Is It Really A Secret That Some Young People’s Parents Help Them With Rent?

I just assumed.


Nothing about this New York Times piece about how urban-dwelling twenty-somethings get help from their parents with rent feels like a “secret,” but I appreciate its existence so that we can speak freely about secret money.

A Secret of Many Urban 20-Somethings: Their Parents Help With the Rent

The piece cites a report that tracks the youth through the first decade of their adulthood and presents a fact as if it were a surprise.

According to surveys that track young people through their first decade of adulthood, about 40 percent of 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds receive some financial assistance from their parents for living expenses. Among those who get help, the average amount is about $3,000 a year.

The career paths that these young adults follow are generally in art and design; a whopping 53 percent of people tracked for this survey receive rent money from their parents after they’ve graduated, around $3,600 a year. The reason is simple: if you’re a recent graduate hellbent on pursuing your dream of being a graphic designer, living in a city like New York will position you nicely to achieve success in that field. New York is a city that’s very, very expensive; success in the field that you’ve chosen is a long, hard road, paved with low-paying jobs and little money. So, as Patrick Wightman, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, rightfully points out, you’re going to need some help.

“Someone who wants to go into graphic design or marketing requires a fair amount of time to get up to the point where you’re independent,” Mr. Wightman said. “Someone contemplating that kind of career isn’t going to take that first step unless they know they’re going to have that support to take an unpaid internship. If you don’t have other sources of support, that’s not even an option.”

Having parents with the means to quietly write a check when you can’t pay your rent on your intern’s paltry salary is a privilege. Knowing that your parents are able to help you financially greatly influences what you decide to do and is probably part of the reason that certain industries feel homogenous. Being able to put in the hours needed to gain independence or recognition in your field of choosing for little pay is something that a lot of people can’t even consider.

In college, I lived off-campus for two years, in an apartment funded by loans that my father quietly took out and has been paying off ever since. After I graduated, the job that I currently do was still in its infancy. It didn’t occur to me to try to get a job at a publishing house or, god forbid, a magazine, because when I got an idea of what the starting salary would be, I laughed, cried and went to my job at Peet’s Coffee and Tea, making cappuccinos for commuters, looking for “real jobs” on my lunch break. Four years later, when I moved to New York with $750 to my name, I accepted help from my father twice: once when I needed a mattress and once when I had to pay a security deposit on an apartment that would’ve wiped out my checking account and left me coasting on fumes. Rent was my responsibility, as were my bills and whatever else I needed to fund my life.

Secret money — the money that lies quiet beneath the surface and is the reason your friend can somehow afford to live by herself while working 20 hours a week — is the engine that fuels the creative desires of so many. It’s great that they have it, but it’d be nice if we talked about it just a little bit more.

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