Tess Vigeland: Let’s go to a slightly younger demographic now and ask: When does your kids’ money become their own? Commentator Tim Bedore had to contemplate this recently.
Tim Bedore: My 13-year-old daughter, Claire, made this big announcement at dinner: Her cousin Laura, college sophomore, just posted on Facebook, “Daddy cried when he saw my first tattoo, but said he loved me anyway.”
For some reason, the first thing Claire wanted to ask was “Mom, would Uncle Terry really cry?” My wife laughed and said, “If my brother saw his daughter with a tattoo, that Laura paid for with his money, Uncle Terry would never stop crying.”
Being 13, Claire’s mind responded with this gem, “I’m sure Laura spent her own money on the tattoo.” Not being 13, I said, “Claire, I can speak for Uncle Terry and assure you, there is no such thing as ‘Laura’s own money.'”
Claire did not like my take on her cousin’s situation and said, “Laura worked… some… last summer? Why wasn’t the tattoo money that money?”
“Because working “some” last summer doesn’t get you within screaming distance of paying for… even… “some” of college, Claire. Right now, you have all of $300 in the bank. If you go to a college that costs only $300, you have your own money. Otherwise you don’t.”
But, I had to ask myself, when does our money stop being our money? When does Claire get to stop paying us back with good behavior, as determined by us, for what was once our money, otherwise known as her future college tuition? My first answer was “Never,” but that’s unrealistic.
And really, there is no answer. It’s a giant gray area. If Claire pays for 18 percent of her tuition, receives her diploma, walks over to a tattoo artist on the stage and gets “Summa Cum Laude” tattooed on her forehead, I’d be thrilled she got great grades, but angry I paid for most of that tattoo. Yet, if she pays for 98 percent of her tuition, a more obnoxious oak tree growing out of her gluteal cleft tattoo somehow seems more acceptable because I’m only in for 2 percent of it. Certainly, I didn’t tell her that.
Well, it was all a big misunderstanding, there is no tattoo. What Laura posted on Facebook are the lyrics to a Miranda Lambert song. But, thanks to her cousin, Claire, at least for now, thinks us funding her education means us never underwriting any part of a tattoo.
Vigeland: Tim Bedore is a stand-up comedian living in Minneapolis.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.