What does a trust fund baby need to learn to take care of themselves?
August 11, 2006 11:13 AM   Subscribe

A trust fund baby messed up and doesn't have any money and/or access to family that took care of them. So now they are working at an average 20something wage. What common lifeskills do they need to learn to take care of themselves?

This person was brought up with everything taken care of for them. All they learned to do was be a passable student at an exclusive school. So I am thinking things like - learn to change a tire, how to wash dishes, laundry, ... etc. They need to learn how to take care of themselves now. I would like to give a friend some resources that would help them to make help with self-reliance. Things just keep coming up that boggle me, and I would like to preempt situations that are going to come up in the future.
posted by the giant pill to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Assuming this person has _asked_ you for suggestions, you could give them a list that includes things like:

- budgeting (personal finance)
- basic cooking
- basic housekeeping
- basic car ownership
- know the environment (where stores are, the main roads, etc. - including stores that he/she may not have visited before)

Except for the last, most of these topics might be covered in a kind of book aimed at kids just going off to college.

You might also try (if you have time for this and want some fun, and if your friend has a sense of humor) works of fiction based around the premise of aliens/ancient people landing/thawing out in our world, and baffled by modern society. For some reason I keep thinking of "Mork from Ork". Wonder how that show has held up over time...
posted by amtho at 11:51 AM on August 11, 2006

I'd sign him up to meet with a credit counselor. He's at huge risk of becoming a credit addict, I'd imagine.
posted by miss tea at 11:51 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

They need to learn to make a budget and pay bills on time. Mixing up your colors & lights leaves you in pink underwear, but flubbing your finances leaves you living in a van down by Real Life Ain't Funny.
posted by sonofslim at 11:53 AM on August 11, 2006 [7 favorites]

I'd highly recommend a personal finance course. The one I took went over a lot of stuff other than budgets, and it was incredibly useful. He/she can probably find one offered at the local community college or at an adult continuing education center.

Is your friend internet savvy? You can find out how to do just about anything online.
posted by moira at 11:56 AM on August 11, 2006

Your question's gender-neutral, but if the person in question is female, something like this or this might be helpful. Three Black Skirts has a good chapter devoted to money management, which will be critical for your friend.

Basic life skills wrapped up in a nice pink package should be gold for any former trust fund baby.

(And oh, sonofslim? Funniest. Answer. Ever.)
posted by timetoevolve at 12:11 PM on August 11, 2006

A couple of other books: 1, 2.
posted by moira at 12:20 PM on August 11, 2006

Can you give any more specific examples? Are we talking "Money management", "Cutting coupons", or a "Doesn't know how to boil water" sort of thing?
posted by Anonymous at 12:22 PM on August 11, 2006

I like the money management ideas people have mentioned, but in case you're more on the laundry and tire topics, here's some thoughts:

It may be more than called for, but could you consider asking the friend to spend a few days with you for (shall we say) a sort of "boot camp"? Show him/her how you handle these tasks and challenges in your own daily life -- how to plan a meal, how to shop for groceries, how to cook, how to clean, etc, etc.

How to shop -- in the sense of comparison shopping, choosing good value for one's needs, etc -- is a whole sub-set of financial matters that you could demonstrate. Take her/him to Wal-Mart or Target with $50 cash and see what you can buy. :-)

How to change a tire is o.k., though perhaps he/she would have AAA? More common tasks for the car are checking and addind oil and fluids, checking the air pressure, other really routine maintenance.
posted by Robert Angelo at 12:40 PM on August 11, 2006

The person could probably use help learning how to cook for themselves, how to foodshop for themselves, how to do laundry, and how to balance a checkbook. Can you help them with that?

True story: my sister got a call from a very wealthy friend. The friend's maid was away unexpectedly, and she needed to do some grocery shopping. She was calling my sister to find out whether the $900 in cash she had would be enough for the run to the supermarket, or whether she'd need more than that.
posted by alms at 12:48 PM on August 11, 2006 [7 favorites]

Except for the last, most of these topics might be covered in a kind of book aimed at kids just going off to college.
posted by amtho at 1:51 PM CST

Those are the reasons you go off to college.

I think you should help them if they ask for it. If not, you're doing them no favors with the handholding. Just another person doing something for them.
posted by ninjew at 1:34 PM on August 11, 2006

I think money mangement in general will be the biggest issue. First thing to tackle is porportion. For example a third should be spent on housing, a tenth on saving, etc.

Second, meal planning is huge. How to shop for appropriate amounts so you don't end up with bread and milk coming out your ears and going bad. A basic five ingrediant cook book would be great.

Gosh, there is so much. Real Simple has handy cleaning schedules to keep you on track.

this may be the best thing that happened to her! Its all good experience for being a professional as well.
posted by stormygrey at 1:58 PM on August 11, 2006

You might also consider teaching or talking about doing simple household repairs. Not knowing whether your friend lives in a house or apartment or with roommates or by himself/herself, even if there is a maintenance person it sometimes is faster and even necessary to do simple repairs yourself.

For example, we just had the drain pipe pop off from the drain of our garbage disposer. Granted we own our home, but instead of calling a plumber, my partner and I spent 10 minutes to clean the thing up, put the pipe back on, and tighten everything down.

Much better than waiting for someone to come and take care of it for you....

...what I said about changing tires: I'd rather do that myself, too.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:02 PM on August 11, 2006

Another vote for money management skills.

I was once at a grocery store and the two guys in front of me were trying to outfit their entire apartment (broom, cleaning agents, candles from the Mexican food aisle, picture frames, plants, patio furniture...) The cashier and I gave each other looks as they clearly didn't have a clue, especially when there's a Target a mile away. The only thing they bought that was appropriate for a grocery store purchase was beer. The total came out to roughly $300+ and the cashier had to help them figure out how to use the card swiper.

Other than that, I think a lot of common lifeskills are best acquired the old fashioned way - live and learn. They will figure out the benefits of a cleaning schedule and the pitfalls of bad laundry sorting on their own soon enough.
posted by like_neon at 2:20 PM on August 11, 2006

Tell them to start reading Snopes and other skeptical resources to develop a sense of when someone is lying to them. People with no life skills often fall into credit card traps through bad money management, sure, but they also end up wasting time, money and energy on various types of scams and cons. Everything from ponzi schemes to health-related hokums.
posted by frogan at 2:20 PM on August 11, 2006

Things a formerly-wealthy person now living in the Real World will need to learn how to do, and fast:

- LEARN HOW TO DEAL WITH MONEY. In my experience, trust fund kids who have had their bills and credit cards and rent paid for them all their lives have no idea about really, really basic money stuff that kids their own age in other income brackets know far better. Don't assume a question is too basic or obvious for them; lend a hand, quiz them, and make sure they know all about "real" money: learn what a checking account is, how to properly write a check, how a checking account is different from a savings account, what an ATM withdrawal limit is, when (time/days) banks are closed, why paying down your credit card completely every single month is so important (learn about compounding interest), how to set up utility bills so they automatically deduct from your account, how to figure out how much they should be spending on rent each month.

- FOOD. Former trust-funders need to learn to cook basic stuff, and fast. Eating out or doing take out for every meal, which they're probably accustomed to, will be way too expensive. Start with easy stuff that doesn't even need heating up, like sandwiches, or microwaveable mac and cheese, or oatmeal. Watch a TV cooking show, any TV cooking show, and really pay attention and try to replicate that meal. But stop going to restuarants or ordering take out so damn much.

- RANDOM STUFF MOST PEOPLE KNOW. How to do laundry (hint: you need quarters! start saving them!). How to iron. How to fill your own gas tank! Rich-people areas have full-service gas stations; an ex-trust-funder may actually not know how to pop their car's gas tank door, manage the billing on the side of the pumps, and fill the car. How to clean up your shit; there's no maid there anymore, so wash your plates and utensils right after you use them, or they will build up in the sink and get nasty and no one will want to touch the pile. Take the trust-funder for a field trip with you on local public transportation - the bus, the subway! - because there's a decent chance he/she has never been on a bus or subway, doesn't know how to use a MetroCard or what the subway hours are, and doesn't know where to actually put the bus fare or how to push the button for an upcoming stop.

- RANDOM STUFF MOST PEOPLE *DON'T* KNOW. "To summer" is not a verb in most people's vocabularies. Ex-trust-funders may wish to re-evaluate how they speak and what they speak about, to better match their new circumstances.

- WORK. Finally, now that ex-trust-fund kid is on his/her own, make sure that they really think about work, and think about ways to move up the ladder or continue their specialized education in their field. Lots of kids who grow up wealthy don't pay enough attention at school or college--I don't mean getting good grades per se, I mean thinking about specifically what kind of job they want, where they see themselves. They don't spend enough time thinking about hard career questions, because they know (or think) they always have the cushion of inherited wealth to fall back on. Then, bammo!, they're in the Real World, and it's hard to deal. There's the tendency to think that cushion is still there, even when it's not. Focusing on work is crucial, for now and especially for the future.

Disclaimer: I know a lot of trust fund people; a lot of these examples come from real life. They can be very, very sheltered. Thank you for being a good friend; your buddy is probably totally disoriented and upset right now, and a little help and encouragement from you can make a big difference in his/her new life.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:21 PM on August 11, 2006 [3 favorites]

Encourage the friend not to see it as a loss. Think of it as being more connected to the world. Like riding a bike.

If the family sheltered this person, left them unprepared for the world, and then cast them out--well, maybe the person is better off.

Learn how to self-rescue.
Watch your credit rating.
Comfort is overrated and often counterproductive.

Be a good citizen on paper.
Make friends, support each other.
Be resourceful.
Learn to be handy.

More specifically:

don't grocery shop while hungry
learn public transportation
book things in advance
don't buy gum at 7-11.
Buy your books and music used.

I'd love to hear what has come up so far.

Concur with Asparagirl, the disclaimer particularly. I know a prep-schooler who bought a carton of orange juice, put it in his desk drawer, and was surprised when it went bad. Even for a kid, that was remarkable.
posted by Phred182 at 2:29 PM on August 11, 2006 [3 favorites]

I've been living on my own for nine years, and I never got a weekend course in life-skills. I agree with ninjew, be available if your friend needs help with specific things, but you really can't teach someone to be an adult. You just have to let them be one.
posted by donajo at 2:33 PM on August 11, 2006

I agree that the only real way to learn is by doing, but here's some brainstorming about what things might come up:

There are different soaps for washing dishes by hand vs. in the dishwasher. This was the big one I remember my ex-trustfund friend discovering the hard way. Hand dishsoap in the dishwasher = bubbles everywhere.

Food prep surfaces and equipment, like cutting boards and knives, must also be washed with soap, not just rinsed. (and similar basic food safety like cross-contamination, esp if the person will be cooking with meats or seafood.)

Different kinds of scrubbies, sponges, etc are suitable for different tasks.

Vegetables, including pre-packed salads, should be rinsed thoroughly before using.

Best basic cooking skills: Teach them to cook pasta and rice, and how to sautee onions and garlic in olive oil and add chopped veggies of whatever kind, or canned beans, to that. Teach them a few ways to cook eggs and potatoes. Teach them to keep anything flammable, including flour and cloth oven-mitts, well away from a gas stovetop. Teach them not to leave cooking things alone (as they get more experience they can ease off this, but for now, play it safe).

Go with them to the grocery store a few times, for lessons in how to choose ripe fruits and veg, good-quality meats etc. How to compare prices. How to read ingredient labels maybe. How to avoid impulse purchases. How fast things will go bad, so how much you can get at a time.

Make sure they have smoke detectors in their place. Teach them how to turn off the smoke detector if it goes off as a result of a minor cooking mishap.

Show them how to read the care labels on clothes and bedding etc, so they don't try to wash things that shouldn't go in the machine. Elastic things, including bras and elastic-waisted underwear, will wear out faster if you put them in the dryer; it's good to have a rack inside the house for drying such things. Don't put all-wool items in the dryer. Don't put shoes in the washing machine (no kidding, but I knew a guy...).

Agree with the public transit and car care suggestions above. How to replace even basics like wiper fluid in the car.

What areas of your city are reasonably safe vs. which ones are more sketchy. What kind of shoes are good for walking long distances in. How much cash it's reasonable to carry around.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:19 PM on August 11, 2006

Also, what things can and can't go down the kitchen sink drain. What to do with used cooking fats.

Never mix bleach-based and ammonia-based cleaning products.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:21 PM on August 11, 2006

Never mix bleach-based and ammonia-based cleaning products.

Oh Geez, my mother did that. "Bleach cleans stuff. Ammonia cleans stuff. Together, they should clean the hell out of stuff!"
posted by frogan at 3:25 PM on August 11, 2006 [2 favorites]

Record-keeping for taxes. When their W-2 form comes in the mail, they must keep it; ditto any 1099 stuff from stocks or savings accounts. They should set up a simple filing system (maybe just one accordion folder for now, each bill has its own pocket, once the bill is paid it goes in the folder; tax stuff has its own folder where it can go until needed).

Car insurance, renter's insurance, AAA if they drive a lot.

How to distinguish genuine bills from fakey junkmail scams. Why they should never use the "credit card checks" that come with their credit card bill each month. Why they should not talk to telemarketers at all ("thanks but no thanks." Click.).
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:35 PM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Do they know well enough what's expected at their job? Examples: If you are sick, you have to call in and let someone know. You can't be late or leave early or take long lunches or run errands whenever you want. Don't argue with your boss. Don't go barefoot in the office because your feet are hot. You cannot take a nap at work. Etc.

All taken from experience from a trust-fund young woman who worked in my office for awhile.
posted by desuetude at 3:51 PM on August 11, 2006

Not having other people at their beck and call is something your friend needs to learn about real soon. Tell them about google and the public library. Limit your availability to one request a week and let them sink or swim the rest of the time. Teaching a man to fish.......

Money management is really the only area I'd even consider proactively doing anything. I think everyone can benefit from that.
posted by fshgrl at 5:33 PM on August 11, 2006

Teach him/her how to use AskMetafilter.
posted by deborah at 7:20 PM on August 14, 2006 [3 favorites]

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