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  • On Being a Grown Man: Why You Really Shouldn’t Take Rent Money From your Parents

On Being a Grown Man: Why You Really Shouldn’t Take Rent Money From your Parents

22nd August 2013
I don’t understand how you can call yourself a grown man and still take rent money from your parents.

Let me make this utterly clear: If you are over 21 with a job, and you let your parents pay your rent, you are not a grown up and I don’t have to treat you like one.

Now, I am very lucky. My parents were in a position financially to give me and my siblings the gift of higher education, a feat that wasn’t easy for them and for which I am forever grateful and indebted. I will remember this generosity when they’re senile and tell me on the phone that pork chops were on sale at the grocery store for the third time in a five-minute conversation.

Furthermore, I understand that this kindness on their part gave me a formidable leg up when I graduated college debt-free, and that not everyone had that same help. My parents also made it very clear that after our undergraduate degree, we were cut off. (Is it a coincidence that my less-stingy sister and brother both chose to get masters’ degrees while I remain MBA-free..but also debt-free? probably not)

Of course there’s always an exception to the rule. Certainly, young people who’ve found themselves unemployed after college in this economy, or who are coping with serious health problems and grappling with insurance costs deserve any parental slack they’re cut. I hope that if my future children ever find themselves in a difficult situation, I’ll be able to step in and help. But am I going to buy my kid a condo so he can go out to dinner every night of the week on an entry-level income? No. Nope. Nuh-uh.

Rather, I’m talking about the young men who treat their paychecks like pocket money because mommy and daddy pay their rent, utilities, car payments, what have you. The guy whose parents are cutting him a check for half his rent each month (or, gag, all of it). The guy who’s living in his parents’ beach house til he figures out what he wants to do with his life. If he ever figures that out at all. That guy, I cannot handle.

Informally polling girlfriends of mine, I heard about one guy friend of a friend who lives in California, is 26, has a job, and whose room and board are covered completely by his parents.

“I asked him if he felt like less of a man because of it, and he said, ‘Nope.’ It made me think a lot less of him.  I don’t know.  You can’t take care of yourself at 26?  Or maybe you can and you’re just letting your parents continue to coddle you?  That’s almost worse.”

Another girlfriend, here in the city, knows a 30-year old graphic designer who doesn’t work “at all.”

“He’s very nice, but, on paper, he’s everything that’s wrong with young people in Brooklyn,” she said.

When I asked if she’d ever date him, she told me, “Not if he was content for it to stay that way or if he didn’t find some other way to contribute to society. He doesn’t necessarily have to want to work but they have to want to do something: travel, collect art, SOMETHING.”

And before you guys get your boxer briefs in a bunch - please know I believe the exact same principle applies to us ladies. I can’t tell you how many girls (and they are girls, not women) I know in the city who are content with a bottom-rung job in PR or advertising or whateverrrr, whose parents cover their co-op fees and bring them groceries on Sunday.

It’s not healthy. Do you think someone who has their living needs covered will ever go hard after a promotion? Or negotiate for a better raise? I don’t see why they would.

Guys, it’s okay to struggle, especially at the beginning of your career. You will have the best stories when you’re older. “I ate ramen every night for two years.” “I hopped the subway turnstile one night because my monthly card ran out and I couldn’t afford a new one ’til pay day two days later.”

And when it comes to taking a woman out, it’s best to show her the real you. I’d much rather a guy take me to his favorite BYOB tiny Thai place, than the most recent Top Chef’s restaurant if that’s not in his budget.

How can I believe you’ll take care of me if you can’t even take care of yourself? And I don’t mean financially; I’m not looking for a sugar daddy. But how reliant can a man be if he’s never been tasked with owning all of the responsibility of his own life? When you’re allowed to continue acting like a child well after you’ve grown, how can I trust you to act like a grownup? You don’t know how.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let your parents spoil you a little. You’re still their child, after all, and if it makes them happy, great. I let my mother take me to Target every time I’m in Wisconsin, and I load up on stationery, candles, and mixed nuts (those canisters are expensive!). She feels happy to have gotten some ‘take care’ time in, and I get a half a year’s supply of cashews. Everyone wins. But for the big stuff? That’s on me. As it should be.

Tell me:

Do your parents still support you financially in any way? Does it make you feel like “less of a man” in any way? Do you tell the woman (women?) in your life that your parents help support your lifestyle?

  • average joe


  • kellen owenby

    Wait. Why aren’t you looking for a sugar daddy? haha

  • fattsmann

    I think this is universal advice for both young men and women.

    Men feel a reflection of the same concerns when a woman doesn’t have herself together financially as well.

  • hornsup84

    Amen. This is all too common in NYC and it makes me a little wary when those same people go out east to their Hamptons share every (other, if they’re ‘frugal’) weekend during the summer too.

    For those who aren’t on Papa’s payroll, you don’t have to make a lot of money, but responsible management of what you do have is (or at least should be) very attractive. You don’t have to go overboard with frugality–I am enjoying my 20s perfectly fine while still paying off student loans and saving for retirement–but I’ve never understood why people are attracted to “kept kids”, as I like to call them. I guess if all you’re looking for is a paycheck, that’s one way to go about it, but I’d prefer to date someone who earns it and respects the value of her (and my) money.

    • Style Girlfriend

      “Kept kids” – love that!

  • Junior

    I make one joke yesterday about living with my mom and this is how you respond?!

    • average joe

      That was an awesome comment yesterday by the way

    • Style Girlfriend


  • Chris Moultrie

    This has been a problem for me with girls I’ve dated recently. Being responsible with your money, driven to achieve something (anything!) and not living beyond your means are all traits that seem hard to come by in someone these days. Now I wish those kids would get off my lawn :: shakes cane ::. I suddenly feel like an old man.

  • Jon B.

    Yes. Yes. All of this yes. I mean, a year out of school, I’ll cut you a break. Sometimes you need a little help to get on your feet. I get it. After that, get your [censored] together.

    I’d add that people sometimes think living on your own and struggling means ‘I ate ramen for two years’. Certainly it can, but with a proper budget and discipline, you can have normal stuff. Salads are great for dinner. Simple, healthy, and cheap. 20 bucks can get you a weeks worth of salads (at least where I live). Saving money and cutting fat? That’s a win-win right there. Great article.

    • Style Girlfriend

      True, sticking to a budget should allow for a “normal” life, potentially free from any ramen products, even at the start of a career. But it may be a few years before you’re really comfortable and free to do the things you want to do, money-wise. And I think that’s okay!

      • Jon B.

        Definitely. Especially if you’re focusing on paying off debts, or savings. I could easily see eating Ramen so they can pay down/save. Nothing wrong with that.

  • TJ

    Agreed. Even in highschool, I had to buy my own car. I saved up money and bought it completely on my own. Still have the car too, but saving for a new one. In college, I had to pay for everything myself. I worked my way through college and paid for it with loans and scholarships. I was an RA to save on rent. After college I had to live with my mother for a little bit while I was looking for a job, but now that I’ve found one, I am out on my own and pay for everything myself. It sucks that I don’t have as much disposable income but at least everything is mine. I don’t think it really helps your kids to continue to pay for them, it cripples them for dealing with the real world.

  • Dan from Wisconsin

    A “grown man” doesn’t need women to approve of his financial situation to feel like a man, either. Financial independence is something we should ALL work for.

  • Jackson

    Perhaps we just come from very different worlds, but I wasn’t aware this was a problem. Most young men and women in this country simply do not have the luxury of choosing whether to support themselves or let their partents foot the bill. I understand there’s concentrated pockets of wealth out there – and this might conceivably pass a problem in some circles – but for most young people out of college, they’re on their own in a weakened economy, struggling with rapidly diminishing prospects and the sad comprehension that they have no idea where their next pair of burgundy shell cordovan double monk straps might come from.

    • Dan

      I don’t think it’s common, but I’ve got a female friend like that. It’s almost embarassing for her amongst our friends. Although none of us are fresh out of college, we all support ourselves.

    • hornsup84

      It’s something that might happen more than you think, but obviously is dependent on location. In NYC, this is much more common than in other places where I’ve lived; however, I wouldn’t say it never happens in the midwest, south, etc. It happens in places like LA and NYC more frequently than elsewhere because those cities attract a young population and don’t always provide adequate jobs/salaries to match the cost of living.

  • Lincoln Muir

    I’m 24. When I read this title, I thought it was referring to owning a house, that your parents rent a room in, and charging them rent… I guess I would let my parents live in my house for free? if they fell on hard times…

    I guess that means I’m a grown up…

  • ilyac

    Glad i’m not the only one that thinks fiscal responsibility and independence is hot.

    It’s just one of those “hey, Look at me, I can take care of myself! Like a big boy!” things. I felt good about myself when I payed off my car loan. So I have a hard time understanding people who (through irresponsible spending or just laziness) are content with being supported. I would feel awful having someone else be responsible for my rent.

    • TJ

      Same here. Even in college when my mother would give me a little gas money when I came home, I felt awful and didn’t want to take it from her

  • Jon

    Totally agree Megan. Guys are like pickup trucks: if they aren’t carrying a load they can get a bit squirrely. You are absolutely right that no man has any business pursing a wife or acting grown up until he’s no longer dependent on his parents. The responsibility and weight of be able to take care of oneself is a necessary step in building character and qualifying you to be a productive member of society.

    Also, as an aside, I love you still expect a man to be able to “take care of you.” That is refreshingly traditional, and not really the norm these days, it seems. I think it’s awesome that you expect chivalry as a norm.

    • Style Girlfriend

      I’ve never heard that pickup trucks = guys saying; I love it! Totally going to steal it :)

      And yes, I am very much in the camp of, “If we hear a bump in the night, you’re going downstairs with a baseball bat to investigate, not me” camp of relationship equality.

    • Alexander

      “no man has any business pursing a wife or acting grown up until he’s no longer dependent on his parents.”
      Regardless of age? Because that seems pretty much like an “act like an immature entitled idiot” freecard which is exactly how you get to this whole inability to take of your stuff in general. So on that point I respectfully disagree, I actually think that teenagers should learn in certan areas how to behave maturely.
      Throwing temper tantrums/not being able to have a civil conversation, inability to live within your financial limits, not being able to do your chores/housework may be detrimental to supposed adults but IMO it’s not any better for “older” teenagers. And let’s not kid ourselves, the old belief that “with ages comes wisdom” has literally no factual sustainability.

      And that’s coming from someone who’s a student – so not financially independent.

      Edit: I should note that in general I’m not supporting irresponsibility or handouts, I just think things should be seen in a general context. A certain level of support IMO is generally acceptable for any person as far as they’re not just “chilling” and doing something for it. (basically where it’s more like actual work)
      The philosophy of a buddy of mine’s father comes to mind which is basically “You’ll have some support from me but you’re gonna work for it.”

      • Jon

        Alexander, You’re right. I mistyped a bit and I convoluted a couple ideas.

        Within the context of Megan’s statement that she wants to know that a potential husband is able to support her, I simply meant to say that I don’t think a guy has any business pursing a girl if he doesn’t first have his $h*t together. If he doesn’t have a plan and isn’t able to present a compelling picture to the girl, he isn’t work her time. (Conversely, if he doesn’t expect that of him, she may not be worth his.)

        Separate from that idea is simply that too many guys seems stuck in prolonged adolescence. I don’t care how old you are if you haven’t separated your life from your parents and started to identity as “your own family”, you’re not ready to think about partnering up with anyone else.

        I’m all for being supported while you get through school and start out. (My parents helped immensely with a private college degree, and I have no school debt), but the day after I graduated, I started my career, and starting paying for my own rent and bills). It’s ok to be “in process”, especially if you have a plan and are working diligently to execute, just don’t claim to be a grown man until you actually are.

  • James

    So I thought the point of this site was giving style advice?

    • Junior

      If a guy wears chukka boots, but has no friends around to see them, is he still stylish?

    • K to the Poon

      What’s more stylish than being independent? Physical attractiveness only takes you so far, and fades as you get older, but independence and ability to take care of yourself and those you care for is definitely always in style.

    • Tres

      Being a grown man that doesn’t pay his own rent isn’t a good look, so it falls under the category.

      And this website’s content is entirely up to the woman who put it together and worked her tail off to get it where it is today.

    • Dan from Wisconsin

      I actually like these perspectives

  • Adam Wyatt

    While I really enjoyed the article and completely agree with it, I always wonder what sparks these kinds of articles.

    • Style Girlfriend

      Ha, oh you know..just living life in NYC.. :)

      But really, I love being able to bridge the “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” divide that sometimes seems to hamper relations between the sexes. I always think the more communication happening, the better!

  • Turling

    So, you just realized there are hipsters in Brooklyn?

  • Eric

    There are far too many over-grown children in our society. I’m glad you addressed this, it reminds me to strive to be a man, not a boy.

  • average joe

    …but Will Ferrell’s character in “Wedding Crashers” lived with it’s mom…he still got girls and his mom even made him meat loaf.

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  • Djtangerine

    what do you think about people in asian culture.. its the norm for kids to live with their parents until married… its pretty much the norm.. but some kids i know venture out…

  • Mark

    Thank you SG for this article and for giving your readers something to think about in addition to providing some style.

  • Eyes open

    Who paid for your bf’s trip to Italy? Who pays for him when he goes to Florida? Who paid for his trip to MN?

  • Michelle

    Damn girl. Tell it like it is.

  • Ryan

    I agree with some of the ideas in this article, but disagree with the execution. The concept of saying someone won’t push harder for a raise, promotion, or general advancement in the workplace because their parents are helping them is not entirely true. You stated you had your higher education paid for, and I’m fairly certain you worked hard (or at least hard-ish) to obtain the degree. I think it’s unfair assumption. I mean I can sit here and shake my fist because of the fact that there are people in college getting a free education while I’m paying for mine. You can’t gauge someone’s gratefulness or worth based on the idea of their family helping them, or their parents being successful and paying for their rent. That’s life. If we do get mad over this it’ll be just another Occupy movement failing because 1% of the population is more successful than us or has had better opportunities than we do.

  • Joseph Dougherty

    Hey Megan, I just found this site yesterday morning and I really love what you’re doing here. I figured I’d support the cause and add some input, but only because you asked for it. The first comment I wrote was super long so I’ll give you the short answers: Yes, Absolutely Yes, and the idea of having a woman (or women) and a “lifestyle” while they are supporting me would further demote me from an emasculated man into a boy. I supported myself pretty much right out of high school until a year ago (to the day), when all hell broke loose and I had to move back in. I think its also important to add or at least emphasize (since you did kind of include it between the lines) that s#!t happens, but its how you react to the situation that separates a grown man from a man child. Other than that, I agree 100%.

    • Style Girlfriend

      Hi Joseph,

      Thanks for commenting, and happy to have you as a reader! All the best in getting back on your feet soon.

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  • John

    It’s great to know you can attack people over the Internet semi-anonymously and get paid for it! Is this a style blog, or a vent session?

    Also, some people have the same thoughts about people who have their parents pay for college as you do about 26 year olds living in New York rent free. Just sayin’.

  • Miles Bergstrom

    Obviously I am backlogged in the world of SG. However, I fall into the category of struggling in the post grad world. My parents understand that it’s hard to get any job in today’s world. They don’t foot the bill for everything, but they would never let me go without. I work mostly freelance gigs in the television and film world, while trying to obtain the ever elusive full time job that will let me “live.” By live, I mean pay rent, bills, buy groceries, and occasionally go out with my friends for a beer.

    You’re right, I will/do have some crazy stories. How I thought LA was the place to be, picked up moved there…..and found out I hated it with a burning passion. Only to come back defeated. However, I did do some awesome stuff while I was there. Now, I’m back in the city I love and feel more at ease. Heck, I would feel better if I even got an interview. Sometimes you only have the little things to look forward to. We all struggle and sometimes just need a little help to get by.

    • Style Girlfriend

      Thanks for sharing your story Miles! Be sure to let us know when you land your next interview (and good luck)!

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