Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mom, Dad & Money

I'm a little behind on my blog reading, but when I dropped by Sunflower's blog, The Debt Chronicles, her comments about her father really got me to thinking.

I grew up in a working class family that seldom discussed finances. As children, my sister and I would ask for things or ask for money, and the answer was either yes or no, and that was it. It was only as an adult that I realized our family was always teetering on the edge of poverty. Still, because that was the same for most of the families in our small town, I never felt particuarly poor.

However, I was determined that money would not be a taboo subject with my kids. I wanted them to know the general state of my finances (which were tight while I was rearing them) so I did talk money with the children. Now I wonder if I did so too frankly.

Sunflower says that her father's comments ruined her family vacations.

I well remember one Disneyland vacation with three of my daughters where I ran out of money and we ate peanut butter sandwiches the entire two days it took us to drive home. I know that I spent those two days obsessing out loud about the money we'd spent and whether I had enough to buy gas to get us back.

Now, I'm wishing I hadn't done that. Too much information? At the expense of their pleasure in the vacation?

Not that I think my parents were necessarily correct either--it might have done me good to know the sacrifices they made to give my sister and I everything we needed and much of what we wanted.

But I don't think that reminding children of the pain of every single expenditure is the way to go. Once the decision is made to spend the money, then that should be it. Whatever is done with it should be enjoyed to the fullest--otherwise what is the point? If that enjoyment comes at the price of foregoing some other pleasure down the road, so be it. Say "no" to the new expenditure. Say why that is so. And move on.

I think I'll ask my adult kids how they now feel about the way I talked about money when they were living at home.

I wonder if I'll appreciate the answers.


Living Almost Large said...

I wish my mom had talked more about finances. I wish she had bothered to learn about finances instead of leaning on one mantra "spend less than you make."

Good mantra, but one caveat. If you save only the bare minimum and have no idea what happened to the rest, and let the house go to shambles in the mean time, perhaps you overspent?

CT Mom said...

I like this post. I've recently started telling the girls how much certain things cost, those things that are extras or privileges in the hopes that they'll appreciate the idea that these extras cost money so that they won't take them for granted. Case in point: show fees for my 12 year old's horse shows. I wait until after the show so that she won't think about it while she's competing, but I want her to appreciate that this is a luxury, not a necessity.

Bucksome said...

Grace, I'm interested in hearing what your kids tell you.

If I could do it over, I definitely would have educated my kids better about money. For example instead of just telling them we couldn't afford something explain about how there is a overall amount and choices are made to spending it.

They used to tell me to just get more from the ATM like it was a magic machine.

John DeFlumeri Jr said...

You are right, it's easy to overdue it telling the kids there's no money. They become depressed.

Anonymous said...

Both my children were taught the value of a dollar. When grown was a different story. Son got in over his head, and took 8 years to work it out. Daughter went chapter 7 twice.

You never know how they will turn out.

See Ya

Sharon said...

Thanks for posting this. I often think that I may be telling my children too much, but then again, my son enjoys watching Suze Orman with me. He inquires about our retirement, etc. But the part about ruining a good time when talking about how much you spent..well, I may have done that on an occasion or two. Thanks for making me aware of this.

Anonymous said...

My parents never discussed how much money they made. It was explained to us that we wouldn't understand it. My father was a lawyer and my mother a book-keeper. Its now clear to me that they made a large enough salary that I would assume they could afford whatever my wants were. What they meant by we wouldn't understand was that life is a lot more expensive than you expect, and they were saving for their retirement, and the education of four kids, - two who got post grad degrees, and two who were, ah, long term students. When I was 18, my father told me he'd pay my tuition for as long as I was trying (even if I wanted a doctorate), up till I got married. He said you shouldn't get married until you are ready to be your own family, so once I did that I was on my own.

That said, my mother was flinty cheap, and at least in me, some of that frugality was imbued. Of their kids, I am the most frugal. Two of them are confirmed paycheck-to-paycheck types, the third is unemployed at the moment, was an okay saver, but not stellar. Some of my siblings worry about my parents and retirement. They won't tell us a thing, but my gut says they have it covered.

I am planning to teach my kids the basics of money management, though they are too young for much now (4 &1). I don't think I'll tell them about my salary. I might tell them when we pay off the house (hopefully in the next five years unless we wind up moving to a higher cost of living area).

Carol said...

My parents were very much like yours. I remember one time they had to take my piggy bank money (almost $100) to pay the mortgage, but I always thought we were "equal to or better off" than most. I wish that my parents had shared more with me about what was going on, and I also wish that my parents weren't so "proud". Despite the fact that we were, as you, "teetering on the edge", we never ever bought second hand anything. Except maybe a car. Nobody talked to me about savings (I don't think there was any) and I grew up thinking that "I want to be like mom and dad and have credit cards" Humph.

So here's what I (with my non-wealth (what a pun) of information) have to say about your TMI.

You started this post with a lament about something you wish your parents had done differently and something that you learned from.

Your kids are no different. From what I see, you could have taught them two different things:
1) that "everything's ok", spending all your money to the point of danger is fine, no big deal...happens all the time...


2) you made a mistake, felt bad about it, admitted that you messed up, and lived with the consequences of your mistake. Some very important parts of living there, and you demonstrated them perfectly.

Seems like you made the right choice to me.