I want to start by saying that while that headline is completely true, my lifestyle is not fancy. I drive a 1996 Subaru Outback missing a passenger’s side mirror that up until recently had a bumper held to the car with duct tape. The most expensive things I own –- three left-handed Fenders, a shitty Peavey amp and a 2007 white Macbook -– add up to about a grand, maybe. I couldn’t sell them for that amount if I tried.
I do my daily business on a jail-broken iPhone 3GS that moves like it’s on dial-up, and I live in a commune-like situation where my landlord is also my roommate, yoga teacher, massage therapist, spiritual guide and friend. All this means is, I pay a hell of a lot less rent than the average person in Denver. (It also means I’m a pseudo-hippie who worships the moon but refuses to use anything labeled “natural.”)
But that’s the point of this whole “I’m supposed to be a grown-up and I don’t know how to be responsible with money” confession –- I don’t pay a lot for much, but I also don’t make very much, either. My main source of income is freelance writing work, supplemented by a one-day-a-week retail job at the mall. So where does the rest of my money come from? My family.
My family is not rich. There are no trust funds to speak of, no stocks or real estate investments sitting around making anyone money. We have no “family” money. I was raised in a working class home, in a working class neighborhood. Socially speaking, we are a bunch of nobodys.
But my mother takes care of my phone bill. She also feeds me from time to time, pays for household things at Target when I really need them, and covers financial “emergencies” when I manage to fuck things up and miss a payment on something important (which is often). I have a gracious aunt and uncle who have taken on everything from fronting for my car insurance to buying me a car (and letting me remain incredibly lax when it comes to making “payments” on it.) They have also helped me pay for parking tickets and self-inflicted injuries to my guitar. For everything other than rent, gas and food, my family picks up the check (and even sometimes those things are negotiable.)
My friends, too, have helped me (more than the average friend group would, I think) along the way. My best friend since high school has worked his ass off from the day he was old enough to have a job, and in turn paid for much of my hang-about life in my teens and twenties. My other best friend loaned my band her company truck for us to tour in, letting us take it all the way to the East Coast for two weeks at no charge. I have another close friend who takes me out to eat, pays for manicures and sneaks me groceries without her having to say “I know you don’t have any food.” As I’m typing this all out, I realize that I might have a unique case of “sugar-friends,” but they are the types of ride-or-die folks that know I would do the same for if I could.
It isn’t anyone’s fault but my own that I have a shitty relationship with money. I just don’t know how to do anything right with it, or put an emphasis on making more of it, or even prioritize where it goes. Because I am a product of a wonderful mom who has worked as an ER nurse for close to 40 years and consequently put me through college, I have no school loans. I have no medical issues at all and have never had surgery or been hospitalized, and am lucky as an uninsured person to have no medical bills. My outstanding debts are -- save for a couple hundred I owe my dentist and a single credit card -- only owed to my family.
Still, I should acknowledge something that my friends and family don’t know. It was something I didn’t even know was true about myself until I sat down to write this story: I have a fantasy that someday, I’ll meet a man who is good with money and also wants to be with me. It is so weird to say that out loud, but when I was writing this and scanning my brain for a conclusion to my weighty money problem, I found this solution floating around my head. And I suddenly realized it's what I have been waiting to happen all of my adult life, instead of just taking charge and getting a “real” job, and having a realistic relationship with money.
I don’t think I always planned on finding a person to fix my money problem who also happened to love me. When I first started college for journalism in the late ‘90s, I believed I would be writing from a newsroom floor or the offices of a major magazine when I was finished school. Maybe I even believed that Carrie Bradshaw’s one-column-a-week life as a writer in New York was a real thing that could carry a single person like me through a well-manicured and self-absorbed life. Just like Carrie’s.
But that is clearly not the case. The reality is I’m 32 years old and my family still takes care of me. If it ever was one, it’s not a secret anymore.
And the thing is, I know I'm not the only person like this.
As I have grown into being a semi-adult, my own friends’ finances have confounded me. How can we all be artists who travel to Mexico City for a show or a festival, writers who skip off to New York and Los Angeles to live for a bit and musicians who migrate from Chicago to Minneapolis to North Hampton to Tempe? I don't know anyone who makes a living wage for similar creative endeavors. But the “How do you afford to do whatever in the hell you want whenever the hell you want?” conversation never seems to come up among my fellow wandering twenty and thirty-something artist friends. Which is why I thought I should dispel my own myth. My life looks carefree because I am bankrolled by a loving (and possibly enabling) family.
And I do still dream of the time when I could live on what I do, not on my family’s unbelievably supportive financial maneuvers that make my life fucking rule every single day. But I can't lie -- I love that I can get up every morning, chug a pot of coffee and get shit done as a freelance writer. Even if it doesn’t cover the cost of my rent.