What My Parents Taught Me About Money
I’ve always been the type of person who was constantly comparing my family to others, and not in a keeping up with the Joneses kind of way.
Do my friends’ parents drink like this?
Oh this is what a clean house looks like?
What do they put in their kids’ lunches?
Substance abuse and neglect was a huge part of my story growing up. My sibling(s) and I were ancillary players in our family, as the needs of our parents always came before the needs of the children. I should also mention my parents were (and are) terrible with money.
Worse yet, they were interested in keeping up with the Joneses. In the 80s when my dad made over $100,000 a year for the first time (a salary that would take him another 20 years to replicate), he decided he wanted a mountain cabin, just like a colleague of his had.
You were a kid that had a cabin? Yes. I was that kid.
No, it’s not as nice as it seems.
I spent most of my weekends as a kid doing manual labor on my dad’s “dream” home. I know how to use my hands and tools and build things. It’s great when it comes to being a homeowner, and I appreciate the education. But it took me away from any semblance of a life I would have had at home with friends for the better part of a decade. I was an unpaid employee of my family. It broke up my parent’s marriage, which is when things went from bad to worse with the neglect and dysfunction in my family.
There was never a weekend where it was done and we were using it as a ski cabin when I was young. It was always work. There were a couple times as an adult that my dad invited me to visit with him and his wife at the cabin, and those were the only two times I went. I couldn’t even enjoy myself, as the anxiety of just being there ruined it. I don’t even like to ski.
I am grateful for the work ethic it instilled in me. However, I still have trouble having fun to this day because I never really learned how.
It’s like if you’ve ever known a dog that…just doesn’t know how to play?
My parents threw every ounce of their savings into that cabin. My sibling(s) and I, even though we wore uniforms to school, barely had any clothes to wear when not at school (nevermind clean clothes) and we didn’t have shoes that fit or were without holes. I was 12 when I started cutting my own hair.
My point in all of this is to highlight that just because someone earns a high paycheck doesn’t mean that they’re good with money, and you never know what is going on behind closed doors.
My parents never:
Saved for retirement
Had an emergency fund
Paid off credit cards
Spent less than they earned
Talked about money with us
Taught us anything about personal finance (other than being an example of what NOT to do)
I remember in my mid-teens and looking at my parents and thinking,
“I am never going to be like them.”
I saved every penny I earned from birthday or holiday cards and odd jobs like helping my friend do his paper route. At 16 I figured out a budget I would need when I moved out on minimum wage after I turned 18 and graduated from high school, and what I would have to do to go to college.
By the time I was a freshman in college with my own job (because I wasn’t allowed to have one while attending high school, so I could be available to my parents 24/7), my parents knew where I stored my money, and started “borrowing” it. So I acquired a lock box, and that didn’t go over well because they couldn’t “borrow” from me anymore.
Shortly after that, I was able to move out with a few friends who were renting a family member's house very inexpensively. My monthly rent was $267.
I am proud that I have not followed in my parent's financial footsteps.
In a way, I wouldn’t be the independent, financially-literate person I am today had I not had to do my own research and figure out how I was going to move out at the first opportunity. In that way, their ineptitude is a bit of a silver lining of this whole story.
Up next, I’ll share what I WISH my parents would have taught me about money!
Who were your financial role models growing up? Did your parents teach you anything about personal finance?
I’d love to hear. Leave a comment below!