I'm An Adult With An Allowance — & I'm Not Sorry

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
On the 23rd of every month, while I’m still asleep, a direct deposit hits my bank account. At the same time, another deposit for the same amount goes into my sister’s account. It’s for $1,000, which, coincidentally, is exactly $41 more than my half of the rent. When I was an underemployed freelancer, I thought of this money as a lifeline that allowed me to survive in New York City on a string of part-time and under-the-table gigs. These days, I think of it interchangeably as “rent money” and “breathing-room money.”

But, of course, it’s really a lot simpler than that. It’s an allowance.

While many of my friends might cop to the occasional comped plane ticket home, or to still being on their parent’s phone plan (and yes, those things are covered for me as well), very few openly admit to being a 20-something with an allowance. And why would they? People are quick to share their negative feelings on financial assistance for adults. There’s a sense that taking money from mom and dad, after a certain age, is somehow a moral (and professional) failing. It’s simply less controversial to keep quiet on the topic.

Nevertheless, I actively try to justify it, if only to myself. I live in a New York apartment that would be considered affordable for my salary, even without the allowance. Even with the extra money, I am still out-earned by many of my friends. I budget rigorously and pay my credit card bill on time, every month, no exceptions. I live and die by my CVS ExtraBucks. I hardly live a monastic life, but my splurges are well within the confines of the normal overeducated, slightly underpaid working girl just getting by in this expensive city: too much Seamless, the occasional new pair of shoes, a weakness for Sephora.

But, despite all this, no one has shown up at my door with a prize for Best Behaved Trust Fund Baby. There are no gold stars for shopping BOGO deals or buying $10 wine. Anyone critical of my situation wouldn't give me a pass just because I'm not wasting it on blow or bottle service.

no one has shown up at my door with a prize for Best Behaved Trust Fund Baby

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And, as I cower, even in hiding, from the judgment of people, I too, am guilty of casting stones. Because in playing the role model recipient of my parent’s generosity, I have created my own standards for what is justifiable in accepting financial help. I am the ideal freeloader. People who live in million-dollar condos purchased by their parents, or who flit in and out of jobs (if they’re employed at all) because they don’t really need them? Now that is too much.

But really, it’s no one’s business how you pay rent. Where do any of us get off deciding how people should spend their money? And honestly, would you turn down the money if you were in my shoes?

Most of the time it seems that people are okay with others receiving help from their parents as long as it’s in line with what they’ve received. Friends who don’t have student loans find no problems with getting that kind of assistance, but balk at costing their parents an additional $50 a month for phone bills. How convenient that what is acceptable dovetails so nicely with exactly what we're already receiving.

Whenever I read criticisms of people who have received some kind of financial leg up from their parents — be it a phone bill or a downpayment on a house — behind the complaints, I often hear the familiar childhood whine, “It’s just not fair.”

But, of course, it’s never been fair. Long before I was an adult with an allowance, I was a teen in private school, and a kid with two parents who graduated college. I was a baby with the best neonatal care, and a fetus incubating in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in my city. To me, a few extra hundred a month chucked my way is just one of the overwhelming advantages the pure luck of birth has given me. And it’s not fair. But insisting I “do it on my own” at some arbitrary cutoff date of 18, 21, or 26 doesn’t really level any playing fields, either. The money they give me now may seem huge, but it’s also the least they’ve ever done.

The writer's name has been changed to protect her identity.
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