It is a British trait not to want to talk about money. Such conversations too quickly give rise to awkward emotions: judgement, fear of judgement, jealousy, resentment and guilt. Students talk about money all the time, but usually because we want to despair at our lack of it. More taboo, however, is talking about the source of that money. While most of us have a student loan, we are more reluctant to discuss that other main stream of income: the bank of mum and dad.
The likelihood is that most students will have to ask their parents for some kind of assistance (whether they receive it or not) during their university education, because the maintenance loan is not large enough to cover all living costs. Depending on parental income, parents will be expected to top up their child’s maintenance loan by up to £5000, according to Save the Student! While some parents might happily stump up that cash, others may not be able to afford to, or not want to. After all, their child is now 18 and no longer their legal responsibility: they have no obligation to top up their funds.
But what if parents are in a position to lend their child extra support, and do so generously? Ought you to feel guilty about receiving it, knowing that while your peers work several shifts a week, you are not compelled to get a job?
Adults have the right to spend their money as they will, and if they choose to share their income with their child, that is not something to be begrudged by outsiders…
Firstly, let us clarify that adults have the right to spend their money as they will, and if they choose to share their income with their child, that is not something to be begrudged by outsiders. But equally, it should not be taken for granted by the recipient.
Spending your parents’ money frivolously, with no concept of the privilege of that position, is bound to foster resentment among peers, if not also distrust from your parents. It is also, in the long term, foolish: that supply stream will presumably not last forever and a failure to nurture sensible budgetary habits now will provide a shock when you are earning your own money.
But no-one need feel guilty about careful and conscientious spending, regardless of its source. There is no reason that you cannot develop the same sense of financial responsibility with your parents’ money than if it were your own hard-earned income; some people might even find that they are more prudent because it is someone else’s money. And sticking to an allowance pre-agreed with your parents is quite a different prospect from someone who lazily expects their parents to bail them out every time they go on a few too many nights out.
As with everything money-related, it is necessary for all sides to demonstrate responsibility and sensitivity…
However comfortable it feels to be fully supported, there does come a time when financial dependence is no longer attractive, and many people will embrace the opportunity to get a job at university. It is rewarding to have your own income and develop your sense of independence. But it is also true that we have all our lives to work and only a few years at university. If someone’s parents are willing to support them in those three years, and they don’t have a burning desire to get a job, they should feel able to make the most of that fortunate freedom without feeling guilty.
Ultimately, as with everything money-related, it is necessary for all sides to demonstrate responsibility and sensitivity. Those who benefit from the bank of mum and dad should know how lucky they are and not expect it to last forever. After all, we must spare a thought for the future. One day, we will no longer borrow from the bank of mum and dad; we will be the lenders.