Ten years ago, when I teetered on the precipice of my college graduation, all I could dream about was financial independence. I was more frugal than footloose-and-fancy-free and had spent all four years of undergrad in my parents’ house. That’s right. All. Four. Years.
Being underneath their thumb certainly kept me out of trouble. But my folks were strong proponents of the “my roof, my rules” theology of parenting, which meant they controlled everything from the food in the fridge to whether or not I could go to New Orleans for spring break.
I knew then that I needed to be able to pay for the roof to live by my own rules. I woke up one day in my twenties with no purse strings attached to my parents and I grinned. Then I ran to buy a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, because that’s what financially independent people do: they eat all the cereal they want. However, a decade, two trips to NOLA, and umpteen bowls of cereal later, the glory has all but faded from flying solo on my own dough.
Here’s why I’ve come to believe financial independence is overrated:
1. Bills and collectors know your name. Can we all just acknowledge that monthly bills are the greatest annoyance in all the world? I wish I could pay a flat electricity bill yearly and be done with it. When I was a kid, bill collectors were people who called for parents, people you could pass off to an adult because they were talking about “grown-folks'” business. Now, the grown folks are all up in your business. The minute you become financially independent, you cease to have enough money. You barely snuggle with your paycheck for a hot second before an auto draft yanks the covers off. Sallie Mae, I’m looking at you.
2. No more no-strings-attached trips. I grew up in Florida but my extended family lived in Detroit. Every summer, my mother would put me on a plane to the D, courtesy of my grandma. Rightfully, no one troubled little kid Dara about the cost of tickets or food. Now? Flights are prohibitively expensive. I haven’t been back to Detroit in 13 years, because unless I win radio station contests, no one is flying me out anywhere for free. Other adults unreasonably expect you to pay your own way…like an adult. And if you can’t pay your own way, then you are known as a mooch, and nobody wants that.
3. Birthday presents? No. Birthday tax? Yes! I never agreed to stop getting regular birthday presents once I turned 18; they just magically trickled off without my permission. I miss the days when people piled up pretty boxes
as a party entry fee to celebrate me. Instead, I now give a gift of $150 in car registration fees to the DMV every year. Raw deal! (But I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge all the lovely people who wished me a happy day on Tuesday, especially my friend, Jason, who gifted me Allie Brosh’s new book!)
4. Asking for money is that much harder. Admittedly, there’s an unbeatable pride in being able to support yourself financially. It’s rather addictive. But falling on hard times feels a gazillion times worse when you must scrape your pride together and ask for help, whether it be from the government, friends, or family. I hate asking anyone for money.
5. You cannot spend your entire check on Skittles. Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben famously said that with great power comes great responsibility. I call BS, Unc. I have all this responsibility and very little power. Having to concern myself with 401Ks and 529 college savings plans and estate planning means, no, Dara cannot buy a lifetime supply of Starbursts every pay period. I remember pouting at my parents for not getting me a Sega Genesis when it debuted; I swore I’d buy myself whatever I wanted when I grew up.
I am still waiting on that Sega Genesis. Sure, I don’t miss having someone else’s wallet held over me as behavior collateral, but some days, being financially independent is so for the birds.
Do you ever feel like being financially independent is overrated? What are your gripes?