you help out with money and other stuff and you all get along, it makes sense to me.

Micah lived with his parents for his Master's Degree because it was close to home. He babysat for his littlest brother (5-6 years at that time), bought groceries, etc. He didn't have much money, but they didn't either so whatever he could do to save on grocery money or to save them the hassle of finding was appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I lived at home for 2 or 3 semesters in my later years of undergrad. It was surprisingly easy for me, though my parents are incredibly laid back and treated me 100% as an adult.

It saved me ooodles of money (which allowed me to study abroad) and I don't regret it. I definitely was as mature (or more) than any of my friends.

Is it possible to get anymore scholarship/fellowship money? I believe you are in sciences, which typically you can get RA/TA positions, though they are usually given first to PhD candidates.

Is it possible to work part time (many students can), or will school be too consuming?

I think you have no student loans, and they aren't as evil/scary as some think. BUT, I'd definitely give living at home a try before that.

That One Caveman said...

I agree with Mrs. Micah. Smart personal finance doesn't mean going it alone, it means using every opportunity you're given to your advantage. I don't mean you should use your parents, but I do believe you should accept their generosity with love and do what you can to pay them back in your own unique way.

Since graduating, I have lived with my parents on 4 different occasions for various reasons and for varying lengths of time. The last time we lived with them, we were waiting on our new house to get finished after selling our first early. My wife was pregnant and none of us wanted to stress her with moving into an apartment for short term (none of the apartments around here that accept short term are very respectable).

They welcomed us in lovingly and we accepted graciously. And recently when they were moving to a new house, they stayed with us for a few nights while things were moving about. It's more about being a loving community and everyone doing whatever they can for everyone else - you will eventually have the opportunity to do something for your parents that they need and you will need to do it just as lovingly.

A bit long-winded, but that's my take on the situation.

DogAteMyFinances said...

It's very different to temporarily shack with your wife & parents while custom-building a home than to shack with them when you are trying to start out in your 20s.

Most importantly, it's really hard to date. You can't cook for the third date. You can't go back to your place. (Your place or my parents'?). You end up accidentally introducing your parents on the fifth date (awkward!) AND you are a loser who lives with your parents. It was humilating to me to go from independent dating woman to, well, that.

You can't have the girls over for champagne and Sex and the City.

You can't host a brunch.

You don't have your own Craigslist furniture. Your own used, crummy, awful, first starting things that are yours that you earned and paid for with your own money.

You might not want to do any of these things. But the second you move in with your parents you will.

Alison said...

I have a friend who lives with his parents, and he has a great job! He just pays them $700 a month for "rent", but when he moves out, they'll give the money back to him for a down payment on his own place. Maybe you could work something out like that with your parents?

E.C. said...

I think that that's a great arrangement when it's what parents want.It's a handy system of forced savings that ensures that adult children don't live beyond their means as a result of living at home.

However, I don't think that's something my parents will want to do. If I end up living at home for a year while getting my master's, I'll insist on covering my share of expenses, but my folks seem pretty set against letting me pay additional rent. The money I would be paying for rent will just remain in my savings so the net effect will be about the same as what your friend's family does.

On a side note, your comment reminded how lucky I am to live where I do. My rent for a one bedroom apartment of my own is $400 a month.

Blue said...

Gor... I pay $400/month for one bedroom (and my own bathroom) in a 3 bed/3 br!!

I wish I could sympathize, but my mom's policy is quite clear: Major in something that will keep you from moving home after you graduate. Good luck to you!