Daily Archives: September 10, 2010

Raising our Children to Adulthood

Jenn recently wrote a post (and a follow-up post) based on her reading of the New York Times Magazine article What Is It About 20-Somethings?

I am especially intrigued by the questions raised on page 2 of the article, and later on by the question of whether or not the delay is the result of young people not ready for adulthood or parents unwilling to let go.   (I’m particularly aware of the letting go process right now, as I’ve just sent my first-born off to college. Letting go is difficult stuff!)

I married at age 22 (my husband was 24) and we lived below the poverty line for the first several years of marriage. We also lived within our means: Vacation was a backpacking trip in a local forest or a drive to visit family, groceries were severely budgeted (after one month of powdered milk –blech!– I did insist on the liquid version), and our furniture was all hand-me-downs or yard sale bargains.  We each worked while going to school.
College graduation and a decent paying job did not drastically change our lifestyle. While we did move to a better neighborhood (no more drug deals happening down the street), we still had “experienced” furniture.  I joyfully became a SAHM and willingly accepted hand-me-down clothing and furnishings for our babies.  We had been married for 10 years before we bought our first new sofa — and yes, we still have it.

I do confess that it has been a very long time since I followed a budget for groceries, clothing, or even “extras.” Yes, I know I am spoiled. This will probably be a difficult change next year when my husband retires.  However, my teens would tell you that we still live rather inexpensively. We rarely go out to the movies; instead, we wait for the dvd to come out and then we hope that the library buys a copy! They know how many gallons of milk they drink in a week.   I’d like to think we have taught them well… but I could be very wrong.

For years I have noticed the “entitlement” attitude of adults my age and younger. Many people think they should continue living at the socio-economic level of their parents when they themselves are just starting out their adult lives. They put themselves into unnecessary debt because they purchase (on credit, not cash) matching living room and bedroom sets right out of college. I see this as the beginning of an entitlement lifestyle that gets handed down to the next generation.  Is this because so many young adults today cannot recall their parents in economically leaner times? I do know that my husband and I both remember our parents struggling financially while raising a young family. We look around us now and see many who do not live this way. They don’t seem to say, “No, I’m sorry, we can’t afford that.”

Perhaps this is because many people truly can afford luxuries. But is it a good thing to give our kids everything they desire? I’m not suggesting that it is a bad thing to be financially secure. I’m rather fond of it myself! I do, however, believe that young people today need to understand where the money is coming from and how to manage finances without going into credit card debt.

Are we leading our children into a future of debt by letting them think that credit cards buy anything and everything? Is that the only example we show them on a daily basis? Do we discuss budgets, saving for big purchases, or even the cost of groceries?