Gen Z has found financial independence liberating. They don’t just take care of their own needs but want to support their parents as well
No one really likes to talk about money. And most of all, it makes for a weird topic of conversation between parents and children— especially in the Indian context. While we’ve grown up seeing movies and television shows where American parents throw their kids out to the wolves the minute they turn 18, Indian culture hinges on coddling.
According to a 2018-survey by CBRE—a global commercial real estate service—, 80% of India’s young, urban population, aged between 22 and 29, lives with their parents. But then how do some of the Gen-Zs make their way towards financial independence? What motivates them to stop relying on their parents for support, especially when the Indian culture doesn’t necessarily look down upon this dependence?
In many conversations, a host of needs surface. A significant contributor happens to be the quest for freedom. Because the money is “borrowed”, many feel restrictions on their daily autonomy. “When I relied on my parents for an allowance, I was questioned about what I spent the money on. I felt guilty when I overspent and had to borrow money. Now, I don’t feel answerable to them, nor do they question me. I recently went to Bengaluru for my convocation, and wanted to spend additional days in the city. To be able to fund the trip felt empowering,” says Deborah, a 24-year-old management consultant from New Delhi.
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While still relatively young to be playing a ‘provider’ role, some Gen Zs also feel the need to give back. Shruti Sharma, a 22-year-old Teach For India fellow, based in New Delhi, says, “My parents had always been providers and I wanted them to know that they had someone they could depend, even though they didn’t necessarily need financial support.”
This desire to support one’s parents financially is a common thread. Padmini Prasad, a 23-year-old social impact consultant, living in Mumbai, feels that becoming financially independent was her way of communicating to her parents that they don’t have to keep giving. “I want them to focus on their own comfort and luxury, to only have to think about themselves and what they want,” she says.
However, financial independence has not come easily to most Gen-Zs. For instance, Sharma finds her current income inadequate to allow her to live comfortably. However, she has managed to accommodate her needs and wants around it. “I’ve abandoned retail therapy, cut back on using cabs and autos, and limited dining out to just twice a month,” she says.
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Relying on one’s own income does more than just boost self-confidence. It also has the potential to significantly alter familial relationships. As was in Sharma’s case. “My parents have gained confidence in my ability to provide. I love taking them out for meals, which has been a gratifying experience. There’s now a deep sense of trust and confidence between us,” she adds.
Prasad also cherishes the validation she receives from her parents. “They take me a lot more seriously than they did my elder sister when she was my age, or how seriously my friends’ parents take them. They see how mature I am in comparison to my peers, and this has given them a sort of reassurance and pride,” she says.
That being said, attaining financial independence in one’s 20s continues to be a privilege of the privileged. Most financially-independent people I know also sleep easier at night knowing that their parents have their back in emergencies. And while there’s merit to being raised in a culture where parents extend support to children until adulthood, there’s also value to sharing the load with them.
Delhi-based Nona Uppal writes on love and relationships. She is on Instagram @nonauppal