“I know your father says he’s not going to charge you any rent, but you should still kick him $100 every month,” a class/lab mate and good friend who will be referred to as Gary told me in my last days at the University of Michigan.
“But he said he wasn’t going to charge me any rent so I can just save the money,” was my reply.
“Still, just toss him $100 dollars every month,” Gary, usually a jovial individual but now not smiling, stuck to his point, one that stayed in the back of my mind.
This article is a continuation of the series titled Moving home after college. In part three, the financial considerations and implications of moving back home with parents after college will be discussed.
For me, Dad not charging me rent meant significant savings, getting caught up and getting ahead of the bills and liabilities described in part two. Not being charged rent sounded and felt like a free ride of sorts, but as my friend Gary alluded to, there are no free rides and contributing something to someone’s household is important symbolically even if it’s a small amount of money such as $100 per month.
Giving my father the recommended $100 initially was not possible because my car was still being paid off which we purchased using one of his credit cards, and from experienced, Dad was not to be crossed when it came to money. After giving my father his final payment, the $100 a month contributions started as Gary recommended, which Dad gladly took.
Something happened though before giving him those $100 payments. Internally it felt like Dad was carrying me in a way, and even though saving the money and getting ahead on my bills was important, there was the feeling that something was wrong, and there would be ramifications later on.
The thought crossed my mind as to whether or not resentment was building on my father’s side about the situation as time went on. It occurred to me at the time that this financial situation that we both agreed to, might be putting a strain on our relationship on a personal and spiritual level, and that did in fact seem to be happening, though it wasn’t articulated. Some things you can just feel without words.
“When you owe your parents money, Thanksgiving Turkey just doesn’t taste the same when you’re eating together,” Dave Ramsey says in his Financial Peace University where he discusses how money can spiritually change relationships when it’s owed to someone else, or when someone feels like someone else isn’t pulling their fair share.
Again rent free was not free. Even after giving my father the monthly payments and contributing to the common groceries and household products, there was also a sweat equity payment that was expected. Sweat Equity is a term used in the Real Estate investing world which designates, that a person is contributing to a project by literally performing some sort of labor as opposed to monetary capital. My sweat equity included shoveling the snow, taking out the garbage, looking after his house on the rare occasions that he went away, and a list of other things.
“Is your resume out there floating around?” Dad asked me periodically after a hard day at the lab. The question always caught me off guard and it was in those instances that it occurred to me that he was ready for me to leave (those feelings were mutual by the time my postdoctoral fellowship was finished).
In closing, my friend Gary’s advice was spot on. Even if someone (in this case your parents), says you can move in rent free, there will most likely be hidden costs somewhere and that arrangement may be short lived. Furthermore, resentment can result and fester if they feel as though you’re not contributing anything. Feelings can change and both parents and graduates moving home should keep this mind.
The relational difficulties of moving home for graduates and parents will be discussed in part four.