A lovely reader left a comment a bit ago that got me thinking – what are my early money memories? Not my experiences as a teenager opening IRA’s and reading The Wealthy Barber, but as an actual child? And how did those influence me as an adult?
I thought it was an interesting question, and I should give it some thought. So I did, and I thought it really divided into a few categories. My immediate family and how they acted about money, my grandparents who are actually one of my biggest inspirations, and my own memories as a kid.
So if you’ve ever wanted to know what kind of money-related upbringing lead to someone who starts investing as a teen, read on.
My Family Background
When I was born, my parents had little more than love and…well that was about it, actually. Here’s a bit more information about my immediate family background.
- My parents rented a floor in a three family apartment in a town here in CT that’s not considered to be a very nice one. It’s not a really bad town, per se, but a mildly bad one.
- When I was three and had a new baby brother, they bought a house in the next town over. It was a small three bedroom home (under 1,000 square feet) on a quarter acre of land, and it wasn’t in the best part of the new town, but it was much better than the apartment. This would have been in the 80’s, when my parents were very happy with their 13% interest rate as a “bargain”.
- My mother stayed at home with me and my brother for most of our childhood. After we moved into the house, she started an in-home daycare, which she would continue until I was about 12 or so. This allowed her to be at home when we got home from school while my father worked. At that point in time she went to work in a low-paying corporate job, part time for the most part until we were grown
- My father originally worked in a factory, and went to school evenings and weekends to get a degree to better his life. Similar in some ways to me, but he never took courses full time and worked full time like I did. After finishing his degree, he got a corporate job, which he held until the late 90’s. He was caught in one of a many rounds of layoffs, but was saved by his side hustle
- Before “side hustle” was a thing, my father had a side hustle. Growing up I remember him being gone not only all week long, but also most weekends. In the pre-internet era, this was of course a physical side hustle – he painted houses. When he was laid off this side hustle ramped up into a business, where he did a variety of interior and exterior painting, cleaning, etc. He quickly was able to earn more at this side hustle than he did at his corporate job
- My parents were young when I was born. My mother was 21, and my father only a few years older.
- We did a huge number of money-saving things when I was a kid. We didn’t have cable, back in the 80’s and 90’s when pretty much all my friends did. We never went out to eat-ever. In fact when I was small, we were in a bad car accident, and my main memory of that time was that we got to eat McDonalds for dinner. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I realized other families out there not only had cable, but also had expensive cable add-ons (like HBO) and went out to eat all the time. Laundry was hung outside, and birthdays were at home with homemade cake.
- We never struggled with the financial basics – at least that I’m aware of. There was no tremendous debt to pay off, lack of food, or worry about how to pay the bills. Today, looking back, I’m pretty sure they were always saving and investing. Now they live in a very large house, with the kids gone for over a decade, and are getting ready for a comfortable retirement. They also paid off their mortgage fully sometime in their late 30’s or early 40’s.
So although we started from not much, I was able to see my parents become financially prosperous over the years. Even when their income went up, they didn’t ramp up lifestyle. As a result, a job loss that could have been financially devastating became instead an opportunity to expand a side hustle into a full time business. Had they been living on the financial edge, or not saving/investing/paying down the mortgage all those years, that opportunity may never have come.
My Grandparents – Mustachian Before That Was A Thing
My fathers parents had terrible money habits, but not my mothers parents. They were mustachian before MMM was even born. How so? They were children of the Great Depression. They built a house in the 60’s that they paid for in cash, and lived in for the next fifty years until they both passed away.
They saved everything and wasted nothing. A week before she passed away, my grandmother gave me a “look” for suggesting she just leave her Keurig machine (that the family got her but she didn’t like) plugged in when she wasn’t using it. She thought that would be wasteful. In my garage I have decades worth of small jars my grandfather saved filled with nails, screws, and fasteners. They saved scrap wood, repaired everything, fixed their own cars, and were frugal to a fault. They never went on fancy vacations, and my grandfather had been known to say things like “Why bother traveling when you can just watch the Travel Channel?” Instead they went to Maine every year, boating, fishing, and generally hanging out.
When cleaning out their house after my grandmother passed away in 2015, I found a small scrap of paper with my grandfathers handwriting on it. Guess what it had written on it?
The rule of 72.
My Money Memories
What were my early money memories, not connected to my family? Let’s see – I had a small allowance of a dollar a week, which I saved. When I was young, but old enough to remember, my brother found two hundred dollars cash in an envelope in Toys R. Us. No one ever came to claim it, so we got to have it – and my parents used it to buy a savings bond for my brother and I. I can distinctly remember being amazed that $100 would buy a $200 savings bond. I still have it, and hopefully will take my kids on another savings-bond trip to the bank one day to see how much it’s become.
I always had a penchant for earning money. We had a lemonade stand in the front yard many summers, and would get our picture in the paper sometimes for our sales. When I was 11 or 12, I started working as a “mothers helper”, which really meant I would entertain young kids by playing with them while their mom was somewhere in the house. Later I would babysit many weekends, and sometimes cat sit, earning extra money. I got a job at 16 and worked on and off all my years as a teenager. They were all pretty cruddy jobs, but taught me valuable lessons. Like the fact that I didn’t want to have a cruddy job like that for the rest of my life.
I Want To Know
What do you think of these early money memories? Do they explain my money path today, or is it a mystery? And what’s one of your most fond money memories from growing up? Let me know in the comments.
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