My parents, the loving and supportive people they are, didn’t teach me much about personal finance. But… the few money lessons they did teach me are invaluable.
During my rebellious teenage years, most of our talks about money went to waste. I didn’t listen.
Instead, I got expensive tattoos, didn’t save, and went on trips I couldn’t afford. And yeah, got myself into some lovely credit card debt.
I just turned 25.
And as my 30’s approach… their priceless lessons and advice now circle around my mind as I scramble to get my shit together.
The Hustler A.K.A. My Mother
My mother taught me a very obvious but undeniably important lesson when it comes to personal finance and life. Yet, I don’t think even she knows what she taught me.
She taught me – if you want it, you gotta fight for it.
My parents got divorced shortly after I turned eight. My mother received primary custody of me and my two siblings.
The main reason for my parent’s divorce was my mother’s yearning to go back to school. She wanted to get a bachelor’s degree and have a career of her own.
However, my dad was less than supportive of this goal.
It caused an unmendable rift in their relationship. So… my mom, now single, got straight to work.
She enrolled in school and took on an entry-level part-time job at Home Depot.
Fast forward a few years later and not only did my mother graduate, but she graduated Summa Cum Laude at the University of Maryland.
She was our personal chauffeur, maid, chef, and our rock.
She cared for me and my siblings through it all while maintaining her job and acing her courses.
From time to time, I feel like giving up. And maybe you feel this way sometimes too.
Our dreams can seem a million miles away and when we finally muster the willpower to continue on, we almost always get thrown off course.
But I’ve learned that if you want something as bad as my mother wanted to go back to college… You HAVE to fight for it!
Money Talks With Mom
Now that I’m an adult, I love having life conversations with my mom.
As she tells me some of her stories of both past and present financial hardship, my appreciation for her and her work ethic grows.
After 15+ years she’s about to finally finish paying off her student loans this year.
I always knew my mother had student loans. But, I never knew she used them to supplement the limited income she made from her part-time job at Home Depot until recently.
Without trying, my mother taught me that certain debt can be good debt.
When taking on debt it can be scary. Honestly, it can be downright irresponsible when done without much planning or consideration.
But without those student loans, who knows who or where I’d be in life today.
Those loans helped clothe and feed me. They helped my mother buy my school supplies and became my field-trip money.
Without those student loans, my mother wouldn’t be an independent woman with a career as a second-grade teacher.
In a way, those loans are now teaching kids how to read and write, kids who will one day be important figures in our society.
We recently talked more about student loans since I might have to take some out myself. She wants me to try my very best to borrow as little as possible.
She doesn’t want them to be a burden on me as they were on her.
The Cheap Car Guy A.K.A. My Father
My father’s a quiet man. And despite the obvious gender structures he believes in, him and I get along pretty well.
I think divorcing my mom made him realize, us ladies deserve to play roles other than just mothers and wives.
Dad taught me the more concrete lessons about personal finance.
He taught me about the value of cars. Why you should never buy a new car since their value drops by about 15% each year.
Yea… new cars are not a smart investment.
In fact, my father believes in buying only used cars, in full.
He believes taking on a car payment for a new or used car is nonsense.
Speaking of which, I just finished paying off my car! Very exciting, but with hindsight, I should’ve just listened to dad.
He’s owned more than 10 cars in his almost 50 years of life and not a single one has been new.
I believe more than half, if not all, of his cars had over 100,000 miles when he bought them.
Older cars usually cost ~$5000 or less and can easily last another 100,000 miles.
Because of that, my dad swears they’re way more cost effective.
Asking For Money Advice
One day, I think I was about 20 years old, I came right out and asked my dad for financial advice.
I think I was in need of some wisdom and I’d been feeling especially broke that day.
In response, I remember him saying only a few sentences:
- He told me to pay off my credit cards at the end of every month.
- He said savings were important.
- And I needed a 401K and told me to be cheap like him.
While growing up, I certainly believed my dad was cheap. He was the king of “we’ve got food at the house,” in response to our begs and pleads driving pass McDonald’s.
When we went grocery shopping, predominantly generic brands were in our cart.
Apples, pretzels, and water bottles were the only road trip snacks allowed.
We’d drive 16 hours from Maryland to Florida many times to visit my grandma, all because airfare was too pricey.
And he’s had the same ten or so T-shirts and four pairs of dad jeans in his wardrobe from before I was born.
All of these habits were excruciatingly annoying as a child. But in retrospect, are commendable to me now.
In reality, my dad wasn’t being cheap, he was (and is) being frugal.
The way I see it, being cheap means sacrificing quality to save money in the short term. Being frugal is about having strict financial priorities with the future in mind.
I think we could all benefit from a bit of frugality every now and again.
Mistakes Are Money Lessons Too
I’ve watched both my parents be irresponsible with money.
And I’ve seen them both be annoyingly stingy with money. They’re human.
I have no idea if either of my parents are setting themselves up properly for retirement.
That’s probably a conversation I’ll need to have with them in the near future as they’re both approaching 50.
Financial FREEDOM is my goal.
You may have different goals than me but I’m sure money plays some role in at least one or two of your goals in the future. And who knows maybe financial freedom is one of your goals too!
I wanna be well-off to the point where I can take care of my parents because they did (and still do) such a great job taking care of me.
They both work hard and are phenomenal individuals. That’s why I have to pay them back and make them proud.
When raising me, they were too busy instilling different but just as important values in me besides money lessons.
Strong values and lessons like how to be a good person and care for others must’ve gotten in the way of all the personal finance lessons they’d planned on teaching me.
Regardless, I’m truly grateful for all the lessons they did teach me and I hope you’ve now learned something new from them too 🙂
Whether or not our parents are money masters or disasters, usually, their advice comes from a place of love. So listen to them from time to time. Even if that means listening to their financial horror stories and learning what NOT to do.
Then use their life experiences to make better financial decisions. Your future self will thank the younger you.
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