5 Too-Real Stories Of People Learning About Money Problems On Reddit

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
If there's anything we've learned from entering the real world, it's that rent is crazy expensive. So is food. So is a phone plan. So are things like underwear and socks. This is particularly shocking for anyone who grew up with some semblance of wealth, only to suddenly find themselves paying their own way. Striking out on your own and seeing the realities of the world can be jarring, especially for a young twentysomething accustomed to living a certain lifestyle. So, when an AskReddit thread popped up discussing the experience of sliding from an upper-class lifestyle to a low-to-middle-class lifestyle, we were curious to see what users revealed. Ahead, five of the most revealing confessions from the people of Reddit. Share your own experiences in the comments.

I couldn't work out for ages why I had less money than the people on similar wages than me.

realyak, Reddit
"...I grew up in a upper-middle-class family never wanting for anything, and now I'm in a lower-middle-class job mostly working with people who didn't have as affluent an upbringing as me. [This is] partly [because of] my choice of career and partly [because I don't have] the drive to work my way up in organizations I've worked for. "I couldn't work out for ages why I had less money than the people on similar wages than me. They're never paycheck-to-paycheck like I am, but why? "Simply because I'm used to having more. I go on a few holidays a year, but they'll save up for a big one. My taste in food and drink is more expensive and so is my taste in activities, I moved away from home for uni and then again [for] work, so I often travel to see friends, which I've never considered a holiday. I'm frivolous and I didn't realize it 'til I was in my late 20s." — realyak

Now, I'm 21, just started working this year and it's hard right now.

Haelx, Reddit
"Like others in the thread, I grew up never needing for anything, taking amazing vacations, etc. Now, I'm 21, just started working this year and it's hard right now. My parent still help me with rent. (They'll give me less and less the more I start to earn. I'm lucky they didn't just stopped helping.) "I'm freelance, so some months I make really good money for my age/experience, but some months I make less and it's scary. I know it's mostly an issue of finding more companies that will call me when they need someone, and in a few years I should have either found ~10 studios to work for regularly, or gotten a steady job at one studio. It's just the beginning that is scary for me. Seing the people I work with that are over 30/40 makes me understand that they were once like me and now are successful and earning good money. I hope it's the same for me." — Haelx

I kept hearing that line from 'Lord Of The Rings': 'You are a lesser son of greater men.'

oldforger, Reddit
"I am the youngest child of a doctor who did well from the 1950s on and played it smart with his money. Dad is rich. "Mom's parents were both doctors and, in fact, [grandpa] was up for a Nobel Prize in medicine in the '50s, but ultimately got a Lasker Award, instead. He and [grandma] traveled the globe doing research. Our home was filled with things from Africa, Brazil, and god knows where. "Well, I'm not cut out to be a doctor. I went to college to be a mechanical engineer. You know what got me? When I was making my best, I got $63K; and I've been laid off since 2009. I kept hearing that line from Lord Of The Rings: 'You are a lesser son of greater men.' It was a massive mindfuck. "Over the past few years, I have dealt with that. I have not worked due to a combination of a shit economy that doesn't need engineers and the fact that both of my parents are quite ill, as are my wife's parents. As I haven't been working, I'm the guy who can come charging in at a moment's notice and take care of crises — everything from getting my in-laws packed and moved to the assisted-living facility to moving in with dad for a few months when mom had her stroke and he was feeling horrible guilt about sending her into the nursing home because he couldn't take care of her.
"And you know what? I'm glad that it has worked out this way. The circumstances that allowed dad to get wealthy are not likely to happen again in my lifetime. Grandma and grandpa were geniuses who did fantastic things for the field of medicine, but at a cost to family life. I can't realistically compare myself to any of them — it's a different time in history. And let's face it, not everyone can win a Nobel prize. But I am doing something that they couldn't: I'm taking care of two sets of parents in their decline, helping them to retain their comfort and dignity as much as possible, and helping my kids deal with it emotionally. "I am dependent upon my wife's income, at least for now, which has been hard to wrap my head around as an American man. But let's face it: If I were working as an engineer, would I have likely set the world on fire with my career? No. But can I set an example for my kids on how to love and support your family? Hell yes. And that will have a much more measurable impact on society than working as an engineer. "I have been incredibly fortunate to have married a woman capable of supporting us both, obviously, but don't imagine for a moment that I don't work. I do. I just don't draw a paycheck from it. But we are both very grateful that I have this opportunity. "TL;DR: money is not the most important thing in life." — oldforger

"I know, deep down, that I've had maybe 40% of the success that my parents had."

— Beam7, Reddit
"I lived an upper-class life growing up, but my dad was a farmer in his youth. It was odd, in a way. My parents would do things for us every great once in a while that nobody else could do...I went to Europe for three weeks when I was 17 on vacation, for example. But the other 99% of the time, my parents were obsessed with living frugally. I never really knew they had money, but the signs were there. They were very religious and conservative...and happy. Our problems seemed big at the time, but we were happy and blessed. My biggest concern was that I felt like I was somehow living in a bubble of safety and security that didn't represent the real world, and I had to get out of it as quickly as possible if I wanted any independence.
"Fast-forward to today, I'm going on 40, living a middle-class life. I'm about to buy my first house and I'm scared shitless of the debt. I've got a little boy and he's nowhere near living how I was growing up. He's happy, doesn't have a care in the world. But I see the differences every day. We can't just go places and do things without planning for it financially a year ahead of time. The bubble has burst for me...and you realize that life is, on many levels, a fucking brutal contest of assholes trying to survive as well as possible. And every year, the gap between what I had and what my son has widens. On the surface, I feel like I've done well: We'll have a nice house soon; my son's getting a good education; etc. "But I know, deep down, that I've had maybe 40% of the success that my parents had. And that's all I'll ever have, more than likely. It makes you question things and changes your perception, for sure." — Beam7

I slunk back into my college town and took on jobs that I'd always considered beneath me: jobs with tips, jobs with hats and aprons.

punnilinguist, Reddit
"TL;DR Family lost it all, I ran off to live on minimum wage and learned some shit.
"My father was a successful business owner and my mother dedicated herself full-time to raising my sister and me. When we kids were finally both safely in college with good financial aid in place, my parents decided to take a big risk and move across the country to work on a fixer-upper property, which they hoped to get running as a motel. "The next three years were the hardest my family has experienced. I sunk into a depression that led to withdrawing from school one or two credits away from a degree. My father invited me to come and help out with his new project, and so I went there with my fancy almost-college education and watched impotently as bad decisions, a bad market, and bad luck ate away my parents' life savings, month after insolvent month. "With the inevitable foreclosure only weeks away, I told my parents I'd go back to finish school and start paying my own way. I was cutting and running, but my parents never blamed me; they only blamed themselves for not being able to give me gas money to get there. They went with the lie and wished me the best, thanked me for my help, and waved goodbye with brave smiles. I only made it a couple miles down the 95 before I had to pull into a gas station and cry into the steering wheel, with the odds and ends of what had been a nice upper-middle-class upbringing packed in my slowly aging car. "I slunk back into my college town and took on jobs that I'd always considered beneath me: jobs with tips, jobs with hats and aprons. Part-time work at restaurants kept me afloat as I finished my degree. As I finally started learning how to manage my own life, I realized how much I had yet to learn about living and about other people. I never knew how EBT can mean the difference between a month that feels okay and a month of feeling vaguely hungry all the time. I never knew the amount of petty, sometimes unthinking injustice many employees endure from managers and customers, simply because there is no other choice if you want that paycheck. And I never knew that a person's level of education or income has very little to do with the worth of their character. Some of the best friends I have now are people I honestly would have dismissed as townies in my undergrad years. "Next month, I'll be starting a full-time job with benefits, with enough pay to maybe help my parents out as they face retirement age. I thought about cutting up my EBT card, but now I think I'll keep it in my wallet to remind me of the wolf that is always at the door — and of the people who live their lives beating it back with brooms." — punnilinguist

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