As part of financial literacy month, I decided to really think about the various ways my parents taught me about money. Some of them were active lessons, others were things I picked up throughout my childhood. Those lessons stuck with me and form my own attitudes and actions towards money.
My Piggy Bank
Like most kids, I started with a piggy bank. Every time I got an allowance or money as a gift, it went into the piggy bank. I learned how to count my money and then they’d take me to the store to buy small things with it. Really small – nickel candy and the like. Once I saved up enough for a Peaches & Cream Barbie doll – I still remember that doll, with her beautiful peach ball gown.
My Savings Account
When I was five, they took me to the bank to open my very own savings account. It was a very exciting day. I handed my cash over to the woman behind the desk and she gave me a passbook with my new balance stamped inside it. It was a tangible lesson about how money grew. Back then interest was around 5%, so my money really did grow. I loved that passbook – and I hope kids today have them. Looking at an online balance doesn’t seem as tangible. I was a minor and didn’t have an SSN yet (not yet legally required for all children), so my dad was the primary on the account.
My ATM Card
ATMs were available when I was in my early teens. I was able to take money in $10 increments. My parents got me the card and I learned how to withdraw money myself, but I also learned that I couldn’t withdraw all of it at once. It was a tangible lesson that money is finite.
A Shoplifting Lesson
I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I had “sticky fingers” when I was small. One particular instance I recall was when I stole a nickel candy from the box near the register. My mom saw me eat it and took me back into the store to pay for it with my own money and apologize. It was an important lesson in morals, as well as a lesson in learning to think about whether that candy was worth paying for. It cured my sticky fingers pretty fast.
Dinner Table Discussions
In addition to those physical lessons, I learned various lessons about money around the dinner table. My dad told me when I was about 15 that my generation would not be as well off as his. I scoffed, but he was right – my generation has to work harder to gain the stability his had at younger ages.
Money was never a taboo topic at the table. We discussed what things cost, what we as a family could afford, and why we couldn’t. We were never the first family to have something. We won our microwave in a Christmas raffle and we didn’t get a VCR for several years after they came out. We only had cable because there was no antenna reception in our neighborhood. When my dad was laid off, we discussed how to afford things and where we needed to cut back. My parents never shielded us from financial concerns.
My First Checkbook
When I was 16 and had my first job, I decided I wanted my first checkbook. At the time, my original bank wouldn’t give me a checking account, so I switched to the Bank of America next door and got my own fee-free checking account with ATM card and checkbook. For the first time, my dad’s SSN was not on the account.
By late high school, I’d learned most of the important lessons that I carry with me today. I have never bounced a check. I hate debt and tried to pay it off as quickly as possible when I had it. I think carefully about how to spend – maybe too carefully. My dad is frugal, and that was passed on to me. When my relatives hear about this blog, not one of them is surprised.
How did you learn about money? What were your most important lessons and experiences? Was money a taboo topic in your family?