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Gender Differences and Money

October 18th, 2006 at 08:07 pm

When I was growing up, my dad worked out of the house, for a paycheck, and my mother worked in the house -- managing the household of nine kids. Yes, we did have a maid for much of my childhood, who did laundry and housecleaning. My mom handled the daily needs of the kids and did all the shopping and cooking.

She also handled the money, as far as I can remember. She may have brought some money into the marriage, but it was likely only capital, like stocks inherited from her father. I don't know this for sure, but I've heard things over the years that made this seem likely.

But she also was the only one who I remember handlling money. She handed out allowance. She was the one who did the shopping, write the checks, and balanced the checkbook. I remember my dad asking her for money for the day. He brought home the paycheck, which she probably deposited. And then he would get his walking around money from her.

I don't know what sort of influence this had on me. I've read recently about how children's attitudes about money are shaped by their parents. But when I think of my parents, I think of how well they handled it. I never remember an argument about money in front of the kids (but they weren't the arguing types even behind cloed doors). They encouraged us all to work as soon as we could and all of us had jobs in high school. Most of us went to college, with generous help from our parents.

I don't remember too many specific conversations about money with my parents. I know they were concerned when I had my heart set on going to an expensive private school for college, but they didn't talk me out of it. I remembrer post-college, when I was working a minimum wage job, having a short conversation with my dad where he warned me about the perils of credit cards, a conversation I didn't take to heart.

So, they say the acorn doesn't fall from the tree, but this acorn rolled far far away.

Parents and Money

October 11th, 2006 at 08:19 pm

In recent weeks I've read a bit about how people think about money and how your views about money are shaped by what you heard about money growing up.

Which astounds me, in that I grew up in a healthy atmosphere regarding money, and yet little of that healthy attitude rubbed off on me.

I'm from a large family, in a solidly middle classs suburban environment. Only my dad worked out of the house. He had a basic middle management office job in insurance for most of his working life. What I remember as a kid is that he left the house at the same day every work morning, walking to the train station, and came hom just about the same time.

All but one of my siblings went to school, with my parents paying a good part of everyone's education.

I learned only much later that my mom brought some money into the marriage -- most likely investments that she received from her father. This probably helped with the college cost.

But the day-to-day living costs came outof my dad's paycheck. I never remember any heated discussions about money. I know there were concerns, but we were never hungry and we always had clothes. (Coming toward the end of the large family, many of my clothes until my teens were hand-me-downs, but that wasn't so unusual in large families.)

My parents encouraged all of us to work as soon as we could -- paper routes, baby sitting, retail jobs in high school. We all had bank accounts at an early age. I even had my own stock investment when I was about 10 or 11 years old. A great aunt died and left my mom some money. My parents bought a small amount of stock for each child in a conservative consumer products company.

So, by the time I was in high school I had experienced what it was like to have a bank book, a little savings, and this mysterious stock which I didn't really understand until I was in college.

There was nothing that I experienced, or that I remember, that would have set me off on a path of not thinking about money in healthy and productive ways.

But, as it turned out, since I got my first job out of college 25 years ago, I have basically lived from paycheck to paycheck. Fortunately, I've never missed a paycheck in 25 years. But I've never amassed a rainy day fund, or a college fund for my kids. Credit cards were my rainy day fund.

More about stocks and credit cards later.

As far as I know, all of my siblings are conservative and smart with their personal finance. All are married -- most spouses work. Incomes and lifestyles vary. But all seemed to know from an early age that budgeting was smart and large credit card balances were bad.

I have never budgeted, other than on an emergency basis, i.e., I have $100 to last until Friday and I have to buy gas and lunches for the kids and some school supplies and this and that.

I think it has been 25 years since I had a zero balance on any credit card.

Somewhere, right around the time I finished school, my thoughts about money changed in a bad way. It started using me instead of me using it.

Work Life

October 9th, 2006 at 12:45 pm

I'm now 48 and I've worked almost consistently since I was about 12. Newspaper route, grocery store clerk, retail clerk, newspaper ntern, law firm intern, freelance editor, bookstore manager, writer/editor for a business publisher.

I come from a large family and working was just expected from everyone. Being a boy in the 70s, there were a few more opportunities to start from. I inherited a paper route from an older brother and then got my own. When I was 15, I got a job at a small local grocery store.

The grocery store owner had dropped out of third grade to sell fruit and vegetables from a cart. He worked for annother man for a while but eventually opened his own store. He catered to an upper middle class clientele in a suburb.

I worked every day after school and all day six days a week during the summer and school holidays. It's still one of the best jobs I had; I worked there until the summer before my third year of college.

The owner would make light fun of my academic interests -- he had made it without formal schooling and thought anyone could, with the right attitude. But going to college was what did in our community.

I worked there at a time when pay envelopes were actually cash in envelopes. I remember the feeling of joy I had getting that envelope every week -- all that money was mine.

I don't remember having a particular savings scheme back then, but I must have saved a lot. ihad only two vices in high school -- books and music. so, i saved a lot, and when I went off to college I had a few thousand dollars saved.

I went to an expensive college, although the cost compared to college prices these days seems quaintly inexpensive. My parents paid most of the cost for the first two years. Between my jobs and student loans, I paid for most of the last two years.

I suppose that one turning point for me and my relation with money was the summer betwen my junior and senior year of college. I was renting an apartment with friends and, when summer came, instead of moving back home, Istayedin the apartment with friends. As it turned out, though I didn't plan it this way, I had moved out of my parents' house for good.

I come from a large family and all of my siblings, except for me, moved back home for a few years after college. But I, with no real plan in mind, had effectively moved out when I was 20.

I had roommates and we lived in typically unluxurious surroundings (for students) but still, I was paying rent and paying utilities and buying food, all while working just a little because I was still in school.

The longest period of time that I lived without a paycheck was the six months after I finished college. I was done with classes in March and graduated in June. I got a job as a clerk in bookstore that September. Well-educated, loaded up with college debt, I took a minimum wage job in the city.

I worked at that store for as long as I worked in the grocery store in high school and college, and it was my second favorite job. I barely squeaked by, but I loved it.

Why is it that the two favorite jobs I had in my life were the ones that paid me the least? And why do I feel, in retrospect, that I was so much wealthier and connected then, when I was so financially poorer, than I am now?