Let’s talk about relying on another person’s financial help in order to fulfill your personal goals
August 23, 2012
Things are going to change significantly for me in the personal finance category as I transition into the life of a freelancer. As I mentioned, I have enough savings to get me by on my current spending levels for many months, but I’d like to avoid tapping into those savings as much as possible.
I have nightly dreams of some free article I write for HuffPo going crazy-viral and leading to massive paychecks for freelance pieces in every magazine that still exists, but the likelihood of that is slim given my current relationship with HuffPo (I don’t have one), and what magazines are paying these days (not much).
And so the topic of “who will pay what percentage for which life costs” came up at the breakfast table the other day. We try to wake up early and cook a delicious egg scramble at least twice a week, but I think I’m going to put the kibosh on that because lately in ends in conversations like this.
R: So we should talk about finances. Who’s going to pay for what after you make the transition.
R: Oh Jesus. Are you going to start crying again?
Me: No…well….probably not.
R: All I’m saying is that the balance of income is going to change, so we should look at what we each pay for living expenses and adjust accordingly.
Me: Right. Okay.
R: You don’t want to talk about this right now.
Me: No thank you.
R: Fine. How about Sunday night? Does that give you enough time to prepare yourself?
Me: Yes…well…probably not.
It’s just money. It’s just money it’s just money it’s just money. That’s the mantra I’ve taken to repeating in places like the shower and the traffic jam. But to a person who hasn’t relied on a single individual for any financial assistance since graduating from college, it’s more than just money. There’s something deeply meaningful and therefore deeply scary about accepting help from someone else to afford your life decisions.
Maybe this has something to do with the fact that R and I are not married, I thought. Maybe if we were married I would feel like it was under the auspices of matrimony that he should support me and I should support him, financially speaking. But – spoiler alert – we’re tracking toward that life step and R has made it very clear that I shouldn’t wait for a contract to pursue this phase of my career. If it means he pays a little more for rent and utilities and little more for groceries, so be it. It’s not A. worth rushing a wedding or B. worth delaying a career. It’s just money!
I think the real issue is that I feel an overwhelming sense of pride about “doing it all by myself.” I scoff at articles about 20-something whose films and novels and apartments and vacations are bankrolled by their parents. They didn’t really do it, I think. Someone did it for them, so it doesn’t really count.I have, so far, avoided being “one of those 20-somethings.” I have also, so far, avoided writing a book, selling a script, producing a podcast and developing a freelance writing career. It is almost impossible to launch one career while focusing entirely on another. That is a fact. It’s also a fact that some people have trust funds or uncles in the movie business or famous boyfriends who get them book deals. How is me letting R buy the lunch meat an offense against the creative pursuit, considering all that?
The other side of that is an intense pressure to achieve x, y, z in a, b, c time-frame because someone else is helping me make it happen. I wonder if I’ll feel guilty lingering over a coffee with a fellow freelance friend because I should be home writing the script that’s forcing R to now paying 75% of the electric bill. It is curious that this same logic didn’t apply to my ease with lingering over a Lifetime movie, dollar drafts happy hour or three hour nap in the years my parents were paying 99% of the college bill, but I am now sorry about that, Mom and Dad.
Now, because I literally cannot continue to angst over this, are the conclusions I’ve come to at this phase of my over-analysis of the money issues surrounding my life decision:
R and I both made changes to our lifestyle several months ago (staying in a smaller, cheaper apartment, reducing meals out, reducing travel) to afford this move of mine. As such, R can comfortably afford his new percentages of the life costs, and I will be able to afford mine.
If I am feeling uncomfortable about any aspect of the new deal, I’ll say so, and we’ll talk about it. If I have to take on more work, so be it. If I have to shut up and get over it, so be that too. Communication, however, will be key (you’re shocked about this, I know).
I will continue to pay for all of my personal bills (car lease, insurance, student loan, credit card, cell phone). Those are expenses I know I will not currently be comfortable allowing someone else to cover.
Yes, some people can point to every single thing they’ve ever done and say, I did that all by myself; nobody else lifted a finger or provided a penny! I won’t be that person, but I’m coming to believe that’s a good thing. It is incredible to have the support and love of a person who wants you to achieve your goals so much that they’re willing to adjust their life. That is a gift. But accepting that gift is almost as important – saying, I can do this much, but I need this help. That’s a gift you give yourself.
All of that said, I welcome any and all advice and criticism around this issue. I have a feeling there are some similar stories out there, and some similar anxieties. Please share, do I don’t feel like such a crazy person…on this one topic at least.