Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m a 29-year-old health care provider living in Philadelphia. I love cooking, reading dystopian fiction, and board games! I grew up in a small city in the Midwest then moved to assorted East Coast cities for college and grad school.
For those of us who don’t know, what’s a trust fund?
A trust fund is a fund of money established by a grantor (typically parents or grandparents) to provide support to a child. This money is typically wrapped up in a series of restrictions, such as requiring permission from the parent or another trustee before it can be used or that certain amounts are only made available at certain ages.
Other requirements can be that that the funds need to be used for educational use, or that the child must have a college degree, be married, or have a child before accessing the funds. Typically trustees are parents, but can also be family friends, siblings, or financial advisers. Those financial advisers are typically involved to ensure proper investment and management of the fund though for some trust funds, the beneficiary is able to take over managing the fund.
I grew up with my mom and three siblings. My siblings are in college or working, pretty typical for their ages. My mom was a stay-at-home parent and utilized her own trust fund (as well as a Children’s Trust set up by herself and her mother to provide funds for us) to allow herself to be at home with us full time while we were growing up. She is a CPA by trade.
When we were born, she chose to move from the large city she lived to the place she grew up, because she knew it had a much lower cost of living and she would be able to use the money she had more efficiently. Because of that, I also didn’t grow up in a community where many people had a lot of money, and so I never really fell into the name brand clothes/fancy cars/new electronics way of life.
I have two trust funds. One is only for educational costs (tuition, books, etc), and that has been used to pay for my private elementary school, and for college/grad school. I do not have access to that fund, and need to request that the trustees (my mother and her friend) transfer the funds into my account.
I have access to the educational trust via trustees (my mom and another family friend). For all of my graduate school expenses, they needed to each sign a form agreeing to the amount of money for tuition, then it was transferred to my account so I could pay tuition. In college, my mother was the one who made the tuition payments from the account. Any money I don’t use for school expenses of my own transfers to my children for their school expenses.
Some of my younger siblings are not the most financially responsible people. For now, they are not as aware of the amount of money available, and provisions have been made so that they are not able to access the money as freely until they have college degrees and hit a certain age.
How much money do you get through your trust fund?
The money allows me the freedom to do the things I want to. I could go to private schools for college and grad school without being worried about being in debt for a long time. If emergencies come up, I know I can afford a last minute plane ticket.
If I got fired from my job, I could afford to take some time to look for a new job without needing to get a new one immediately. I live in a city, buy organic produce, and sometimes buy things on Amazon that I don’t really need. However, I also live in a student area, buy clothes at thrift stores, and take the bus to visit friends instead of Amtrak. I try to use as little of the money as possible, because I don’t want to blow through it, but also because I want to know that I could live without it if I needed/wanted to.
Do the people in your life know you have a trust fund?
No one in my life knows, really. I think some people know I have access to money, or that my family has some money, but I don’t think anyone realizes the amount.
I have a lot of complex emotions about having a trust fund. I feel like I shouldn’t use it, or I should give all of it away to people in my life who are struggling with debt or other financial issues. I’m a naturally frugal person (perhaps as a counter for other family members not being so aware) and don’t like to spend a lot of money. I chose to cook at home, take the bus instead of the train or flying, and shop at thrift stores.
When I choose not to do expensive things with friends, I feel like I am lying about not being able to afford it. I don’t want to make things awkward or uncomfortable for anyone. I got some negative feedback/teasing in elementary school, particularly about my mom not working, but never since then that I know of.
I think the drawbacks really depend on your personality and the community you are in. Growing up in certain areas where having a trust fund is more typical, I can see it being more acceptable. For me, I have a lot of guilt and shame about it.
I struggle with the fact that I was able to pay for school while so many of my friends will be in debt for a long time. I was able to do an Americorps program and live below minimum wage because I had the additional support from my trust. Many people I know are not able to do these things. I also tend to be a frugal person, and there are times I feel conflicted living my own lifestyle and not wanting to do things due to the cost, even though I know if I really did want to, I could afford it.
People don’t really talk about money. I don’t have much of an idea how much money my friends families have, and so I feel the need to act frugally “just like everyone else,” especially right after college. I accidentally “out” myself sometimes. Recently a friend and I were talking about how she wants to be a stay at home mom but she couldn’t understand ever needing babysitters. I mentioned that my stay-at-home mom had them sometimes, and she remembered that I had said my mom was a single parent. It then led to the “how did she support” you question, which I tried to awkwardly deflect.
If you have children, would you set up a trust fund for them?
Some of the funds I have will automatically transition to my children. Whatever is remaining in my educational fund after I finish graduate school may then only be used for my children’s educational expenses. I fully intend to use these money for them.
I do think I’d work to set up a fund for my children as well, though my salary is nowhere near what my grandfather’s was, and the cost of living where I am currently is much higher than where my mother and I grew up. I would like to know that my children wouldn’t have to worry about being able to support themselves in emergent situations but also don’t want them to become the drugs/couture/unemployed trust fund stereotype. I hope to also instill in them a sense of financial responsibility.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, friend. Do you guys have any questions for her? Have any of you inherited a significant amount of money?