Millennials And Money : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders Financial journalist Hannah Seligson and Aminatou Sow from the podcast 'Call Your Girlfriend' join Sam to discuss why more and more millennials are financially intertwined with their parents — and why it's so hard to talk about. Listeners call in. Sends thoughts to samsanders@npr.org.
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Millennials And Money

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Millennials And Money

Millennials And Money

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SAM SANDERS, HOST:

Christina Crupie lives in Atlanta. She is 22 years old. And like a lot of college graduates these days, she still relies on her parents financially.

CHRISTINA CRUPIE: I am living back in their basement right now. So I graduated my undergrad degree in psychology last year, and so I've been here since August.

SANDERS: Christina got that undergrad degree at a state school. She had scholarships, but her parents helped her pay her living expenses while she was in school. And now, for Christina, living at home and working a reception job at a local hospital, that's still the case

CRUPIE: They pay for my food, most of it, except for, like, when I go out to eat and stuff.

SANDERS: So they cook for you.

CRUPIE: And - yeah (laughter).

SANDERS: That's the dream.

CRUPIE: Yeah. I'll smell them cooking it up upstairs, and I'll be like, oh, hey (laughter).

SANDERS: (Laughter).

Christina says this is a short-term arrangement. She told me she's getting ready to begin a graduate program to be a physical therapist. And she has some money saved up for that herself, and she's also prepared to rely on loans for the rest, she told me. But her parents...

CRUPIE: They sat me down a few weeks ago and were like, hey, we don't feel comfortable with you taking out a loan.

TORY: What my wife and I had suggested was that rather than going out for a student loan, a federal loan or a private loan, that we would loan her the money that she would have to pay on herself over and above what she had already worked and saved for.

SANDERS: That is Christina's dad, Tory (ph).

TORY: And she could pay us back.

CRUPIE: So when they told me that, I was kind of like, oh, like, OK (laughter).

SANDERS: Sounds like a pretty good deal. Interest-free?

TORY: You know, we haven't really discussed the details, but that's...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

TORY: That's the expectation (laughter).

SANDERS: Christina's dad told me he is happy and proud that he's able to help his daughter. But Christina isn't always proud of accepting that help. And sometimes she isn't totally honest with people about that help.

CRUPIE: It's really, I guess, weird because I've had, like, a few conversations with people who, like, will start talking about grad school. And they'll be like, oh, yeah, and those loans. And I'm like, yeah, man, like...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

CRUPIE: And, like, kind of just go along with it. And I'm just, like, feeling super weird about myself because, like, I'm not actually taking loans, but, like, I'm telling people that I am. So - I don't know. It's a super weird situation (laughter).

SANDERS: Christina's dad, Tory, told me he actually had no idea she felt this way. It wasn't until Christina showed him the email she'd sent in to our show to talk with us that he had any idea.

I mean, like, why do you think it took her forwarding an email to our show...

TORY: (Laughter).

SANDERS: ...To get her to tell you guys this?

TORY: That's a good question. I - you know, maybe on reflecting about it, she, you know, felt the need to bring it up. I - you know, I guess she just felt that it wasn't something that she needed to bring up or maybe didn't find the right moment, or maybe it's something that, you know, just developed later.

SANDERS: Have y'all - have you had conversations with her about some of this shame and guilt she feels since she forwarded you that email?

TORY: No, we haven't.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

TORY: No, it's really just come up over the last few days. But...

SANDERS: OK.

TORY: ...We'll discuss whether it's just something that's in the midst of a lot of things (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF PODINGTON BEAR'S "VIBE DRIVE")

SANDERS: By one count, over a quarter of employed millennials, many of whom are well into their 30s, still rely on parents or family to pay at least one of their bills. There are a bunch of reasons why.

HANNAH SELIGSON: If you look at the decade of the 30s, it's when a lot of big life events happen. People are typically having children and buying homes. Many people might still have college debt.

SANDERS: That is financial journalist Hannah Seligson. She wrote about this phenomenon for The New York Times. And beyond the economics, Hannah told me there's something especially troubling about this trend.

SELIGSON: It's creating a huge gap within the generation between those people who have help from their parents and those who don't. And that's what's kind of at stake here.

SANDERS: Today, we talk about all of this. I am Sam Sanders. You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. And this episode is all about millennials and money and family and how complicated all this stuff can be. Hannah Seligson is our guide. And we'll also hear from some listeners, including more from Christina. And later, we'll talk with Aminatou Sow.

AMINATOU SOW: I am not going to be in the habit of comparing myself to people whose, like, parents give them yacht access (laughter).

SANDERS: (Laughter).

You know Aminatou from her podcast "Call Your Girlfriend." She'll talk to us about the flip side of this equation, when adult kids are helping out their parents.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODINGTON BEAR'S "VIBE DRIVE")

SANDERS: All right. First up, more with Hannah Seligson.

I got to say, I am grateful for your work because you've written about millennials, my generation - I'm 34 - in a way that's not condescending.

SELIGSON: Oh, well, it comes from being the grandmother of the millennials. I'm 36. So I (laughter)...

SANDERS: Ah, an elder millenial.

SELIGSON: I write of where I come from.

SANDERS: Hannah has a piece in The New York Times that actually inspired this episode. It is called "The New 30-Something: Have You Or Haven't You Cut The Financial Cord With Your Parents?" (ph).

SELIGSON: And this may not be, you know, getting a weekly kind of stipend or check. It's - kind of comes more in the form of helping with a mortgage, helping with child care. And the statistics on this are pretty overwhelming. Over a quarter of millennials are still somewhat intertwined with their families financially.

SANDERS: Yeah. How much do we know about the demographics of that 25%? So you're saying 1 in 4 folks our age, a little bit younger are getting help from their family. Are they a specific, self-selecting group, or is it kind of a wide cross-section?

SELIGSON: You know what? I don't know the exact racial breakdown. But in my reporting for The Times, you know, it wasn't just necessarily white, affluent people. They - these were - some of them were first-generation people in their 30s whose parents had saved up and decided to give them $50,000 towards a down payment. So it's not...

SANDERS: Oh, wow.

SELIGSON: It's not just the kind of trustafarian (ph)...

SANDERS: The cliche, yeah.

SELIGSON: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: And when we were setting out to write the article, it was clear I wasn't just going to be writing about people whose parents were helping them pay for private school in Washington, D.C., or New York, even though there is certainly that.

SANDERS: Exactly.

SELIGSON: But this is a much kind of wider trend.

SANDERS: You know, what I like about the piece is that you set up, you know, it's not just lazy young people. It's they came of age in an era where stuff is just more financially difficult. So wages have stagnated while the costs of things like health insurance and child care have gone way, way, way up. The cost of real estate has gone way, way, way up as well. A lot of us graduated into the recession, so we missed some prime, early, young earning years. All those factors together just make it harder to live the life that our parents did without their help.

SELIGSON: Right. And what was interesting with the piece - and, I mean, it's just kind of fascinating what people get worked up about. I mean, I wrote this piece. I didn't think it was going to be that controversial because I kind of - a lot of people I know are still in this situation. It just seemed like, OK, well, things are really expensive, and...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: ...College is expensive, and so people are financially dependent for longer periods of time. But in the - I think - 600-plus comments that the article received, people were very divided, thinking, well, I mean, I made it on my own. Why can't these young kids? What's wrong with them? And in my mind, from my reporting, that misses the point a little bit because these are bigger, structural policy problems...

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

SELIGSON: ...About real estate, about education, about health care, about child care, about so many things.

SANDERS: Yes.

SELIGSON: And so I think blaming individuals or just saying...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: ...Well, such-and-such shouldn't buy a house close to the beach, or you shouldn't have another child...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SELIGSON: ...I mean, that's fine. But it does, I think, miss the larger point and discussion we need to be having, which are these problems require policy solutions.

SANDERS: And I also think that, like, it's very easy to hate on these folks who we see as affluent in helping their brat kids. But I bet any parent that could help their kids out with some of the big milestones of life would.

SELIGSON: Right. And even those people who think that they are not in this category, if you graduated from college debt-free, I'm going to put you in this category because that already sets you in a much - on a much different trajectory in your 30s...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: ...Than it does if you graduate from college with debt which could be hanging over you. You know what? Obama didn't pay off his college until he was in his 40s.

SANDERS: Really?

SELIGSON: I think so, yep.

SANDERS: OK. Well...

SELIGSON: Fact check me on that.

SANDERS: ...I beat Obama in one regard (laughter).

SELIGSON: Yes (laughter). So what has that been like - I'm going to turn the tables now. What (laughter) - when did you finish paying off your college debt, and how has that informed your financial...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: ...Security in your 30s?

SANDERS: I'm going to tell you - it's not morbid, but it is definitely tied to death. So my father died when I was 18. And after that...

SELIGSON: Sorry.

SANDERS: No, you know, he had a long, full life. He - I was able to be there with him his last few months of his life. It's fine, you know? But he - the family farm, which he owned, it got tied up in, you know, some money disputes. But basically, for years, none - like, no one got the inheritance. But we ended up having the inheritance split between my brother, my mother and me right when I finished grad school. And the first thing I did with my dead dad's inheritance was pay off my student loans. So it was this weird situation where, like, my father was helping me in this way from the grave (laughter).

SELIGSON: Yes, yes. Well, I think that happens to a lot of people. And there shouldn't be - I mean, I guess the other thing too is should there be shame in helping your children?

SANDERS: Not at all.

SELIGSON: But I think that's a - the response from the article. People reacted very strongly with money and class, all these things that are hot-button issues. But I think there was a kind of backlash of people who think that parents should not be helping their children even if they can.

SANDERS: On that note, I think we should take some calls, maybe.

SELIGSON: Yeah. Let's do it.

SANDERS: We have a few calls from listeners that wrote in about this topic. And then we're going to talk more about some of the larger themes and then bring in some other voices.

SELIGSON: Cool.

SANDERS: We have Georgie Morley (ph) on the line right now. Georgie, are you there?

GEORGIE MORLEY: I am. So nice to hear from you.

SANDERS: So Georgie, you wrote in to share a dark secret about how your parents, they, you know, helped you out. What is the secret?

MORLEY: Yeah. So I consider myself, you know, a pretty financially savvy person. I don't have debt. I paid for college. Yet, I'm still on my family's cellphone plan. And I've talked to other people. And, obviously, my sister has the same dark secret. And I'm married, which is kind of crazy. But it's a hard cord to cut.

SANDERS: Yeah. You know what? I - we heard literally from hundreds of people online who were doing this, and everyone was a little bit afraid to admit it. Why are people afraid to admit that?

MORLEY: Oh, my gosh. OK, that makes me feel better (laughter).

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SELIGSON: But is there a deeper - to just probe a little bit - do you think there's a deeper sort of psychology of just that, like, it's societally acceptable to do this? I mean, you're talking on public radio about it, that there just is kind of a cultural acceptance about some, however small, form of reliance on one's parents.

MORLEY: Yeah, I've been wondering that. And I wonder too if there's, like, on the other end - and I - I'm not a parent, so I can't speak as a parent - but I'm curious. Is there kind of a wish from parents to stay connected to their kid, even in this small way? Because...

SANDERS: Oh.

MORLEY: ...It's funny. My mom made me pay for my cellphone as a teenager. But then, somewhere along the line, she stopped making me pay for it, which was kind of weird.

SANDERS: OK. So you're saying that, like, this is a way for parents to guarantee that their kids check in at least once a month? (Laughter).

MORLEY: Right. Who knows?

SANDERS: Can I ask how many people are on your family plan, Georgie?

MORLEY: There's four of us, so my stepdad, my mom, my sister and I. And, you know, probably - after this conversation, I'll probably, like, reassess and...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MORLEY: ...Maybe look into getting one with my actual husband. So...

SANDERS: Hey, well, Georgie, thank you for sharing your story. You are not alone out there. I promise you.

MORLEY: Thank you so much, Sam. Great to talk to you.

SANDERS: Likewise. All right. Bye.

MORLEY: Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: All right. Time for a break. Stay tuned for my chat with Aminatou Sow. She's the host of the podcast "Call Your Girlfriend." And she tells me what it's like to be a millennial who sends cash back home to her parents. Also, we talk with more listeners. BRB.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: So Hannah, this is my big question coming out of that call - what are the dividing lines around what help we think is OK and what help we think is not? I don't think it's just monetary value because everyone's totally OK with grandparents helping raise the grandkids, which is worth a lot of money. Like - but do you know what makes a thing acceptable or not when it comes to parents helping their kids?

SELIGSON: I don't know because, you know, in my piece, I interviewed - actually, she is a financial expert herself - and she talked about how her decision to have a third child was partly influenced by the fact that her parents provide her with 20 to 25 hours of childcare a month. And someone - people did - and look, it's hard - I don't want to generalize from from New York Times commenters. But someone did say - well, if you need that help, maybe you shouldn't be having a third child. So...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SELIGSON: ...I don't - I think that the lines are very arbitrary. I think education is considered kind of in the zone - in the OK zone. But it seems to be anything extraneous or after education is - kind of raises people's eyebrows.

SANDERS: It's so fascinating.

SELIGSON: Yeah.

SANDERS: Like, we create this whole etiquette around money, yet we don't talk about it.

SELIGSON: Oh, yeah - because it makes people so uncomfortable, which is why it's so interesting. Do you agree with my - what's your sense of where the dividing line is?

SANDERS: I think a lot of the dividing line over who critiques it or not is whether or not those people are in your same class. I think people who come from relatively affluent backgrounds see their friends living the life where their parents help and think nothing of it. But if you are someone from a lower-income background or first-generation college student and you're the oddball out in those groups of affluence, it's probably much easier to be a little resentful of that.

SELIGSON: Right, although I will say - just, again, anecdotally from my reporting - that people who were first-generation, maybe not from, you know, the top 1%, were more willing to kind of talk about this issue, whereas...

SANDERS: What do you think that's about?

SELIGSON: ...Where it was much harder to get affluent people or maybe people who had trust funds to talk about it. I think that people, you know, don't want backlash. No one wants to talk about being wealthy.

SANDERS: A 1-percenter.

SELIGSON: Yeah.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

SELIGSON: And you know, we're also in a cultural moment where I think that that's a - it's a loaded topic. But again, you know, I would say to millennials - being more transparent about it, I think, is good for everyone. But maybe we don't quite have the language about how to say - hey, I'm really privileged. So you know, where does that conversation lead?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: This brings us back to Christina Crupie...

CRUPIE: Hey. How are you?

SANDERS: ...From the start of the show.

I'm good. How are you?

CRUPIE: Doing well.

SANDERS: Christina talked with Hannah and me on the phone.

Say Hi Hannah.

SELIGSON: Hi.

CRUPIE: Hey, Hannah.

SELIGSON: Oh, hey.

SANDERS: Oh, sorry. I was meaning to - yeah. Well, you know. OK. Both of you said hi.

CRUPIE: Yeah, it's cool.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: And we asked Christina what it would feel like if she did have those conversations with folks about her finances and about how much help she gets from her parents.

CRUPIE: I mean, I don't think people would straight up be, like, rude to my face if I ever said that. It's just, I guess, me more of, like, thinking of, like, I don't want other people to, like, feel bad about, like - oh, well, I'm not in that situation. Or like - I don't know. I guess the whole, like, idea of, like, me being privileged, I don't really like a lot (laughter).

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: Right. But I think you're part of a larger kind of macro-trend, which is income inequality. And it is pretty awkward and uncomfortable to talk about.

SANDERS: Yeah.

CRUPIE: Yeah.

SELIGSON: And - so I don't know. And I think that this gets to kind of the crux of what you and I were talking about, Sam, is - how much do you talk about it? And I...

SANDERS: Exactly.

SELIGSON: I was saying before, Christina, that a lot of people that I tried to interview for my article, I had a hard time finding people in affluent situations who really wanted to talk openly about getting help from their parents, I think for the reasons that you express.

CRUPIE: Yeah.

SANDERS: You know what I find - I think what makes this discussion about privilege and income inequality so hard is that people know that they're benefiting from a structure. Right? But they also know that they didn't create the structure. Like, that you didn't create inequality but...

CRUPIE: Right.

SANDERS: ...The current equation benefits you. So like, how do you walk into that kind of conversation? It's just harder. It's so...

CRUPIE: Exactly.

SANDERS: ...Not clear-cut.

SELIGSON: Right. Well...

CRUPIE: Right.

SELIGSON: ...Maybe just - hey, and this is the journalist in me who thinks that just acknowledging everything solves every - you know. But just acknowledging that, that there are large - you know, I don't - what do your parents do, Christina - if you don't mind?

CRUPIE: My mom is pretty much retired. She worked for a church. But my dad, he, I guess, co-owns a logistics consulting company. So...

SELIGSON: Uh-huh.

SANDERS: Cool, cool.

CRUPIE: I mean, it's a small company. It's not, like, very large. They have less than, like, 15 employees. But...

SELIGSON: But still very impressive. But I think...

CRUPIE: Yeah.

SELIGSON: ...If you trace back generational - the generational transfer of wealth or success, you can find that people benefited from many different both structural and familial things along the way. And this is just my kind of riffing. But if those things are acknowledged more publicly, maybe we can have a conversation about it.

SANDERS: Yeah.

CRUPIE: Exactly.

SANDERS: Hey, well, Christina, thank you so much for calling. And I think I can speak for both Hannah and myself when I say don't be ashamed about it. Just pay it forward when you can.

CRUPIE: Appreciate y'all.

SANDERS: Yeah. Great to talk to you.

CRUPIE: Yeah, y'all too. Have a good day.

SANDERS: You too. Bye.

CRUPIE: All right. Goodbye.

SANDERS: It's so interesting to hear the shame with which she approached that conversation compared to how her dad seems to be not ashamed about any of this at all.

SELIGSON: Yep.

SANDERS: Is it a generational thing as well?

SELIGSON: Yes. And I think that, you know, when we first got on, you said, oh, well I like that you write about millennials in a way that's not kind of dismissive or - that I think there is this real cultural...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: ...Animosity and disdain for millennials.

SANDERS: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

SELIGSON: And that has kind of seeped into our DNA. And, look, I have to say that I think, Christina, the hesitation or the shame and the acknowledgement of one's privilege is a good thing. You know, I mean, I think that that awareness is productive.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: But - and I think her dad has, what you said, what I think is sort of just innate in many generations, that you help the next generation succeed. That's just what parents do if they can.

(SOUNDBITE OF OLDERIC & PETER PARDEIKE'S "CONNAISSEUR")

SANDERS: If they can. That brings us to the flip side of this issue, kids whose parents cannot help them out, kids whose parents actually need the help themselves.

Hey, Aminatou. How are you?

SOW: Good. It's nice to meet you.

SELIGSON: Likewise.

SANDERS: That is Aminatou Sow. She is a writer, digital strategist and also one of the hosts of the podcast "Call Your Girlfriend." Aminatou had an interview in The Cut recently where she talked about being a millennial who sends money home to her parents. This is a reality that is far more common for immigrants and people of color.

SOW: I think that it's just a different dynamic. Whenever I read stories of millennials and money and especially when we talk about millennial entitlement of money, I - you know, the subtext is always, like, white millennials, which is a thing that is - and this - and, to be fair, like, a certain kind of white millennial.

But I do think that there is the flip side of this coin, whether it's for immigrants like me or a lot of other people who are my age who actually do take care of their - who do take care of their families. And - you know, and a lot of times that takes - a lot of times, it involves money. A lot of times, it involves a lot of time, and it involves a lot of caregiving. And that is the flip side of the coin that I feel we don't discuss enough.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: Yeah. There...

SANDERS: Go ahead.

SELIGSON: Hi, Aminatou. Nice to meet you, virtually.

SOW: Nice to meet you too.

SELIGSON: We're talking sort of at the outset that when I was conceiving of this piece, the idea was not to kind of go down the (laughter) typical white, entitled millennial route. And we did talk to a few people who are also in your situation, one of whom is expecting - her father's from Cuba and is a cab driver, and she's expecting that she's going to have to send money home. And the other gentleman, Roger (ph), does try to help his mother when he can. So, I mean, I think it's just such an important thing to acknowledge that isn't talked about it. And I'm just curious. Why do you think it's not talked about more?

SOW: Well, I mean, I think that generally there's a lot of shame about how we talk about money. There's a lot of shame, and there's also just a lot of misinformation. A lot of people just assume how people spend their money, right? And I think that when I think about people like me, who are involved in the remittance game, the sending money home, a lot of it, one, I think is an assumption that - you know, I always assume that all immigrants are sending money home.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SOW: That's just a - you know, like - and sometimes it's not true, but it's an assumption that I have because of how I grew up. It's a - very much a model of how African families work. And I also think that there is a lot specifically about living in American society and the kind of neuroses that we have about money. So this idea that you are - you know, like, if you don't have money - the prosperity gospel, right?

SANDERS: Yeah.

SOW: If you don't have money, it's because you're a curse somehow, or if you don't have money, it's because you're a slothful kind of person. And so I think that for a lot of people like me, a hesitance to talk about helping our parents is because we don't want to prop up the narrative that our parents are not deserving of our help. And I think that, like, that's one aspect of it. But I think that generally we just do not talk about money in constructive ways, and so that's where the shame and the misinformation comes from.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: So, Aminatou, do you think that if someone said, well, I'm able to go on these fabulous Instagram vacations because I have family wealth, you - do you think that would open up a - I'm genuinely curious. Do you...

SANDERS: I would throw tomatoes.

SELIGSON: Yeah. (Laughter) Like, do you think someone would...

SANDERS: Don't tell me that (laughter).

SELIGSON: (Laughter) Would that open up a constructive conversation, or would that just kind of, like, be class baiting?

SOW: Well said. I think that (laughter) obviously, like, class baiting is a thing. But I think that if I were - I would not throw tomatoes at my friends who told me that...

(LAUGHTER)

SOW: ...You know, that the reason that they were able to afford the things that they do is because they had family money. It would really put into perspective why I work so hard, and I'm not able to have the same things that they do. And I think that that is just, like, a really - that's a really important part of the conversation. It's just the understanding that we're not all coming from the same place. And also, you can't - I - I'm not going to be in the habit of comparing myself to people whose, like, parents give them yacht access. You know what I mean?

SELIGSON: Right (laughter).

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SOW: And so all of a sudden, I start to feel less bad about the fact that, oh, like, I'm out here working really hard. Like, why haven't I bought a million-dollar home in New York City?

SANDERS: Yeah.

SOW: Oh, get it - because, you know, like, my dad's not going to give me a down payment for that.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

SOW: And it shifts the conversation for me. But I do think that you're right that conversations about money also introduce tension.

SANDERS: Yeah, for sure.

SELIGSON: But maybe it's good tension. Maybe it's tension...

SANDERS: Good tension.

SELIGSON: ...That needs to be out there so it can be released.

SANDERS: Totally. Totally.

SOW: I agree with you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: With that, I want to bring in a listener. So we reached out to a bunch of listeners to have conversations with us about what they're going through in terms of all this stuff, and we have someone on the line. Her name is Britt Taylor (ph).

BRITT TAYLOR: Hi.

SANDERS: How are you?

SOW: Hello.

SELIGSON: Hello.

TAYLOR: I'm good. How are you? Hi. Hi, all.

SANDERS: What is your story about money and millennials and your parents?

TAYLOR: Oh, well, I graduated from undergrad in 2009. And my mom was laid off. She lost her job with the University of California in 2010 and has been out of the workforce ever since. And so I am one of - I won't say silent few, but it kind of feels like it sometimes - of millennials who are actually - or who is actually caring for a parent.

SANDERS: Yeah.

TAYLOR: My mother lives with me. And we live in the Bay Area - super, super expensive.

SANDERS: Yeah. So what do you do for a living?

TAYLOR: I actually work nonprofit. I am the executive assistant to a CEO at a health development nonprofit.

SANDERS: Gotcha.

TAYLOR: Yeah.

SANDERS: And how do your mother and you talk about this? Do you discuss money issues openly? Is she ashamed to talk about it, vice versa?

TAYLOR: We do discuss them now much more openly, but it's only been in the last few years that I've actually realized how her relationship to money has shaped my relationship to money. You know, one of the things that I often heard from her as a kid was that she didn't want to own a home because the women in my family had been scrubbing houses for generations, not owning houses. And so there was this kind of negative notion to that. It seemed easier, for some reason, to rent. But she wasn't taking into account what that would do for generations after. That wasn't something that her mother or her mother had instilled in her.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: So I wanted to ask you - this is Hannah, hi.

TAYLOR: Hi.

SELIGSON: Do you see your situation or your mother's situation reflective of any larger trends in the economy, like the recession or just the exorbitant cost of housing? Do you connect it to anything - these larger forces kind of beyond your control?

TAYLOR: Yes. Yes, definitely.

SELIGSON: Can you...

TAYLOR: I can drone on about this forever and have been for a long time. We started to see the effects of something happening before the Great Recession actually took hold. We moved to California, to the Bay Area specifically, from Memphis, Tenn., in '97. And in about 2005, 2006, we started noticing in our area, in our neighborhood that was largely families of color, pretty well-to-do, not, you know, terribly wealthy, but enough, people started leaving.

And the folks in our neighborhoods were younger, whiter. There was less parking because there were more cars. And then, all of a sudden, we got a notice about Whole Foods opening at the base of our hill. And we knew then that something was really starting to brew. So by the time the recession actually hit, everything was in full swing. But it felt like it had been in our area for a long time. I live in Oakland.

But one of the things I immediately felt was there were all of these people of color who were telling me that their parents had been laid off. And as the recession went on, and then as it, you know - we heard that it closed in June of 2009 or that it ended, but I started to notice that these folks were still largely out of the workforce. And so while the wealthier folks and those who have owned homes bounced back relatively quickly, it was almost as though employers became more picky because they were able to be. It's really hard to articulate, but...

SANDERS: Yeah. No, it makes perfect sense.

SOW: I'm really glad that you brought up the recession and also the way that you talked about the generational divide, about how - you know, like, how you and your mother talk about financial education because to me, this is actually, like, the - this is the point of all of this, is that whenever I hear these millennial entitlement story or stories about how people are not talking about money, they always circle around some sort of personal responsibility. If only you knew more, you would make better choices.

TAYLOR: Right.

SOW: That's, you know, even in the way that we think about this older generation. Like, oh, there are actually structural reasons that your mother and your grandmother and the women before them, like, didn't have access to financial education.

TAYLOR: Right.

SANDERS: And, like, it's also psychological. Like, my parents, both black, they were the first in their families or the first generation to go to college. And they grew up struggling. They grew up poor, both of them. And part of their goal in raising my brother and me was to make it so we never had to think about money the way they did. But that just meant they didn't teach us about money. And it came from a place of love. But, like, I didn't know how credit scores worked until I was well into my 20s.

TAYLOR: Yeah, we learned that money was rude. I had an aunt who tried to speak to my mom about paying for my private undergraduate college education. And my mom was - at first, she was offended because...

SANDERS: Wow.

TAYLOR: ...You know, she just assumed that my aunt thought, oh, you know, they can't pay for this, when, years after, it's like, no. She was actually just trying to have a conversation about whether or not we understood what we were getting ready to accept.

SANDERS: Yeah.

TAYLOR: Do you know what it means to sign this promissory note?

SANDERS: Yeah.

TAYLOR: Are you going to be able to track the amount that you'll owe once you graduate? I mean, all of those things are extremely important to how we move forward and how we teach the generation who will come after us. I'll - I'm already thinking about that for my daughter, you know, just like you said, Sam, making sure that she doesn't end up in this place that so many of the millennials have just by actually buying the dream we were sold.

SANDERS: Yeah. Are you more hopeful or hopeful about your daughter and her future? I think that there are so many issues that we just named in this conversation that could complicate her life.

TAYLOR: Yeah.

SANDERS: And I'm sure you're going to be really aware of finances as you raise her. But, like, do you think in the current, you know, situation that Americans find themselves in, are you confident about her financial success in adulthood for herself?

TAYLOR: Yes and no (laughter).

SANDERS: (Laughter).

TAYLOR: I'm going to borrow a line from my dad. I'm confident because I'll be the one raising her.

(LAUGHTER)

TAYLOR: So I feel like, you know, there's a lot of good stuff in here, you know, a lot of experiences both good and bad that I can use to, you know, make sure that she has a strong and solid foundation. But at the same time, as we've touched on, there are so many things that are out of our control. There are so many things that are due to law and policy. And, I mean, it's challenging, but it can be done.

SANDERS: Exactly. Hey, well, Britt, thank you so much for your time. I thank you for sharing your story.

TAYLOR: Yeah, thank you. I appreciate it.

SANDERS: One of the things - and this is for both of you - one of the things that I've noticed in all of the folks that reached out to us to talk about this stuff and in a lot of the coverage of this stuff, the conversation centers around young people that have gone to college. And we know that most Americans have not finished a four-year degree, and most millennials also have not finished a four-year degree. What's that about? Is it something where people without degrees are even more likely to talk about this stuff, or - I don't know. Have y'all noticed that, though?

SOW: I mean...

SANDERS: Like...

SOW: ...I just think that, you know, it's - like, the obvious bias is that we are all - like, we are all part of the conversation of here is how, you know - like, here's how the economy kind of derails my life. And I do think that it takes a certain amount of privilege to be able to have that conversation. But I also think that people who have tried to engage with the four-year university system are acutely aware of student debt. And I think that for a lot of people in our generation, student debt is really - it's the gateway into this - really understanding how messed up the system is.

SELIGSON: I've also noticed that all of the callers have been women.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: And...

SANDERS: Yeah.

SELIGSON: ...Aminatou said something that sparked (laughter) - something that goes through my mind a lot is (laughter) the cost of having children and how women, particularly in their 30s, are penalized. I mean, we know that having a child is not good for your wages and child care and all these different expenses that really, really hit hard once you have children. And so that just brings up another structural issue that we have to address, just paid family leave.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. Two questions, two forward-looking questions I have for both of you kind of as advice for listeners to this episode going forward. One, what do you think folks can start doing right now in their daily lives to begin to remove some of the shame that surrounds us all discussing our money?

SELIGSON: I think talking about it.

SANDERS: Yeah (laughter).

SOW: Right. I think talking about it and really trying to build community about it, right? I think that it - sure, like, anybody can talk about this stuff. But I think that if you can find some common points and people in your life that you really trust and to make a point of it to learn together, I think that that makes a huge, huge, huge, huge difference. I think that a huge reason that we have the shame is because people don't understand that there are systemic and structural issues that are at play here.

SANDERS: Yeah.

SOW: And so I think that, you know, it's one thing to, like, wallow in your own shame and feel like you can do better. Like, sure. But, you know, like, to me, that's the same thing as Suze Orman and Oprah telling you that if you didn't have a coffee, you would have retirement, you know, like, set...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SOW: ...Which - that is just - it's simply not how money works. It's, like, you can skip every latte of your life, you are not going to be able to retire on that.

SANDERS: Also, speaking of lattes and coffee, I am a coffee snob. And I make my own stuff. And it's good stuff, and I spend good money on it.

SOW: (Laughter).

SANDERS: And it - I do it every day. But you know what? That coffee is part of my morning ritual. It helps me have a productive day. It helps my emotional and mental health. The coffee is worth it.

SOW: But also truly, like, even if the coffee was not worth it, there is no amount of coffee that you are drinking that is going to equal...

SANDERS: (Laughter) A down payment.

SOW: ...Like, what - yeah, a down payment on a house or your 401(k) or...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SOW: You know what I mean? Like, it's just - it is just not going to happen. I don't drink coffee, and I'm still out here struggling to buy a house. So...

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: This was such an educational conversation for me. And I really appreciate both of you being so candid about such a sensitive topic. And I know that this episode is going to help some folks learn something and make some positive change, I think. So I'm grateful to you all.

SOW: Stop spending all your money on coffee, Sam. We'll see.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: Thanks again to Aminatou Sow. Check out her podcast. It's called "Call Your Girlfriend." Also, thanks to Hannah Seligson. Her piece in The New York Times that inspired this episode today, it's called "The New 30-Something." And of course, thanks to all the listeners who wrote us to share their stories about being tangled up with their parents' money. There's so many of you out there, and all of your stories informed this episode today. Thank you for your candor and for sharing.

All right, speaking of sharing, listeners, do not forget to share with me the best thing that's happened to you all week. To do that, just record yourself and send that voice file to me at samsanders@npr.org - samsanders@npr.org. You could hear yourself on the show.

OK, until next time, thank you for listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders. Talk soon.

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