Saturday, May 10, 2008

I am a child of privilege.

My parents are far too generous. Their intentions were wonderful, but I really wish they hadn't given me this graduation gift. My dad said that he has always wanted to help me get a good start on saving for retirement so they gave me enough to fully fund a Roth for the first year. However, they both have made it abundantly clear that the money is mine to do with as I wish, whether it be investing, putting toward a replacement when my car dies, saving for a house, or going on a really great vacation. Never before has money made me this uncomfortable.

They insist that it's what they wanted to do with their money, and I know it isn't a strain on their budget. This is very clearly a one-time thing. It's a large sum of money, but it is probably a bit less significant to a fifty-something engineer than to a twenty one year old teacher. Still, I would have been much happier if they had kept their money.

Although I appreciate my parents' kindness and desire to improve my life, it still feels strange to benefit from the savings and hard work of others. My mother told me that they were able to give me this gift because they didn't have to pay anything for my college education, but it isn't as though I had to wait tables thirty hours a week to pay tuition. Dead rich people I've never met and the taxpayers of my state financed the past four years, and I wouldn't have been in a position to get the scholarships I did if it hadn't been for the myriad advantages my parents gave me by raising me in a house full of books, volunteering in my elementary school classrooms, and serving as wonderful role models.

It should be up to me to put those advantages to good use and make my way in the world. Working and saving on my own is, as I see it, a big part of adulthood. That's why I already set aside money of my own for funding a Roth. However, there doesn't seem to be any graceful and polite way to decline this gift; I've tried. It looks like I'll either have to find a way to use this money or stick it in savings and pretend it doesn't exist until the opportunity arises to repay my parents' generosity.

5 comments:

Shuchong said...

My parents did pretty much the same thing for me when I graduated. I was uncomfortable in part for the reason that you mentioned: I wanted to be independent and accepting that $5000 check felt a bit like regressing back to childhood and depending upon my parents to take care of me.

But that was only a small part of why I balked at taking the money. My real problem with it was the one that you hint at in your post title. I had thought of myself as less privileged than most of my fellow classmates, and my parents' generosity unraveled that little fiction.

Starting out ahead made me feel a little bit guilty. It's much more comfortable to think of yourself as the underdog, striking out on your own and standing on your own two feet.

It's also fairly unrealistic (at least, it was for me). There's no way I would have been able to even start taking steps towards independence without the support and guidance of my parents. I owe them a lot more than money, and there's probably no way I'm ever going to be able to "repay" their generosity.

So I guess what I'm saying is that if you're anything like me, you've been benefiting from the savings and hard work of others for all of your life (and will hopefully continue to do so). It's work that your parents have done because they love you. Guilt has no place in that.

And by the way, congratulations on your graduation!

DogAteMyFinances said...

Just accept it with grace. Your parents want to give you the money, and they want to help you. Don't steal their joy!!!! Don't repay it, just let them enjoy helping you.

You benefit from their hard work the same way anyone you help does. If you made dinner for a friend who just got dumped, do you want her gratitude or $15? Don't steal your parents' joy!

5K won't go that far when your car is nearing death. You'll need that money sooner than you think, I bet. In fact, I would use it sooner than later to get a better used car.

Mary Sue said...

You're not being a child of privlege, you're being a child of the Puritan Work Ethic and false beliefs in a meritocracy.

That opportunity to repay generosity is called 'Wedding Anniversary'. And if it's a wee bit away, it's called 'short-term CD'.

plonk said...

If you had a kid, and you felt that you could afford to give them this much money, you probably would. Suck it up and pay it forward when you get the chance.

I too hate being given money because I like to be independent. But, I'm learning that it's not all about me. If the gift comes with strings that you don't want, then don't accept it, but it sounds like it only comes with ties of affection that you do want - leaving you with no choice in the matter.

Lisa said...

They want to feel like they're helping you out in some way, making it more possible for you to follow your dreams. Go ahead and stick it in savings if you don't feel comfortable spending it. If they ever need help, you'll be there for them, and if they don't ever need your support that's a blessing for them.

I've always understood giving, but one of the hardest things I've had to learn is that it's okay to receive. It's what your parents want to do, to give you a helping hand - and it'll help you get to the position where you can turn around and do the same thing for someone else. Pay it forward, not back.