Jan 20, 2008

The Lawsuit and Rich Parents (aka, why I have $26k in my bank account at 24)

Many of you might wonder how on earth I have managed to save over $25k at 24... and to be honest, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit the truth. While I'd love to tell you all stories of how I worked my ass off through college, got an extremely well paying job the second I graduated and continued to watch my salary climb as the years passed, the reality is none of that is true.

Here's what really happened:

I was born into an upper middle class family. My mother stayed at home. My dad was an actuary who made a strong six-figure salary. While my mother and I kept spending his hard-earned money, he still managed to save quite a bit. Additionally, his company had a pension plan and all of those old fangled tricks to keep people working at one company for their entire lives. And it worked... my dad, after dropping out of his graduate program in Physics at Cornell, ended up spending his entire life working for this one company and climbing the corporate ladder. He never seemed happy, as he certainly did not like my mother, and having to commute one hour each way into the city everyday couldn't have helped.

But as he worked hard, I continued to reap the benefits. He saved up more than enough money to send me to a relatively expensive private institution for four years. Somehow he also managed to pay for my frequent shopping sprees to discount clothing stores. I was spoiled in an upper middle class sort of way. It's not like I went out and bought Prada or even Coach. Designers always meant little to me, but nonetheless I had a major talent for spending heaps of cash.

If all of that were the entirety of my story, I would have graduated without debt, and with about $9k in savings thanks to dad's "apartment for daughter after she graduates" fund. That would have been plenty more than I deserved.

But here's the secret to my minor fortune:

In 6th grade, I broke my arm at my birthday party. I'm not quite sure whose fault that was, although my parents, our lawyer, and the judge all seemed to agree that the company running the party was at fault for negligence. As an 11-year-old, all I really wanted was an apology from the folks running my birthday party... after all, I had to leave three minutes into the festivities while the rest of my friends stayed and got to enjoy games and cake. Well, my "apology" came in the form of $15,000. Although $5000 was taken out in lawyer fees, by the time I could access the funds at 18, my bank account had grown to about that original sum.

So if you were wondering how on earth I have so much money - that's how.

I do feel guilty about it, as I have many friends who had to take out loans to get through college and who will be paying for their education for years to come.

I've had the luxury to move across the country, to rent a $1050 a month apartment, and to mess up at a few jobs and figure out my career through trial and error. I'm lucky. I'm very, very lucky.

It's hard to compare myself to others my age. I don't know a great deal about people's personal finances, but I have friends across the spectrum of class (ranging from "upper lower" class to "upper middle" class.)

My boyfriend's situation is somewhat different, yet he also has money in savings and graduated with no loans. His mother has never moved out of her parents house. She's worked consistently throughout her life, and has saved most of her income. While I was a spoiled little brat as a kid, my boyfriend never experienced the finer things in life... even though his family had the money to show him such things if they wanted to spend it. But instead, his mother believed in buying clothing from the thrift store. Last Christmas I was shocked that she got me a gift (it is the thought that counts) but I just found it interesting to see that the "gift" was a red wool coat that she had bought from a thrift store a while back, knowing that at some point she'd give it away as a gift.

I don't judge her for this at all, I'm just fascinated by the different financial mindsets of people in America. I wonder how much of it is based on culture and religion, and how much is unique to each family and person. Even I believe that the best part of making more money is being able to share that money... at least with the person you love and your close friends.

There's plenty more I can write about all of this, but I need to get some more work done this evening before heading off to bed. Please leave comments about this topic, as I'm interested in hearing about your families and how that influenced the way you spend and save today.

Edited to add: My parents no longer send me money. I'm on my own. If I was in debt or something awful happens, I know they'd be there to help as much as possible. But now I'm earning money and paying all of my bills, including rent.



5 comments:

Julie the Graduate said...

Yay for actuaries!

I think that you're pretty lucky to have broken your arm... although I doubt your 11-year-old self would agree. :-) It's funny how we feel bad because of random events that happen in our lives - it's not like you chose to break your arm and win a lawsuit. Hopefully you'll eventually use the money for something you enjoy!

SavingDiva said...

It's nice that you shared the story with your readers. It really makes us feel like we understand you a little better...

As for screwing up jobs, who hasn't done that right out of college?

SJean said...

yes you are lucky to have that--probably more so lucky to have parents that could pay for your education and a 9k 'starter fund' than the arm.

But, it is nothing to be embarrassed about. You are lucky, yet you are grateful. Others have much more, and others have similar funds yet lack the grace to be thankful.

I had a conversation with a friend who basically was like "well, why WOULDN'T my parents pay for my medical school? Did your parents just have the idea that when you turn 18 you are not their responsibility anymore?" Ug.

Megan said...

It sounds like we had similar childhoods, financially speaking. I consider myself very lucky to not have masses of education debt like a lot of my friends - but at the same time, I have friends whose parents put them through expensive undergrad and graduate schools (I went through grad school on scholarship).

It's nice to see someone else out there like me - and I'm glad to see others agree that it's nothing to be embarassed about. I'm very thankful for what I have, and I realize how lucky I am. I just don't like to flaunt that.

Deb said...

I am feeling your down right sassyness and I like your style. sorry to hear you broke your arm.

However, I have a saying "Everything happens for a reason." I truly wholeheartedly believe that. That way, if I break my arm, I just know that the universe or the powers that be has prevented something else awful from happening to me.

Keep up the great work.

You are to be admired

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