“You think you have it bad now?” My father declared gleefully, “Oh, just you wait! You’re sheltered here, you don’t have to worry. I live in the Real World! Now that’s tough!”
As it turns out, the hardest part of living in the Real World was culture shock.
If you were raised by nuts, chances are, you want out. You might also have no clue how to make this happen, and your parents may be trying to convince you that you can never leave. It may be true that you can’t get out the door the day you turn 18, but there are steps you can take to gain control over your life. If you’re still under 18, take note of this. You might not be able to take these steps now, but you will be able to in a few years. The more you learn in advance, the better.
Depending on your family situation, you may have never done any of these normal things, which you will now need to learn:
- Been inside a bank
- Handled money in any form
- Filled out any type of application
- Held a job you found yourself
- Been on a job interview (or even know what that is).
- Ordered from a restaurant or cafe
- Been to school
- Been adequately educated (Bible study doesn’t cover many things you should have learned. There’s nothing wrong with Bible study, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you study).
- Had a friend your own age of your own choosing
- Interacted with anyone of the opposite sex
- Had access to information your family didn’t censor.
- Shopped for clothing on your own or had any say in what you wore.
- Had any exposure to pop culture.
The first step to taking control of your own life is taking control of your finances. I was lucky in that my family taught me financial literacy. They never tried to take my money; they favored other tactics.
Homeschooling parents in particular have been known to confiscate paychecks and identifying information (such as birth certificates and social security cards). They are especially likely to do this to girls, whom they believe shouldn’t be allowed to choose even as adults. They cannot legally keep you prisoner, but they will try to make it hard for you to leave. Money is a powerful way to control someone. You are going to need a bank account that your parents can’t access. That puts you in control of your money, and that makes it much harder for your family to coerce you.
If you don’t already have your social security card and birth certificate, ask your parents for them. No matter what they tell you, it is illegal for them to withhold or destroy your identifying documents. If they resist or demand an explanation, remind them they are legally obligated to hand over your documents, and they could be fined or even arrested if they refuse. That will work on most control freaks. If it doesn’t work, and you have a sympathetic relative, ask for help. That includes the sister your mom doesn’t talk to, even if you never met her. Chances are, the falling out was due to your parents being abnormal. She might be able to provide testimony to prove your identity. The same goes for cousins, uncles, grandparents… Even if there is no one you can call, the courts can issue a subpoena. A simple blood test is enough to prove they are your parents to the courts. So, they can cough up your information or suffer the consequences.
Once you have ID, call the bank to find out what forms of ID you need to open a checking and savings account. Be sure to bring those with you. If you have a trusted friend or relative, bring them along, but don’t bring your parents or anyone who is siding with them. You don’t need anyone trying to trick you into putting their names on your accounts.
When you first walk into the bank, you will see a series of tables and/or offices. There will be a row towards the back where workers (called bank tellers) are working behind the glass. Employees will be dressed professionally and wear a name tag. Sometimes, they will approach you and ask if you need help. All you have to say is “I need to open a checking and savings account.” They will direct you from there. If no one approaches, get in line and tell the teller what you need. They will get the proper person to work with you.
Most bankers are very good at walking you through the process of opening an account. Make sure your name is the only one on the account. They may try to offer you a credit card, but I wouldn’t recommend that right away. It’s true that a credit card can help you build credit, but it can also bankrupt you if you aren’t careful. The bankers want to make money off of the credit card offers, so don’t assume they are acting in your best interest no matter how nice they are. They also don’t know your situation, nor should you divulge it. They can help you make sure only you have access to your money. As far as everything else, you will need to go elsewhere.
You will get a shiny, plastic debit card and a checkbook. It’s easy to lose track and spend more with a card, so be careful. If you spend all of your money, you won’t be moving out. Save as much as you can. Remember that unscrupulous people, family or not, may try to steal this information and drain your accounts. Don’t give out this information unless it’s for a legitimate reason, such as signing up for direct deposit at work.
Securing your money is a significant step to independence. You will need that money for rent, a car, gas clothes, food, utilities, etc., later. When you leave, you will be paying for all of that. It’s not as scary as it sounds; compared to living with your family, it’s not that bad. Freedom comes with responsibilities, but it’s worth it!
Now, keep in mind that financial literacy involves much more than I included here. Do your homework, because this post is about as basic as it gets.