When I was growing up, our money situation was strange. My dad worked part-time and my mom didn’t work, but we were squarely middle-class.
See, my father won the lottery when I was very young, before the age of 3, and then he semi-retired by working part-time at a local shop, while footing the bill for my mom to go back to school and to hopefully get a better job than what she had. Using his winnings he spread out the money over a course of about 10 – 20 years (I don’t know how much he has left now, if anything) and paid for our living expenses as we grew up and moved out.
I didn’t find it weird. I just found it normal that dad was there when I got home and mom was at school. I never questioned it.
It didn’t affect me because I seemed to have the same things as other kids, and we never seemed to go without the basics.
If I knew then what I knew about money now, I would have definitely been confused about how my parents could not work and still afford 2 cars, a big house and food on the table with extra necessities (nothing for us.
My parents never talked about money, except to tell us kids they didn’t have a lot of it.
All this meant to me that we had enough to cover what we had, but no real luxuries such as taking a vacation together or being able to buy anything expensive like a pool.
This was somewhat strange to me, because he paid a bill for a $10,000 vacation once, when my mom and I toured countries together. Still, I just assumed he and my mom had saved a ton of money just to be able to send us on that trip, so I figured that frugal lifestyle we lived with my dad nagging us to eat less (we were pigs!) and trying to conserve utilities (heat, water, electricity).
We never sat down as a family and went through how much my parents made (net) as an income, and where all the money was distributed. Money was always there.
My mom had no money advice for me
She was an ostrich (slowly becoming financially aware however), and when I was growing up, she had no idea how much anything cost. It’s changing now, but she didn’t even know how credit cards worked until she got into a $3000 debt and realized after 6 months that by paying the minimums, she wasn’t actually paying down the debt, but paying the interest
My mom knew that money was important. She asked my dad to set aside money for each of us, for our tuition, kind of like a tuition nest egg.
My father may or may not have done this and reaped the tax benefits, but I certainly never saw a red cent of it when it came time for us to go to college. My parents promised to foot the bill for my education, but when push came to shove, they pretended they never said a word and we were all left with having to apply for student loans and work full-time during college. Not that it’s a bad thing, but when you tell your kids something, you damn well better back it up. I think the experience made me even more honest than I may have turned out in the end, and it has helped me realize how important it is to talk about money with your children on a regular basis, and to never promise what you cannot deliver.
My father’s only advice to me was never to carry a credit card balance, so I never did
He did teach me how to be frugal in terms of turning off the tap, wearing more layers in winter to save on heat, and never wasting electricity.
Now that these habits are ingrained, I cannot imagine living any other way.
But aside from that, there were no lessons on income minus expenses, the meaning of being frugal or smart with your money, why we save money, how to save it, where to save it, why retirement savings and emergency funds are important and the magic of compounding interest.
I learned these lessons pretty quickly after I graduated college, and I still have twinges of regret of how much money I could’ve saved… but wasted on living a ‘normal’ life, rather than a college student life.
Better late than never.