My mother called me today and I was telling her about this wonderful budgeting app I’ve been using and how I was loving all the little bells and whistles I’d been discovering as I used it (like having recurring expenses automatically populated into your next month’s budget!). We started talking about money matters in general, eventually lamenting upon the plight of my generation.
“Young people they just don’t care.”
I don’t know if it’s that we don’t care, more like there’s no need. If you have no reason to get your shit together, then why would you waste your time doing so?
“When I was your age, I had to take care of myself.”
In my mom’s and my mamaw’s generation they had the pressure of children and husbands and family to get their shit together. But now that adolescence is being delayed more and more, twentysomethings are free to putter around in a cloud of listless selfishness until something traumatic (or enticing) enough happens to make them actually stop and pay attention to where their life is going.
That’s what happened to me. I’m only getting my shit together because I want to be ready to marry TM when the time comes.
“I’m gonna be completely honest right now,” I told her, “but the only reason I’m working on my budget right now is because you recommended TM and I get our finances in order before we start talking marriage.”
And it was an eye-opening exercise. I didn’t know I even had so much money coming in and going out in so many different places. Once I had it all consolidated in one space and could look at the big picture, it was pretty scary.
But when I’m just living at home, or at school and getting financial support from my mother, do I feel the need to get control over my own shit? Hell no.
“We’re enabling young people,” she says to me. “A lot of it’s our fault, cuz we are giving our kids too much. Instead of letting these kids go on their own, live their life, we’re constantly holding their hands.”
I’m not saying that all twentysomethings are like this. I know quite a few people who have been supporting themselves since they were teenagers – TM being one of them – and who don’t have the luxury of mom and dad’s paycheck to finance their irresponsibility.
But I know a lot more people who do have that luxury, and – what’s more – who come to expect it, and get frustrated when it starts to rain on their parade.
“There’s this sense of entitlement.”
I have seen that, in my own friends and family, and in their friends and families, and while the plural of anecdote is not data I believe there’s enough of a trend here to cause worry.
Maybe my family’s just weird. Maybe they sheltered me too much and it’s just us who are having troubles adjusting to the vagaries of the real world. After all, I had to move 7,000 miles away to the opposite side of the world, in a country whose language and culture my family has no idea about, just so they wouldn’t be able to help me, so I would have to learn to survive on my own.
But even over here, I see a lot of people laughing about how they can’t even afford to feed themselves this week. Again, it could be selection bias. Maybe the people who go to live and study abroad tend to be the kinds of people who want to prolong that feeling of freedom just a little bit longer.
But for me, being here has forced me to get my shit together, and fast. It’s given me tangible goals to work towards: get in school, get back in the States, get to TM. Get on with this next stage of life. And in order to do that, I’ve got to have my shit together. I’ve got to save up so I have enough money to buy a plane ticket home, to get a car when I get back, to save up for my wedding, to move into our new apartment, to start paying off my student debt so that I won’t be bringing children into this world whom I can’t financially care for.
“When you want to start living instead of surviving, that’s when you start making better decisions,” mom says. “You goin in and tryna control your budget now is gonna allow you to live instead of just survive.”
I’m ready to start living.