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Finances & Money

Postponing financial responsibility until you grow up

Do you have a friend who keeps saying things like “I’ll be an adult when I finish college” or “I’ll grow up when I _____ (insert phrase)? We have that friend.

Yesterday I officially began my adventure towards a graduate degree by registering for my first 2 courses and paying almost $5,000 in tuition. But we have a friend who is about 32, lives with his parents, has a decent job, but has been in school trying to get a degree for the last 10 years.

He’s not dumb, he’s just afraid. Why do I think he’s afraid? Because of his comments like the ones above. He’s under the impression that you aren’t truly living in the “real world” until you’ve graduated college.


This particular friend is of Filipino descent, and we’ve discussed various traditions from the Philippines that indicate this is a cultural situation. However, we do have other friends who are not Asian and are also afflicted with this “problem”.

One of my wife’s friends is also in his early 30’s, living at home with his parents in a trailer in central PA. He works a seasonal job in the spring, and lives off welfare the other 8 months of the year. He is a very intelligent person, and I know if he just applied himself that he could do wonders, with or without schooling. Regardless, we were so excited when he began his undergraduate studies last year, but he has anxiety issues and got depressed for numerous reasons and dropped out this past semester. What a downer!

Both of these profiles illustrate a problem. Postponing responsibility until something happens. In the second example, the friend is just waiting for something to happen to him rather than going out and making it happen on his own. This also extends to financial responsibility.

Both of these men don’t take their money seriously. The first friend makes a decent living, while the second friend doesn’t. The first friend doesn’t track his spending, goes to Best Buy at least 3 times a week (it’s like his second home), and eats out regularly. He’ll stack up on credits at the beginning of a semester, but by the end, only has 1 class left. A few times, he’s actually submitted the final paper a few months into the NEXT semester! Luckily he had forgiving professors.

The second friend drinks a lot of beer. Yep, he doesn’t have money for anything else.

Basically, we have two friends who are amazingly intelligent, but just won’t apply themselves to accomplish their goals because they’re afraid to grow up. I’m in no way judging their actions, because I myself fear change. That’s why I postponed applying to a masters program for 6 years.

But now I have a reason to make the change. My wife and my future family. I’m not getting a graduate degree for myself. I’m too lazy for that. I’m doing it to help ensure I stay competitive in the market and I can continue to provide for my family.

Perhaps these 2 single men don’t feel like they have a reason to change? They have a comfortable life living at home with their parents. They don’t want the burden of living on their own, because that means laundry, cooking, cleaning, paying utilities, paying rent/mortgage, and so much more.

But neither of these friends feels any sort of ownership in their own lives. They do each own their own car, but they only have their bedrooms as “their space”. And it’s not like living with roommates where you can negotiate and compromise. It’s their parents’ house, furniture, and even food. They’re still treated like children, no matter what their age and even if their parents don’t intend to do so.

They have no control over a major piece of their lives, and that definitely affects their outlook on reality. They feel like they can live riskier lives because they’re somehow “less accountable”. The fact that they’re legally adults doesn’t cross their mind sometimes, and they subconsciously think their parents will take care of them if they get into trouble. But they’re not kids anymore. They’re grown men.

Conclusion

Perhaps this is YOUR story. Maybe you still live with your parents and feel many of these feelings. Or maybe you live a truly independent life (you pay your parents rent and utilities, have a “real jobby job”, and feel like you have more ownership in your life than just a bedroom and a car).

But there’s always room to “grow up” financially. That means monitoring your spending, creating a reasonable budget, saving and buying insurance. Oh, and investing, but make sure you buy the right stock!
Again, this isn’t a jab at my friends’ lifestyles. I actually envy them sometimes, but I also see how they could have more self-esteem and pride in their own life if they felt ownership and accountability for their life.

About the author

Clever Dude

5 Comments

  • Wouldn’t you say that claiming their actions are because “they’re afraid to grow up” is judging? (Unless of course they’ve told you themselves that this is what’s behind their behavior). Because I can think of many other reasons that would explain their situations, such as self medicating a depression with alcohol, for example.

    Of course, they are your friends, so perhaps they have told you they are afraid to grow up. It just isn’t clear from this post whether that’s the case. And in general, I think applying one’s own motives and feelings to other people’s situations–no matter how similar they may appear on the surface to one’s own experience–usually leads to faulty assumptions and misunderstanding.

    Fear of being an adult may have delayed your progress toward graduate school, and it may even be the reason for your friends’ behaviors, but I think it’s safe to say that many others who are in the circumstances you describe have a variety of reasons for it, many or all of which may differ significantly from the motives and feelings you ascribe to them.

  • Excellent article! I identify with this myself. I started a prosperous business in college, and after it failed, I wanted to be a kid again. I went back to school to escape “the real world.” Graduating was a wakeup call!

    But your wife’s friend sounds like he may have legitimate mental problems. Personal responsibility is essential, but some people do have legitimate problems that they cannot overcome — just like a blind man cannot see.

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