Photo: Jana Kasperkevic/Business Insider
If one more person compares my generation to Lena Dunham’s troubled “Girls,” I am going to lose it.Yes, I have friends who’ve had the luxury of passing on paid internships—all I’ve done since college —and who held out for a job while their parents supported them.
But that’s not me. And to suggest that “Girls” defines my entire generation is a slap in the face to every hard working 20-something out there.
You see, I’ve never had the luxury of relying on my parents to get by. I moved to New York from Slovakia in 2000, and have supported myself ever since I turned 18.
My eastern European parents instilled in me a strong work ethic, which makes me nothing like the “Girls” on TV.
Here’s what they taught me:
Think ahead. As a teen, I longed to go to a prestigious college, but as acceptance letters poured in, so did the financial paperwork. We couldn’t afford those schools. And my parents wouldn’t allow me to get saddled with loans for the rest of my life. I attended Baruch College in New York instead, and things worked out fine.
Don’t spend money you don’t have. My parents’ idea of “living within your means” didn’t mean living within your credit limit. My father said: “Credit cards are good to lend you money for a month. But at the end of the month, you should pay it all back. No minimum payments, Jana.” Today, I’m debt-free.
Have a safety net. When I got my first check, my parents asked, “How much of that is going into your savings?” Now I get anxious when I can’t put away some of that money every month. I’ve never looked at them as a life raft.
Don’t be too proud to work your way up. Unlike Dunham’s character in the show, my parents moved away when I was 18 and insisted I support myself. Since then, I’ve been a hostess, an accountant and a restaurant manager. I even babysit on the side. In this economy, we can’t afford to snub our noses at lower-paying jobs or paid internships.
Give back. My father used to tell a story of three coins: A father earns three coins, spends one on his parents, one on himself and his wife, and another on his children. As adults, the children earn three coins then pay back the one their father spent on them by spending it on him—just as he spent the coin on his parents. Recently, I took my parents on a vacation.
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