Money lessons I learned from my parents

Yesterday, my house was a complete and utter mess. The dishes had piled up, and the kitchen counters were cluttered with spices and groceries. The recycling was overflowing. UGH! Both Mr. Cents and I had several busy weeks at work, and the state of our house certainly reflected it. I had to get started on this mess. I scrubbed, dusted, sorted, tossed, vacuumed, and finally put things away. The house is starting to look like adults live here now.

Things my parents taught me about saving money and getting out of debt
Things my parents taught me about money that I wish I had paid attention to earlier.

My whole family will be here for the 4th of July which prompted my cleaning-spree.  Yesterday morning, my father called me to hash out a plan for this weekend’s visit. After talking logistics, I asked him about his newly found freedom from working. My father recently retired from the workforce after a decades as an engineer. He said he was enjoying staying at home and didn’t miss it. He talked about retirement savings, throwing around Warren Buffett quotes, and told me to make sure to use index funds! None of those fancy actively invested funds with expensive fees. Nope, those are just a waste of money!

Things my parents taught me about saving money and getting out of debt.
My dad would probably not be this coordinated.

It always amuses me that my dad likes to talk about saving for retirement. My parents never really talked about money when I was a kid. It was considered impolite to discuss things like salaries and how much debt you had. I remember the first time my dad told me how much he made (I didn’t ask him to!). We were discussing how his company recruited engineers and the salary ranges from starting to senior engineers. He visibly squirmed in his seat, very reluctantly told me his salary, and then asked me not to repeat it to anyone. My mother doesn’t talk about her salary either.

While neither of my parents like to discuss their income, they did have good spending/saving habits that I noticed even at a young age. My father always attacked debt with a vengeance. He hated debt and always told us to stay away from it. My parents paid off all of our family cars quickly, and paid off the house early. They saved money for when they needed it. When emergencies came up, we had the money to cover it.

Things my parents taught me about saving money and getting out of debt.
I SWEAR my dad’s cooking never looked this good. I would totally eat all of this.

My mother cooked at home, and we rarely ate out minus the occasional fast food meal while running errands. When my mom had to go out of town, my dad would “cook” dinner. His meals usually contained multiple varieties of beans or, his specialty, kielbasa sausage with fried peppers and onions. My friends, his food was….not good….at least not to little kids. My sisters and I would eye the kitchen warily, and when we realized he was making dinner, we usually asked (begged) to go to Grandma’s house. She would make us pizza if we asked, and, if we were good, grandpa made us milk shakes. Plus grandma had cable tv which meant cartoons! Another luxury my parents refused to get.

Looking back on it now, I realize how lucky I am. I had parents who figured out how to spend and save their money wisely. We always had everything we needed. I wish I had paid closer attention to how my parents used their money and applied their principles to my own finances earlier. I left college with lots of student loan debt. I’ve always had a car payment. We eat out way more than we should. Usually because we get busy at work and everything else kinda gets neglected (see first paragraph).

Things my parents taught me about saving money and getting out of debt.
I hope I’m as smart with my money as my parents are.

To be fair, Mr. Cents and I made some mistakes, but are working to rectify them. It’s working slowly but surely. Most recently, we paid off our water softener which was NOT cheap. We pay extra towards our mortgage and car payment every month. We could actually pay off my car right now but decided to wait until we recover from the water softener. We’ve made a pointed effort to reduce the number of times we go out to eat and cook more at home. Ironically, we actually fried up some German sausages this week so maybe my dad’s food wasn’t as terrible as I remember.

I’m proud of what my parents accomplished. I have two wonderful examples of financial savviness in my life. Not everyone has this, and I’m grateful. I’m also happy that my father is enjoying a well-earned retirement, and I’m sure my mom will join him soon. Hopefully the Cents family will crush this whole retirement thing as well as my dad has.

Do you have someone in your life that crushed it financially?

4 thoughts on “Money lessons I learned from my parents”

  1. That was a thoughtful and warm post. You know even with great parents I think we all have to make some mistakes to really internalize some learnings. I’m an engineer dad too, now early retired, and probably raised our three kids a lot like you were. One thing my kids told me as teens is that they were raised as if they were the poorest kids they knew even though they knew we had more money than almost all of their friends. I was always kind of proud of that. I told them it isn’t hard to learn how to spend money but if you don’t learn young it is very hard to learn how not to spend too much!

    1. Thank you! You are right! Learning how to handle your money at a young age is WAY better than playing catch up as an adult. However, even with awesome examples in our life, some of us are STILL going to take the “scenic route” to financial independence.

  2. My grandfather. Zero college education. WWII vet. 25 years as a machinist and another 43 years as a barber. After he passed, at 93 years old, the family was shocked to determine that his estate was worth $1MM+. At the time of death, his home was only valued at $80k and then remainder of the $1MM was in divided into cash, pension, bonds and an annuity. His estate value, did not include the cash hidden throughout the house in locked drawers, behind picture frames, tin cans, and small envelopes under the mattress (no joke).

    No secret recipe here, just disciplined savings each paycheck and time. Family, friends and food was always better enjoyed from the comfort of his home – away from distraction and other money pits.

    Maybe we are better educated and have more investments options than older generations, but there is no substitute for old school savings.

    1. Wow, that is amazing! Your grandfather was a smart guy and the very definition of the millionaire next door. And, yes, I agree. There is no fancy way to save money and no substitute for time.

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