This special series is part of CentSai’s commitment to financial literacy at every level. We’re collaborating with financial-education advocate Sam X Renick on a series of short interviews, videos, and tips. Financial author, CFP, and wealth-management expert Louis Barajas tells Renick the most important money lesson he learned as a child and shares a tip for teaching kids about money.
Sam X Renick: What is the most important money habit you learned as a child? Briefly share the story of how you learned the habit and what impact it has had on you throughout your life.
Louis Barajas: My parents saved all their change in five-gallon water bottles, which would get so heavy that we couldn’t lift them. Once a bottle was filled, our family would tip it over and put the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in paper coin holders and take them to the bank.
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My parents would use the money to buy a family necessity — a refrigerator, a washer, clothes, and so on. I remember the quote that Sammy Rabbit and you always use: “If you see a penny would you pick it up?” I always do. I still save all my change — it brings back great memories and great habits.
Renick: If you could teach a child only one money habit, what would it be? Briefly explain why.
Barajas: All wealth begins with saving money. The habit of saving a portion of everything you earn or are given is the most powerful habit for any child or adult.
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Renick: Cambridge University research indicates that adult money habits are set by age seven. What if the research is wrong and adult money habits are formed earlier, perhaps around the age the “give mes” set in? What does this mean for families, schools, and the financial education industry?
Barajas: I don’t know if I feel the same about this. I think money habits are formed when you have control of money and by how you choose to see other people’s behavior around money. I have clients tell me that their parents never saved, so they do the opposite. Or that their parents saved too much and never spent on experiences or the family, so they’re doing the opposite. There are a lot of complex factors involved here.
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Discover more about Louis Barajas at the Wealth Management Lab.