By: Lisa McGowan
Let me ask you a question: Did your parents teach you the importance of balancing a checkbook, making sure you never made a late car payment or establishing an emergency savings for a rainy day?
If you are like me, then money was not discussed openly in your home when you were growing up. I knew my father worked hard to make a good life for our family, and I knew there were bills to pay. Twice a month, my mother would take out those bills, which she stored in a small linen-lined basket that she kept on a shelf in the closet, next to her ironing board. She would organize them, take the checkbook from her purse and begin hand-writing paper checks, and addressing and sealing envelopes as each bill was paid. Sometimes she and my father would decide which to pay right away and which to pay later. Once that was decided, the paid ones went into an orderly pile. When she finished, she would place the pile behind the radio on our kitchen counter and say, “I’ll take these to town tomorrow and drop them off at the post office.” I remember the comfort I felt as I watched her complete this process, without fail, every two weeks. It gave me a sense of security.
We were your average middle-class family, and I never thought a lot about how much money there was in the bank. I do remember asking my father, one day, how much money he made as a millwright for our local limestone quarry. My mother promptly told me that was not something I needed to know. I suppose they did not want me or my sisters to worry about such things.
Some other money memories I have: My family never had a brand-new car (we once had a piece of plywood covering the holes in the backseat floorboards), we very rarely borrowed money from our credit union, and we saved for extra things like vacations and Christmas. When my father decided to add an additional room to our home, he went to the library to increase his basic knowledge of carpentry, asked his uncle to lend him a hand and they did the work themselves. I remember two-by-fours lining the inside walls for several months as my father saved enough money to purchase the materials to finish the room. I also remember the satisfaction both he and my mother felt when this room was finished. Though my parents were frugal, I never felt like we went without. As a matter of fact, I felt like I had everything I ever wanted.
When I got married, the only advice my parents gave me was, “Be sure you put food on your table and THEN pay your bills.” As I got older, Dad became interested in the stock market and bought me a subscription to MONEY magazine. He said, “Lisa, pay yourself first!” By that time, he was closer to retiring and I suppose he wanted to be sure that his children’s families planned well for retirement—earlier than he and my mother had.
So looking back, even though my parents did not teach me the specifics of handling money—like balancing a checkbook—I believe they did demonstrate responsible money management. From their behavior, I learned to live within my means, ensure my bills were paid on time understand that there are times when you have to wait for things until the money is saved.
So now it’s your turn. Take a few minutes now to stroll down your money memory lane. Did you learn some things growing up that have framed your attitude about money in either a positive or negative way? Perhaps you saw some struggles your parents faced and you learned some valuable lessons from that experience. Maybe you had an eccentric aunt who had every color purse under the sun but no money to put in them. Maybe your grandma was like mine and believed in “Waste not, want not,” and scraped the mold off the end of the bread and ate it instead of throwing it away. (Don’t laugh; my grandparents amassed a small fortune handling their money this way!) All of these memories make me smile now and helped me build my money management skills. So I invite you to reminisce, share your own memories below and tell us how they affected the way you handle your money today.
Next, I challenge you—whether you have plenty of money or are experiencing a time of struggle—commit to taking one step to help improve your current money situation. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out VyStar’s Money Makeover program. You can also stop by any of our branch locations and ask an associate to help you create a financial plan. VyStar has helped thousands of members realize their money goals. So take that little step today. As John Wooden, the famous basketball player and University of California at Los Angeles basketball coach, once said: “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
Wishing you great things for your financial future!
The content provided in this blog consists of the opinions and ideas of the author alone and should be used for informational purposes only. VyStar Credit Union disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information provided.