Financial Fairytales versus Romantic Fairytales (A Rant)*

I’ve spent the day rather frustrated on behalf of a friend.
It’s about poverty, and it’s about class.
I won’t give many details, it’s not really my story to tell, but I figure the frustration is mine to have and share.
And I am indeed very frustrated. My friend, another anxious person, was told that it was a fairytale to want to get married while still a student, and when my friend has been in a partnership for about the same number of years I’ve been with my husband.
The person who said this to my friend seems completely clueless about how much more a fantasy the financial fairytales they put stock in are.

*(It is worth noting at this point, though it’s probably already late to do so that this rant is not entirely about my friends situation, a large portion of it is about what that reminds me of, and the general archetype of person who seems to have the views held in the situation my friend faces.)

In our day and age, with more and more students facing debts that they may never be able to justify having (as in they will not be able to have the job they intended when they applied for student loans to begin with), and with job security being reduced to meaning merely “having a job”, it is silly to put the rest of life on hold while waiting for “financial security” which may never come.

Yet here we are, with these ideals floating around that everyone should have a job, a house, a nest egg. Preferably before you get married or shortly there after, or before you have children which ever comes first. (Who am I kidding? These people expect marriage first.)
Having these things, in even your late 20’s is very unlikely. At least for most people, unless(!) they have parents who are already financially well off.

Having well off parents means you have the opportunity to ascend the ranks of ‘peon worker’ all the way up to ‘someone with a career’ more easily.
If you had your schooling paid for you’d have no wait time to get into school and that makes it more likely.
If you had to pay for school, but didn’t have had to pay for your living space, you’ve got an extra advantage.
If you paid for living space your parents may still have helped you pay for food, or your phone, or other significant bills.
Lastly, if you paid for all of these things but you are on good terms with your affluent parents, you still have an advantage: You know that you have/had something to fall back on if everything else failed.
That last one is really important actually because there is a lot of stress about the day to day that can be put on hold if you know that “well I can always ask my family if I’m in a really tight space”.
That is a luxury, and not everyone has that.
I don’t.

My friend sadly doesn’t either. Yet somehow ze partner’s parents seem to think that living without a distinct plan to pay off debts is a “Fairytale”.
(In this case having an indistinct plan means “finish school and try to get a job in my field” — I frankly don’t know what a distinct plan would even look like, but that general plan wasn’t good enough for ze parents.)
In fact having debts and trying to have a life at all is seemingly ‘unconscionable’ to them.
Well grand for them, they are middle class enough to not realize their own expectations are the fairytale.
(Stable job and savings before marriage. Are you kidding?)
It is equally a fairytale to believe that your little princess or prince is going to find another middle class (preferably debt free) prince or princess to marry.
Sorry, not likely.
The odds are against it says the magic 8 ball, and in this case reality agrees.
We, the impoverished are greater in number. Not because we’re “breeders” but because more and more of our country is becoming impoverished.
(In school I had exposure to rich and poor families alike. The poor families had about the same number of children as the rich ones 2 or 3. It’s anecdotal, but I couldn’t find actual stats based on the two vectors of birth-rate and wealth.)
So the likelihood that your little princess or prince will find another of their ilk is shrinking.

Let’s say they did eventually, there are a bunch of steps in between which are being ignored:
First they have to find someone at all (and for people who “wider nets” this is still not always easy; so when you have a rapidly narrowing net how do you think this is going to go?)
Then they have to get along (which is far trickier than it sounds)
Next, they have to actually be up to your standards in all other ways than just wealth. (Oh, what? You thought there weren’t ‘naughty’ princesses and princes out there? Think again.)

It’s a ridiculous standard to try and set for your child, to assume they should wait to live until they meet your personal vision of economic achievement in life and partnership.
It is, a fairytale.
A doomed to fail tale.
And it’s classist as fuck.

Would you like to know what’s not a fairytale?
To know that you’d be alright with cheaper options as long as it lets you move on with life, like a courthouse wedding.
Staying with the person you’ve already established half a decades relationship with without harassment or interference from parties not within that relationship.
To expect some modicum of respect on a human level and not a focus on the class barrier.
Being willing to be flexible while pursuing goals, knowing that some types of planning just aren’t possible without detailed information that crystal balls just refuse to give up for some reason. (hardy-har-har — no, really planning solidly for ones financial future is very difficult while being a student. You have all the hopes and dreams, but they may well be totally dashed even if you are successful in school.)
It’s also not a fairytale to know that debt is a matter of course in our society, and that as a result, if you actually want to try and work towards a career you are likely to end up in debt.
Expecting that you will find most fields of work rapidly declining in number of accepted applicants and therefore not basing the whole of the rest of life around work.
Living, and trying to further your goals in life without artificial constraints.

Sounds foolhardy and romantic to you?
Then perhaps you ought to go buy yourself a castle, it’ll attract the people you want for your child a lot faster than trying to force them into behaving like your little fiscal storybook narrative were true.

People this clueless as to their classism make me angry.
I’m curious, what other other assumptions (especially classist, or parent made) have you run into?

*made a couple edits for wording/clarity

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3 thoughts on “Financial Fairytales versus Romantic Fairytales (A Rant)*

  1. You may well have seen this already, but just in case:
    http://www.upworthy.com/9-out-of-10-americans-are-completely-wrong-about-this-mind-blowing-fact-2

    And back to your post … for a perspective from another nation: In Australia, in theory, a university education is accessible to everyone who qualifies for entrance. You can pay *heavily* subsidized fees upfront, or get a loan from the government, which you only start paying back via the tax system when your earnings top a certain threshold. However, the support given to full-time students is basically too low to live on, so the factors you refer to in your post still impact on a person’s capacity to participate. Of course, indigenous Australians and persons from low socioeconomic backgrounds are grossly under-represented in tertiary education.

    The real killer, debt-wise, is the cost of housing in Australia. We own a place in the country but rent in the city; there’s no point selling the place we own – we’d never be able to buy a place in the city within cooee of where we’d like to live. There’s a lot of talk around about how people in their twenties will be “renting for life”. Personally, I think housing prices in Australia are just obscene, so haven’t been terribly worried about this, but then a friend pointed out that without a home, how are you going to fund your place in an aged care facility? This is generally how people make the transition into aged care. It’s a long way off, but it’s a worry.

    So that’s my two cent’s worth 🙂 don’t even get me started on refugee rights, indigenous health, and the education gaps between “good” and “bad” suburbs!

    • That is a video I saw before it made the rounds on facebook, it gives me shivers, but I adore it.
      Myself, I’m all in favour of a guaranteed basic income, or negative income-tax, combined with truly affordable public housing. Turning homelessness into a specter of a the past.

      Probably as good a spot as any to make the national note of being my being Canadian. 😀
      So some things are a little different than in the states, we do have some more ways of handling student loans, but people are on the hook for them right away, and they can’t claim bankruptcy on them for at least ten years after they stop receiving money. (There’s talk of increasing that number.
      Which to me is ridiculous, it’s clear that the only reason people can’t pay them off is because the sums are through the damned roof to begin with)
      There’s more than one type of loan too, they have the regular ones, and they have the ones which are more strictly controlled because they are only ‘half loans’ meaning the government pays for part of the schooling costs.
      The money that people get from the latter to live on is alright for a singleton, but it’s abysmal if you have a child. If your spouse gets minimum wage, then they are somehow making “too much money” and the amount you get is cut.
      And since you have to pay off most of it anyways, cutting the funds when you need them is just ridiculously harmful and may stop a persons ability from completing a course.
      It’s a hellish system intended to be difficult, so as to try and coral people using student loans “inappropriately”, which is exactly as ridiculous and pointless as it sounds.

      Housing costs, uggh.
      Just across the border, less than half an hour from where I am, there are houses for sale in the states for 100,000 – I’m sure that looks high to some people, but here you would be VERY lucky to get a studio apartment with 300-400 square feet or less in the shittiest part of town, for that cost.
      BC’s housing costs, at least in the most populace area, are exorbitant, and there is much the same talk of people my age (mid twenties) never being able to own even an apartment in the city. (in the suburbs it might be possible to have a mortgage on an apartment or a condo, but you won’t be done paying it off by the time you’re in retirement.)
      And any of that is IF you can actually get a mortgage-loan to begin with.

      Yet it’s expected that we 20 somethings try, because our parents and grandparents managed. (At a time when the dimes were REAL silver and you could work for minimum wage and still pay off a car and go to school at the same time, oh and have the potential to go from ‘bagging boy’ to district manager if you “kept at it” Scoff, yeah, I think it’s safe to say that was a different era)

      My parents never owned a house, they could have, but they never tried. I wish they had.
      So if I want a home (and I do, as unrealistic as it may be) I’ll likely have to either get very lucky on one which was previously foreclosed, or move away from my family and friends out to the sincere boonies. Where most people are a lot more closed minded and you have to own a car for even basic shopping because the infrastructure is zilch.

      I’m actually very curious to hear about education gaps in Australia, how do you guys manage your education funding, is it a flat rate? Is it based on population, or…? I know very little about it.

      • Oh wow, education funding.
        Well, primary and secondary education are handled by each state, so that’s one big messy plateful of politics 🙂
        Tertiary education – at least, the universities – are funded by the Federal government. The fees you pay depend on the course you do, for example, medicine requires higher fees than an arts degree, but I believe the HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme; Australian politicians seem to imbibe Orwell over breakfast) fees are pretty standard between institutions. I could be wrong, but, for instance, I think if you study science at Melbourne University it will cost you as much as to study science at Flinders University. HECS can be paid upfront, before the start of the academic year, in which case you get a discount; or you can defer the payment, in which case you pay a higher rate of tax once your income passes a certain threshold. If you already have one degree, for example a Masters, and you want to do another one at the same level (a second Masters), you can still borrow the money to pay the fees but the scheme is different – Fee HELP (I can’t remember what the letters stand for). Payback options are the same.
        We don’t have many ‘private’ universities in Australia. The fees to attend them are much higher, probably more in line with the American system. I don’t really believe in private universities so I don’t know much about their fee structures.
        There’s another stream of tertiary education called TAFE (technical and further education). This is where you go to learn plumbing, haircutting, etc. TAFEs are funded at the state level and the fees to students are much, much lower than for attending universities – which these days seems a little unfair, as plumbers can earn so much more than people with PhDs! Oh, PhDs are usually free. I forgot that bit, probably because I’ve not done one yet.
        So, basically, we’re pretty well organized – or we were, after a raft of reforms in the 60s and 70s. Now, of course, we’re gradually undoing all that good work 🙂
        I’ll rant about the funding to primary and secondary levels another time …

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