Guest post from Jason of Work Save Live
Looking back on my childhood, I can’t remember a time that my family taught me or talked to me about managing money. There was never a mention of anything regarding a budget, limiting spending, saving, or investing for retirement. Even when I left for college, I still hadn’t balanced a checkbook or written a check for that matter!
I realize now that some of my financial struggles as an adult could be directly related to the lack of teaching I received from my parents. The only teaching I received was from what I witnessed: the spending habits of my parents growing up and certainly the habits of the people I associated myself with during college.
Here are three financial principles I wish my parents had taught me:
1. You can’t have everything you want
Although I was raised by a single mother, I never remember going without. We didn’t live luxuriously by any means, if we went to the movies it was on $1 movie night and if we ate out it was typically at all-you-can-eat places where children ate free or at a discount. However, when it came to sports and Christmas presents, I always remember getting what I wanted.
Not only did this hurt my future financial well-being, it also gave me an impractical view of what life really looks like. The reality in life is that you can’t and won’t have (or get) everything you want.
2. You have to work to get paid
While I wasn’t given a strong financial foundation, I was taught a strong work ethic. I did the laundry, cleaned the house, and mowed the yard through my grade school and middle school years. I learned from an early age that I had to work hard if I wanted to succeed in life.
Furthermore, this principle also helped me become a better husband. While my wife and I continue to inch our way out of debt, it’s vital that we complement each other and are one team. When my wife works late I make sure to straighten up the house, cook dinner for the night, and prepare our lunches for the next day.
Not only did teaching me a strong work ethic eventually help my ability to generate income, it’s also strengthened our marriage in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I’m so thankful it was ingrained in me from the start that nothing in life is given to you and that, as a family, we must all work together and contribute to the household.
3. You can’t spend everything you earn
I wish my parents had taught me how to manage money. Instead, they modeled a life of spending everything they earned.
As I recall on my childhood, I distinctly remember trips to Walmart and the wonderful clearance racks that line parts of their stores. My mom would often buy things that we’d never use solely because the price was reduced.
Instead of budgeting, having a limit, and paying in cash, I remember the majority of the things we bought were purchased with credit cards. As time passed, the debt started to rack up (along with the associated stress and collection calls) and by the time I reached high school she had no choice but to file for bankruptcy.
Being a single mother with two growing boys couldn’t have been easy, but it was still possible to survive and prosper (due to living on a tight budget) despite the circumstances.
While some of us are destined to learn life’s lessons the hard way, it never hurts to ingrain these valuable principles early in your children’s lives.
Jason is a financial coach and advisor. He started Work Save Live in late 2011 in hopes of helping people change the way they think about money, life, and their careers.