Who wanted to listen to their parents growing up? Not me, that’s for sure!
Now that I’m older though, I can see that my parents taught me many wise lessons about how to manage my money. After all, they had made their fair share of mistakes, and they were insistent that I not repeat them. I believe I’m a better person now because of these lessons.
But, I believe anything in life comes with a balance, and not all of the lessons they taught me were good lessons. In fact, some were just plain wrong (sorry mom and dad – it’s true).
And in a few cases, I may even have the upper hand financially now.
Here are some the bad financial lessons from my parents:
Don’t sign up for credit cards
I’m not sure if my parents wanted me to stay away from credit cards forever, or just when I was young. In either case, the gist of the situation I got was that credit cards are evil. They were something to stay far, far away from. Don’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.
I half expected that if I got a credit card, I’d grow warts on my face, bunions on my feet, and my hands would fall off due to frostbite. I’d never get a husband then!
Spoiler alert: I have both a credit card and a husband now, plus a wart-free face and clean fingers and feet. 🙂
But, I didn’t get my first credit card until I was 25. This was actually probably a wise move, looking back. I might have been tempted to run up a balance like so many others that I knew if I had one before I was too mature to handle it (although, my maturity now is still debatable…).
But to come out with a blanket statement and say that all credit cards are to be avoided is just plain wrong. They have their place in the world just like everything else. Most people probably should have them. If they can manage them well, that is.
Keep all of your money in savings accounts
This is another one where I’m not sure if my parents meant to teach me this as a lifelong lesson, or just when I was a kid living with them. Certainly, they have retirement investment accounts themselves, but they never discussed this with me.
I was left with the impression that all of your excess money should be parked in a savings account and should stay right there until you need it. If I were to do this, my money would actually lose value over time because the average rate of inflation (3%) is much, much greater than the average interest rate on a savings account (well below 1%).
Finances are not to be talked about openly
Okay, so maybe the above two lessons are a bit unfair because they might not have told me the situations where those things are appropriate. But that brings up another problem. We never even really talked about finances that much.
My parents aren’t the only ones. 66% of parents talk with their kids about budgeting. That means 34% of parents don’t!
Related (affiliate link): Make Your Kid A Money Genius (Even If You’re Not): A Parent’s Guide For Kids 3 To 23
In fact, most of the memories I have of “finances” growing up was my dad sitting at the kitchen table once a week with a stack of bills and the checkbook, late into the night. There was much grumbling and unpleasantness when that happened, and we all knew to steer clear of him while he was paying bills.
I never once remember hearing my parents talk about their money management process. All I was left with growing up was bits and pieces of the picture. That’s probably one of the reasons why I made such piss-poor money decisions when I finally did make it out on my own.
Money can’t buy happiness
We never had a lot of money growing up. When times were tight, my mom would usually just sigh and say, “You know, money can’t buy happiness.”
This is true, but it sure makes being broke suck a lot less.
I’ve also heard some people say that money only magnifies who you already are. If you’re a miserable person and you have a lot of money, you’ll only be a rich miserable person. If you’re Jason Momoa and you have a lot of money, then you’re a rich Jason Momoa (whew! Time to calm down now…)
I find some truth to that argument. That’s why I try to make a point of finding the good in whatever situation I’m in, no matter how crappy. I even keep a gratitude journal every day. You can’t be too biased, though; I also write down something I hated that day just to be fair.
Go to college and you’ll get a good-paying job
Oh boy, where to start with this one…
My mother never finished college. She didn’t have a great set of marketable skills, and as a result, she hasn’t worked in the most fun jobs ever. She worked for most of her adult life as a central processing technician in a hospital. It was her job to clean up all the used medical instruments and sterilize them in giant autoclaves.
I remember her coming home late at night, when I was a little girl. She’d say to me, “Lindsay, when you’re old enough, go to college, and you’ll get a good job.” So I did.
Starting in 2005, I went to get not one – but two degrees in college. I graduated a little over a year ago, and so far the only job I’ve had is as an technician in an animal facility. Don’t get me wrong; it’s an important job. But it’s not a job that I spent 10 years of my life, $55,000, and all the lifetime hopes and dreams of me and my mother trying to get.
Thankfully, this won’t last forever, and someday (hopefully soon) in the future I’ll find a decent, well-paying job. But the situation I’m in now isn’t what I was told would happen. I was told that if I got a good degree, I’d find a well-paying, fun job as soon as I got out of school.
I wasn’t told that I might have to put a year or more of my very finite lifespan on hold waiting to find that job.
Update: Since writing this post I’ve found a temporary position in my industry. When that ended, I switched to being a full-time freelance writer. Now I’m waiting for a position to open back up and hopefully I’ll get my foot back in the door again!
Don’t Listen To Everything Your Parents Say
I’ve learned a lot since moving out on my own. It’s OK to not make your bed. Ice cream before dinner is sometimes acceptable. Also, you need to balance said ice cream with an equal amount of calorie-burning exercise to avoid becoming fat.
I’ve also learned that not everything your parents teach you is right. Sometimes it’s OK to learn things on your own though. My dad’s preferred method of teaching was the threatening lecture, which I understandably didn’t respond to.
That’s OK. I fell flat on my face with many of my financial decisions later. What I learned from all this is to pick myself back up again. Not only that; these stumbles taught me I never wanted to repeat the process again. The only way to do that was to learn how to be better for next time.
I’m not sure if I would have fully gotten these lessons if I had just accepted right out of the gate. And for that, at least, I’m very grateful to my parents.
What are some of the bad financial lessons from your parents? Did you take the opportunity to learn to be better next time? Leave a comment below!