Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Frivolous wastes of money

In today's Ask Amy, a parents frets about her daughter's use of money.

Dear Amy: My daughter recently graduated from college.

My husband and I paid for all of her expenses, though she held a part-time job.

We opened a bank account for her when she was a child. We added about $10,000 to this account when she started college.

Our daughter has spent all of her savings and paychecks throughout these four years on clothes and going out with friends.

I have berated her countless times on her spending habits.

Right before she graduated, she said she'd found an apartment to live in with her two friends.

I told her NOT to sign a lease because she couldn't afford it.

She moved home and now has a full-time job ($14 an hour) and another side job while she looks for work in her field.

Her friends took the apartment and she goes there on weekends.

She assured me that she was not on the lease.

Of course, now I find out that she is. I am livid.

I told her she needs to either get someone to sublet the apartment or go ahead and move into it, but she will not be able to keep our car or have us pay any of her expenses.

She found a bus that can get her close to work but I am worried for her safety when she gets out of work at 10 p.m. and is waiting for a bus in a dangerous neighborhood.

She wants to buy our car, but with her track record I know she will not keep up with payments.

I think she needs to see what real life is all about but if something happened to her as she waited for a bus I would never forgive myself.

Any suggestions?

Amy says the girl needs to get out on her own--which we agree with--but she seems to concur with the parents' assessment that she's by nature a wasteful drain on society:

Her spending habits will get her into trouble unless she makes the connection necessary to be a good steward to her own finances. Until then I suggest it's time she learned to eat ramen noodles over the sink.

We don't agree. It looks to us like she wants to get out on her own (she works two jobs! she's willing to take a bus! she signed a lease! which apparently she can afford after all?) but she's just a doormat (why all the secrecy with the lease?) But her parents are oddly standing in the way of the steps they claim to want her to take.

Ashley: Those parents are very strange.

Lulu: Right?

Ashley: They want the daughter to be responsible for herself but also they're very controlling. Can't wait for a bus at 10pm?

Lulu: Yeah, they want it both ways.

Ashley: And Amy's response: take a cab?

Lulu: If you need to you take a cab every time you get out of work, you might as well not have a job.

Ashley: I'm not sure these people know how much things cost.

Lulu: It looks like the girl is not unwilling to meet the terms of living on her own, but the mom doesn't find her solutions acceptable. It's like, they sheltered her too long and now they're mad at her because she's unprepared for the world. But the way to help someone be independent isn't to micromanage them so they don't make any unsafe or expensive choices.

Ashley: According to the parents, some things are Worth The Money and some things are Frivolous Wastes. So not taking a bus at 10pm is Worth The Money, but eating out with friends is a Frivolous Waste. But for me, it's opposite. It's all the person's preference.

Lulu: As a parent, if you think things are worth it that the child doesn't, you can provide them as a present, but you can't demand that the child spend her own money on the things you think are worth it.

Ashley: It kind of seemed like she offered to buy out their car to make them feel better, and now they're all, "she won't pay us!"

Lulu: I bet if she found a cheaper car they would be like, "she bought this UNSAFE CAR."

Ashley: The thing is, she can't immediately get an awesome job out of college. For a while, she'll have to live in an unsafe neighborhood or whatever.

Lulu: Yeah, I think that is what Amy is getting at in her ramen answer, although she frames it as if the girl is the one who'll object to that. Parents who are well off and raise their child to be well off are sometimes appalled by the lower standard of living they have when they are on their own, but that's what it's LIKE when you're starting out.

But ramen is very unhealthy. She should at least get pasta. Come on.

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