At the end of last year, I got my first permanent full-time job. I was very proud to have got this job, especially since I am a foreigner. Where I’m from, it’s very common for kids who have a job overseas to send home transfers to their parents so I felt the pressure to do so as soon as I got the job.
First, I asked my parents to give me some time to adjust to the cost of living that comes with moving to a new city, new apartment, etc. and they understood. However, earlier in the year my mom started hinting / asking me when I would start sending money, especially since my dad is retiring this year. I felt like I wasn’t ready to start yet, but I lied and said I could start sending some money monthly.
I’ve been doing this for about half a year now and while my parents thank me for the money I send each month, I lament the loss of that money that I could add to my (very small) savings. I’ve barely saved a month’s salary right now, but I know my parents saved the money I send them too.
My parents made many sacrifices for me to study abroad (including taking their retirement early to pay for my and my sibling’s education) so I feel obliged to support them now that I have a job . However, I KNOW that it is impossible for me to send them sustained money every month as I try to meet my savings goals.
I have only one sibling left who works (the rest are at school) and he helps my parents (and the rest of our family) shop for things they need or want, but he doesn’t send them money as regularly as he does I . I already have the feeling that I had a later start in life than others. I’m in my late twenties and have just got my first full-time job. What am I doing?
– Compulsory daughter
Dear conscientious one,
Your desire to support your parents is certainly admirable. But the gratitude you feel for their victims is not related to how much money you can afford to send them.
The key here is that you all KNOW that you cannot send money sustainably at the level of the last few months. But if you send money regularly every month and never mentioned that it was causing you trouble, it makes sense that your parents expect the money to keep coming in. When you can’t meet an expectation, the next best thing is to communicate that fact as quickly as possible.
Since your dad is still working and your parents are saving the money you send, it sounds like you’re a little flexible. Try to set yourself a specific savings goal. In financial planning, a three-month emergency fund is generally considered the bare minimum. If you work in an industry prone to layoffs, consider targeting six months of savings. Ultimately, the point is to save enough so that you don’t get stressed out about money all the time.
Of course, you will need to adjust your referral budget to meet your goals. But it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. It doesn’t have to be permanent either.
If sending money to your parents is important to you, you could send them maybe half of what you sent each month. Then put the other half in a savings account. You can call up the amount again as soon as you have reached the three-month mark. Or, you can temporarily pause your posts while your father is still working. That could give you a little more time to replenish your savings before retiring.
You say you lied when you told your parents that you felt ready to send money home. But I also suspect that life has become more expensive than you expected. This can happen when you are just starting out. This is especially true now as the prices of practically everything are skyrocketing. Your parents understood when you asked for time to get used to financing a living. Perhaps they will understand that you need a little more time to adjust.
If your parents have concerns about basic needs after your father retires, ask your brother if he can afford to donate more regularly. Hopefully, when your siblings finish school and get a job, they can help too.
Helping your parents is a worthwhile goal, but don’t neglect yourself. Children can never really repay their parents for their sacrifices. But if you have a solid financial footing now, you and your parents can feed yourself better.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].