What I Learned About Finances From My Parents

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Ashley Hagelin shares how her parents shaped her beliefs and attitudes about managing money.

We learn a lot of things about how the world works from our parents, and even from our grandparents. We listen to their stories and live through family experiences. It’s no wonder that we pick up their habits around personal finances, too.

My parents never sat me down and taught me how to manage finances nor explained how to take out a loan or what a credit report is.  However, they did live their lives with daily transactions and choices about their finances.  With this came unintended lessons, both good and not so good, but I learned from them all the same.

Keep your money safe

When my mother was in her early 20s, she had checks stolen out of the checkbook she left in her car. The thief was smart; he only stole a few and he took them from inside the checkbook so she went on using her checkbook, none the wiser.  It wasn’t until she had overdrawn at her bank that she realized the checks had been stolen.  From that point on, she was very careful to not let any of her information get into the wrong hands.

As technology, banking, and especially fraud have evolved since the 80s, she has stayed current on how to protect herself from being preyed upon.  This is a lesson that is still helping me today.  Protecting your personal and financial information not only will save you money but also will save you the headache of having to clear your name and credit report from fraudulent spending. (For more information on how to protect yourself from financial fraud visit The Federal Trade Commission.)

Save a little something for a rainy day

This lesson actually came from my grandmother.  She is a child of the Great Depression, which has shaped her thoughts on money and scarcity. Each time she got paid, she would take some cash and literally tuck it away for a rainy day.  She would take $5, $10, and $20 bills, fold them up and hide them in various places.  Some in the folds of her wallet, purse, and even in select trinkets around her house. This way, she was never without money.  Even though she was good with her money, carried no debt and had savings, she needed to have that money around to feel safe and secure.  When she felt secure she was able to enjoy what she had put away.

Whenever she wanted to do something fun she would pull her “fun money” out of hiding places. (She would even let us help, which was AWESOME). Then we would get to do something exciting, like see a movie or go the zoo.  Whether or not it’s a good idea to hide money all over your home is debatable but the idea is the same.  Save enough to be secure and remember to have some fun in your budget!  When you plan a little each month for some fun you can do the things you want and not have to feel guilty about putting it on a credit card or buying something you don’t need.  She used that money for exactly what it was meant for…FUN!

If I just had more money...

As I mentioned, I didn’t have many discussions with my parents about finances, but they talked about “money” a lot.  They talked about not having it and said that if only they had more of it their problems would be solved.  This really confused me as a kid because there would be times when we would go all out as if money wasn't an issue, and then to the other extreme when we did nothing because we couldn’t afford it. 

In my house, paydays were circled on the calendar like holidays or birthdays.

I came to understand that we celebrated them as if they were.  My mom would get her paycheck and we would go out to eat, go shopping, do fun things, and then a week later we would do nothing.  Then you add in an unexpected expense like a car repair and it was a financial crisis.

As a single mother, there were so many things that she wanted to do for us and that fleeting moment once a month made her feel like she could, but then she would pay for it later.  So as you can imagine the solution seemed simple, “if I only had more money, my problems would be solved.”  As a financial counselor, it is clear to me that more money isn’t always the answer and here is why… living paycheck to paycheck can happen at ANY income level.

If your relationship with money is feast or famine, even if your income increases steadily, your financial situation will stay the same. The solution is to take control of your personal finances and get off the roller coaster. Make and stick to a realistic budget that involves emergency savings to prevent an unexpected expense from creating financial chaos. If you aren’t happy with what you have, you can’t be happy with more.

Be generous without sacrifice

My mother might be the most generous person I have ever met in my life.  She will give until it hurts.  She will help anyone who needs it, and most of the time they don’t need to ask.  I have admired this about her for as long as I can remember.  Although she has given more than she should, financially she has also taught me that donating time to a cause or to help a friend is just as valuable--if not more valuable--than any dollar amount.

Plan ahead

I know that both of my parents wish that they could go back and do things a little differently financially, but the most important change they would make is they would save more for retirement.  As they both approach the age of retirement, it weighs heavily on their minds.  I know you hear it over and over again to start early, but it is so true. So if you haven’t started, now is the time!

Written by Ashley Hagelin

This blog post is from the Author's perspective and doesn't speak for brightpeak financial. Contact brightpeak if you want to know more about brightpeak products, and keep in mind that they are not available in all states and there are some limitations (some exclusions and restrictions may apply).

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