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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.

6 Responses to “Parents and Money”

  1. baselle Says:

    Interesting. It sounds like you learned a lot of great lessons about saving, but no bad lessons about debt. I don't think you really went wrong anywhere, you just never got the fear of debt enough to balance out the pleasures of it. Debt is like a siren - it can call sweetly and softly and before you know it, you're in a dangerously shallow spot.

  2. boomeyers Says:

    I can seriously relate to everything you are saying!

  3. Susan Says:

    How do you think that you (or any of us) came to rely on credit cards so heavily? We used to put purchases on layaway if we could not afford them at the moment or we saved for a big-ticket item. Why is it now that we feel entitled to have everything immediately? And how do we learn to turn off the advertising machines all around us?

  4. Ima saver Says:

    You are never too old to make changes!

  5. chimbleysweep Says:

    I could have written this entry. I have nodded my head in agreement the entire time. At least you're here. You're learning. Smile Chin up!

  6. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    I think your experience is shared by millipons of people. The change in attitudes toward consumption, saving, debt, etc has been pretty big in one generation's time, yet it was still gradual. I read your story and take a lesson from it. I will continue to always talk to my kids about why we make the decisions we do and why we do not do the things we do not. I want them to be conscious of what they do (or not) that affects their financial lives.

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