LOW WAGES AND HIGH RENTS MEAN EVEN GRADUATES IN FULL-TIME WORK NEED EXTRA MONEY FROM MUM AND DAD
When Graduate Fog asked Do you feel bad taking money from your parents?, the response was overwhelming. It seems that a huge number of graduates feel deeply uncomfortable with still being financially dependent on their mum and dad at a time in their life when they should be standing on their own two feet.
Polly, 23, graduated in 2009 from Keele University with a 2.1 in Biomedical Sciences. She has full-time admin job, which pays £14,000 a year. She lives with her parents in Hampshire, in the house she grew up in…
“I never imagined I’d still be living at home, aged 23. I assumed I’d come home as a stop-gap after uni while I looked for work – or if I had to take on an unpaid internship – but I never thought I’d still be dependent on my parents once I’d got a permanent job. But here I am.
Many of my friends are in the same boat – and even those who have moved out admit their parents send them money regularly, or that they’ve had to ask for help with bills. Like me, my friends are in full-time work (one is a teaching assistant, another works in retail, another works in admin) – so we can’t understand why we still need to ask our parents for money all the time.
My take-home pay of about £1,000 per month is not nearly enough to live on independently. I didn’t expect to earn much in my first job after uni – but I’m careful with money so I assumed I’d be okay. I had no idea about the cost of living or how far my money would go.
In my area, a one-bed flat would cost at least £600 a month, leaving me with less £100 per week for food, council tax, utility bills and transport to work. It doesn’t add up. I’d like to flat-share, but my area is mostly families and older adults, so there aren’t many options, so I’d have to move further from my work, and then my transport costs would rise. Even then, I’d be paying £400-500 a month – when I reckon my limit is £300. I have friends in the same situation. They could just about afford to rent but then they couldn’t run a car, which they need in order to get to work.
I don’t pay my parents any rent. I offered them a tenth of my monthly income (what many of my friends pay), but they wouldn’t accept it. My dad said he wouldn’t feel right about it when they don’t have a mortgage anymore. He said they’d rather I saved my money for the future.
I’m lucky – I have a good relationship with my parents. I don’t have a curfew, I usually eat with them but I’m not expected to be home for dinner each night. I’m in a long term relationship which began before I moved home so they’re fine with me having my boyfriend over. That said, if I was single I think I’d struggle to start a new relationship under these circumstances.
I crave the freedom of having my own place. I’m at a stage in my life where that’s natural – and it should be possible financially. I love the idea of having friends over for dinner after work or at weekends, but what would I do, ask my parents to go out for the evening? Take them upstairs to my room? That’s fine when you’re a teenager, but it feels silly in your twenties.
I think something does need to be done about the high cost of renting. It can’t be right that people in full-time work can’t afford even the cheapest flat in their area. It’s pure greed. Landlords are asking for too much rent, and employers aren’t paying their staff high enough wages to live on.
When I left university I was ready to throw myself into “real world” adulthood. Financial independence is important to me as I feel it’s an essential step in becoming an adult. Being dependent on my parents makes me feel like I’m still a teenager and living in the same place I grew up makes me feel like a failure.
I don’t know when I’ll be able to move out. Though I do aim to earn more over the next few years it just seems like the cost of living is rising faster than young people’s earnings, so the goalposts just keep moving further away from us.
The few friends who are able to live on their income are lucky to live further north where rent is a lot cheaper. The downside is that there are fewer jobs and not being in reach of London is limiting. If they wanted to move down South for a better job they would have to hold out for a well paying job in order to live in the South.
I’ve started applying for better jobs in cheaper areas as I’ve realised there’s little point staying where I am with its high cost of living. I haven’t had much luck yet though. I always hoped to live in London after uni but I fear I’ll have to give up that dream unless I’m lucky enough to land something well-paid. I know of people on £20,000 in London who struggle, simply because the cost of living is so high.
The media gives us “boomerang kids” a hard time, implying we’re lazy, spoilt and irresponsible. They don’t realise that most of us hate being in this position, still needing our parents’ money well into our twenties. They can’t realise just how tough it is to make ends meet these days, once you add up rent, bills and travel costs – and take into account the meagre salaries we’re all earning.
Much more should be done to let young people lead independent lives and have meaningful goals, like saving to for a house. To me, that feels light years away. We’re being asked to behave like adults (working and paying taxes) but we’re expected to live like teenagers, always asking Mum and Dad for hand-outs.
It’s worrying that it’s become accepted that young people should stay dependent on our parents well into adulthood – as it means that important issues such as living wages and affordable housing are being swept under the carpet. It’s easy for politicians to quietly accept that many people’s parents will continue to support their adult children. It’s much harder to tackle the issues that are stopping young people from being able to support themselves. Fortunately, I’ve been able to build up some savings since I’ve been living at home, despite not earning much. But I know many others aren’t so lucky.”
*Are you finding it impossible to move out?
Do you agree with Polly – is renting too expensive for graduates on low salaries? What is the solution – should rents be capped, should graduates be eligible for more housing benefit – or should employers be forced to pay their young staff more, so their earnings are in line with the true cost of living?