Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Bank of Mom

When I was growing up, my parents had one income, five kids and no spare cash. It was just understood that once you hit eighteen, you were going to need an income of your own. My older brothers lived at home for a few months after they started working, and then they joined the military. I went off to college on the bountiful grants, scholarships, and really cheap loans available to members of the Baby Boom generation, the same whiny ass generation that is rapidly developing amnesia in its old age and thinks it made it on its own with no handouts. My younger brother did the same.

My son, however, was reared with a different set of expectations. I started saving before he was born to make sure he could go to college loan free. With only one of him and four wage-earner parents (he does have two step-siblings), he had a pretty cushy life. He did start earning his own way even before he left college, working twenty hours a week and full time summers at a computer job that paid well more than minimum wage to pay his living expenses while his parents paid tuition, fees and books. I was surprised he made it through college given how much he hated school and how much he could earn without a degree, but he persisted. He has been self-supporting ever since, for the most part, but every so often when he does get in a jam, he relies on the Bank of Mom.

From what I can gather, polling friends and relatives, he is not alone in this. They all make occasional-to-frequent small loans to offspring who don’t seem to have emergency funds. Mine seems to be at the head of the pack when it comes to paying back in a timely manner, too. So my fears of enabling a dependent lifestyle seem unfounded, especially since I’ve only loaned him money about four times in ten years and it’s all been paid back.

I can certainly understand why the Bank of Mom is an attractive alternative to other banking options. The Bank of Mom does not demand collateral. The Bank of Mom will even make you an interest free loan to pay back the high interest credit card bills you ran up wining and dining your college girlfriend who then dumped you for a medical student. The Bank of Mom is open at 2 in the morning when you are stuck in an airport in Paris because you forgot to tell your bank you’d be overseas for several months and they shut down your debit card over those funny looking charges. The Bank of Mom was actually open because she was awake with abdominal pains that had her wondering if she needed to go to the emergency room, but at least she wasn’t awakened from a sound sleep. After half an hour of dealing with the airline, the pain went away anyway, so apparently it was nothing serious. 

The Bank of Mom does have a pesky habit of posting, “Did you make it home okay?” on your Facebook wall when she hasn’t heard from you after paying for your airline ticket, but at least she doesn’t charge interest.

The Bank of Mom also doesn’t charge picky exchange fees when you and all your money are in London and you get a reminder of a bill you still owe back in the U.S. The Bank of Mom didn’t even demand a coherent explanation of what the bill was for.

 And when the Bank of Mom sends you birthday and Christmas cards, they are picked out especially for you and not part of a mass mail out of hundreds or thousands of similar cards. A dozen or so similar cards, tops.

So for those of you who still deal with the Bank of Mom, or its affiliate, the Bank of Dad, I make a plea. In exchange for the non-existent interest, the convenient hours, the outstanding customer service, and the speed with which a loan can be arranged, extend a little tolerance for the loan officer who posts “Did you make it home yet?” on your Facebook wall. Before you start complaining how that embarrassed you in front of your friends, ask yourself, where were those friends at 2 in the morning when you needed the loan?               


  1. *grin* I will admit to having used The Parental Bank once while overseas, for the same debit-card reasons as your son. Which would have annoyed myself and my now-husband less if we hadn't (a) told the bank we were going to be overseas, and which countries we were going to be in and (b) the bank had actually bothered to look at the currency being exchanged before assuming from place names that it was fraudulent activity. Seriously here, there's more than one location named "Liverpool" in the world.

    After spending several hours on the phone to the actual bank (always fun from the other side of the world), who would only undo the hold on the card if we agreed to cover any further charges that were later found to be fraudulent (um, no) we ended up phoning now-husband's parents and getting them to put money onto our emergency backup credit card so we could actually sleep somewhere other than the airport floor for the next two weeks. We paid them back in the next six months after returning (our trip unfortunately coincided with a drop in currency exchange rates, not in our favour, and we ended up with a bigger debt than anticipated) and are still grateful that we didn't have to spend two weeks on airport floors!

  2. This is awesome, and reminded me of my own parents. Mind if I send them a link?

  3. @isabelcooper, feel free to send them a link, no doubt accompanied by your copious thanks for their help?

    @lsn, I'm sure your parents preferred helping you out of a jam to having you sleep in the airport, too.

    To be fair to my poor, shortly after he complained about my Facebook post, he called and apologized and said he realized I was only concerned about him.