Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What did you learn from your parents about money?

The summer before college, I went to Europe with friends. We spent two weeks in France and Italy, traveling for the first time on our own, without parents. It was glorious-- for the most part. I definitely remember some loud rows with my friend, shouting at each other in the Paris metro. The stakes were high-- we each wanted to enjoy the magic of traveling abroad, making our own itinerary without our parents to answer to. Neither of us had experienced travel of this magnitude with people other than our family, and I was oblivious that the way my family traveled led me to expect certain things, and gave me an outlook different from my friend. Until the Paris metro (ha).

Similarly, we have ingrained thoughts about money that we're often unaware of. Allegedly, this is one of the reasons couples have issues making decisions about money. I definitely buy that. How can you productively discuss money when you don't even understand where your attitudes come from?

I think my interest in money is divergent from the rest of my family's-- though I have limited knowledge of my parents' financial decisions, I know they've lived smartly, avoiding debt other than a mortgage, that my mom actually has been paying off ahead of schedule. Still, I don't think they found money all that interesting. I was asking my mom how they chose the credit cards that they have, and apparently they just accepted the first one they were offered, and continued in a similar manner, getting an American Express card so that they could shop at Costco, for example. My parents' financial prudence has been a good example, but there's actually one thing that's informed my attitude towards money the most.

When I was a junior/senior in high school, I was making decisions about where to go and what to do in college. My parents hadn't saved any money specifically in a college fund for me. At the time I could only view that as a bad choice, but looking back I was both wrong and presumptuous. I was concerned about the cost of the private colleges I was looking at, and felt like my parents couldn't give me a straight answer about what they could afford. I was dismayed, thinking that I shouldn't have been raised to value education, and put a premium on the name and brand of top colleges, if that was all unattainable. When I'd bring up the issue of finances with my parents, they would always say "we'll see", without worries but also without guarantees. There was always the thought in the back of my head, that this year, sophomore, junior, senior year, my parents wouldn't be able to afford my college tuition, and I would probably make a mess of things trying to find money and get loans, something I knew little about.

For this reason, I really value transparency in money decisions. Nobody wants to talk about their salaries for next year, for some good reasons, but most people feel uncomfortable discussing other aspects of money. I wish things were different, and talking about money didn't have a stigma. Anyway, it's definitely interesting to think about what you learned about money indirectly, through watching your parents, and what you learned directly from their advice for you. It's crazy, but most people have very different introductions to money. :)

1 comment:

  1. Actually you are not right about our credit cards. Yes, when we came to this country originally we accepted the first offer, but now all our cards (including American Express) give 1-3% back. They are also free. What's true - we do not care about APR because we pay ever month in full.