Researchers will tell you that we are all basically a combination of the beliefs, habits, and opinions of the people we surround ourselves with and spend the most of our time in life with. That starts in your childhood and is the unreal influence that a parent has on a child. Think about it. You probably believed almost everything you believed as a kid because of your parents through at least the first 10 years of your life.
Unless you came of age in the ’60s like me, that probably continued right on through adulthood, because everyone knows that my generation was the dawning of “The Age of Aquarius” and was a totally enlightened generation, a totally innovative and newly ordained very special generation with all the answers to all the questions of the ages…not!!! We just thought we were that at the time.
But seriously, when you really think about it, it does seem true that you probably get most of your opinions just because of how your closest influences (like Mom) think and that gets reinforced constantly by them. At least that’s my “uneducated” opinion here.
Why Does This Happen?
One significant reason this happens is because of their example and modeling behaviors. As we recognize those aspects, we seek acceptance and try to emulate them in our own lives and vice versa. The conversations we have together and the advice we share over and over become part of us. The more quality time we spend with these people, the more nuggets of their wisdom we begin to hear and learn from them and we really do begin to believe in them. Their gems of wisdom begin to shape our lives and not too surprisingly that includes our personal financial ideas and practices too. Those personal finance ideas eventually become the corner stones of our personal finance practices.
What I Learned About Personal Finance From My Mother
1. I need to keep a monthly budget and use a monthly spending plan
I was introduced to the idea of budgeting and having a spending plan back when I was a teen. That’s when I first came to the realization that you had to watch your money in order to survive in the world of the middle class that I grew up in. I guess before that I always thought that everyone was on the same level financially and that all you had to do as a kid was to ask Mom or Dad and bingo, whatever you wanted magically appeared. Mom taught me otherwise and started to show me those ropes by taking me grocery shopping with her and letting me help with the checking account and bill paying every month when I was barely the age of double digits…10.
She specifically taught me that in addition to a monthly budget that requires detailed tracking (to the frustration of many), a spending plan was needed and it provides flexibility as it offers more of a snapshot or moment-in-time glance of your current spending. The knowledge and lessons learned from the snapshot view of income vs. expenses provides a valuable insight for course correction when you need it.
The idea I learned is to first determine your monthly income. Second, subtract your fixed monthly costs. The money left over is your monthly discretionary income. With that number in hand, you are in a good place to determine where you’d like that money to go. I learned that maybe getting the top 16-speed racing bike at the store wasn’t really “in our spending plan” right now and that the 26-inch Schwinn ”peddle and foot brakes” would have to be my vehicle of choice for a good long while! I learned it before I made a spending mistake!
2. You are never too poor to give and help others in need
Growing up, there was not a lot of excess money around our home. In fact, only years later did I begin to hear the stories and understand how tight our money really was at times. I never really knew that a lot of my clothing as a young child was the hand-me-downs from my Dad’s boss’ son who was a little older than I was because we didn’t have enough money for me to get brand new stuff. Later on, when my Mom started working at Sears, almost everything I ever owned came from the Sears “surplus” store purchased at really big employee discounts. I guess that’s where I also learned that clothing is more or less for function for me and not for fashion only. I still think 99% that way today.
Those money conditions explain to me now why my Mom spent so much time entering so many local raffle contests and sent in cards to every radio show in our area to try to win things like a new washer, or a trip to see my older sister in Texas (she got married when I was still a kid). I learned to do it too and spent hours calling in to WIP sports radio in Philadelphia trying to win baseball game tickets that we couldn’t really afford. Lucky for me, my obsession paid off several times and I got to go just enough to keep the faith in that system. And yet, through it all, my parents lived with a simple philosophy on money and generosity: we will always give to charity because there are always people who need it more than we do, and they taught me to do the same.
3. I learned to never take a job just because of the money
After college, I began the search for my first real full-time job. I remember at that time seeking counsel from both my parents. I wasn’t having a lot of luck in finding any work. It was not the best of times for finding a good job back in the early ’70s when I graduated. Of course earning a salary and thinking big money was on my mind. I was taught to always “consider the money, but never let it be the sole determining factor”. Mom said to me many times to me not to let the money factor dictate my decision. Some of the best advice I have ever received was this:
“A job that pays too little or takes advantage of you will add a lot of stress and worry to your life. It will keep you from doing your best and if you let the money be the most important determining factor, you may never fulfill all of your real talents, skills, and strengths. It won’t ever help you make any positive difference in this world.”
Pretty smart stuff, huh?
I have always tried, throughout my life, to consider income in the jobs I have taken because I had to think about providing for my family, but I have never allowed it to be the most determining factor. I have literally no regrets concerning the path that my Mom’s career advice took me.
My Mom’s example and her advice molded my life and my view of money. No matter how tight my money situation has ever been over the years, I don’t think I have ever missed the opportunity to give away at least a small portion of my paycheck or thought long and hard about what I can afford to spend on some discretionary item. This is not because I haven’t made some big money. Quite the contrary, it is because I learned from a young age that being a responsible person about personal finances has rewards of its own and I am not just entitled to things because I want them. I think that’s a lesson we all can learn.
What lessons have you learned from your parents about personal finance?