The Almighty Dollar

Restoring some fiscal sanity in our -- negative savings rate -- lives

2.21.2006

Parent Trap - Vol. II

In my circle of friends, the average age is thirty. We bond over this milestone birthday, mostly complaining about the dull state of our lives and wondering what the future will bring. Notably, the one thing we don't have in common is the state of our finances.

I am married without children and own a home. My husband and I save regularly for emergencies, retirement, and travel (it's what makes the world go round for us). In simple terms, we do all right. Despite practicing good financial habits, we still feel uneasy about the future because someday we expect my parents will come to us for help. And who knows how dire their situation will be at that point?

Don't get me wrong -- I am fiercely proud of our financial independence. But I envy friends who don't have to worry about their parents. Their biggest concern is making it through the next week without bouncing a check. When they need a new suit for a job interview, they call Mom and Dad. And most don't think about their own retirements, let alone their parents'.

My childhood was financially instable. Defaulted loans led to foreclosure on the home, which led to an unhealthy reliance on credit cards, which eventually led to bankruptcy. In all fairness, my parents were unlucky victims of certain events that were out of their control.

What ticks me off is that they tried to maintain an unaffordable lifestyle and sought help so late -- just to protect their image. When they were struggling to put food on the table, they still drove new cars and bought nice clothes. They were ashamed at how bad things had gotten, so they didn't tell anyone. That's how I learned the value of prioritizing one's spending.

I vowed never to repeat their money mistakes. So far, I've succeeded. I wish I could say the same for my brother. He's learning the hard way, as I'll elaborate in my next post.