Tough Financial Love From My Parents Made Me Richer
A big part of your financial education is what you learn from your parents. A mother living paycheck to paycheck – whose only entertainment is going to the mall on weekends – likely won’t raise you to be a financially responsible adult. I give a lot of credit to my parents for my financial wellbeing. But as a teen, I thought they sucked.
My mother grew up in a family of nine in post-World War II Europe. Times were tough and there was a lingering feeling that another war or recession may hit, so even when she married a successful businessman, she kept her spending in check. “Mend things,” “make do with what you have,” and “save for a rainy day” were her life mottos.
In spite of growing up better off, my father had no help from his parents after high school. Instead, he paid his own way through college. He lost his job when I was 12, and while they still had savings, they acted like it was a real crisis.
My small allowance was just meant to cover school lunches and books. Everything else I wanted, I had to work for.
I envied my friends, who had better clothes and way more stuff than I did. Through high school, if I wanted brand clothes, my parents gave me the money for the generic item. I had to cover the rest. I had to fully fund nights out, movies, and gadgets that I wanted, as well.
So I started working for my things. My mom was a great at referring me to odd jobs. She often sent me to babysit my cousins. And she even talked to my music teacher so that I could have the music room during lunchtime at school to teach piano to younger kids. After school, I tutored a couple of primary school siblings whose parents had talked to my mom about needing someone.
At 17, I left home to go to college and paid for all of my living expenses. Thankfully, I got a scholarship and free tuition. I kept my grades up and never lost a year – that would have meant working to fund 12 more months of student life, and I really didn’t want to do that. I couldn’t afford the luxury of skipping school or getting behind in my classes.
And I can tell you that when you work hard for stuff, your “needs” shrink like ice under the sun. When your parents write a check, you want to buy the whole shop.
When it took you eight hours of work to afford an $80 pair of jeans, you think twice. Often, you’ll forgo the purchase altogether.
While I sometimes wished that I had it easy like my peers, I’m still glad that I learned the value of hard work early on. I worked through lunchtime during the day and I worked until 7 p.m. every evening. And yet there was still time to study and have fun.
I’m grateful for learning that hustling attitude early in life. Sure, it was hard. But now, when I look at people my age whose parents are still partially sponsoring them, I thank mine for their toughness. I resented them back then for making me work so hard, but that work ethic would have been much harder to build in my 30s.
I also think that having a low-paid job is something you should experience in life. It is humbling. It helps you relate to the struggles of waiters, cleaners, and other low-skill workers in a way that you would never understand if you joined a big firm right after graduation.
There is definitely a middle ground between what I went through and treating your kids like disabled adults. If I have kids someday and they need my help, I think I’ll try first to help them live up to their full potential and support themselves. If they really can’t? Then I’ll pitch in.