Money Tips from Mom and DadThe federal government is so worried about our financial literacy, it has proposed introducing a financial food pyramid as a means to teach us about spending, earning and saving. We at MainStreet feel there may be a better place to learn your financial building blocks: good old mom and dad.
In honor of Grandparents Day, we asked the folks on Main Street to share the advice that was passed down to them from their parents. Read on to see what words of wisdom these families offered to future generations.
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Balance Your Budget“Before I left for college in 1981, [my grandfather] gave me a hardbound ledger and taught me how to balance my checkbook,” Kathy Christie Hernandez told us. “I used that ledger for years, and still have it around somewhere. I felt like I was betraying him when I switched to Microsoft Money in the early ‘90s, but I believe that he would have loved that software. “
“The old fashioned way of balancing your checkbook is tried and true,” says Teri Gault, whose parents taught her the same practice. Today, the tools may have changed, but the lesson attached to it – pay close attention to your finances – still remains. It’s one Hernandez is committed to passing down: “Before my daughter left for college last month, I taught her how to use Mint.com to keep track of her finances,” she said, before adding. “I hope my grandfather is smiling down on me.”
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Follow Your Heart at Work“The best financial advice my parents gave me was to pick a profession I loved,” Kelly Alesso says. Her parents promised the money would follow. So, while her other friends took jobs from the highest bidder, regardless of whether they liked the company (and position) or not, she held out for a job in her chosen field.
“Now five years later, even though I started out with the lowest salary of my friends, I've well surpassed many of them in earning power and job satisfaction, simply by pursuing something I was passionate about, even if it was not otherwise lucrative,” Alesso says.
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Treat Credit KindlyCredit may no longer be king, but according to many parents, we should still treat it like one. Marianne Genetti’s father, Gus, told her having good credit is more important than having money. “Good credit puts you in a position to get funds far in excess of the money you might ever possess,” Genetti explains. Of course, you may not want to blow through funds so readily since a bad score or no credit score can lead to a whole slew of problems.
The general consensus from mom and dad seems to be this: Get some credit and then use it wisely.
We thought Lundy Wilder’s family had a good approach. “Credit cards are for three things: traveling, car rentals and accumulating frequent flyer miles,” Wilder said. “Only charge what can be paid off at the end of every month in full. It doesn't matter what the percentage rate is if you never carry a balance.”
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Save Your Pennies … LiterallyWhen Elena Baxter was young, her mother imparted some traditional advice. She told her daughters to keep a budget and to always pay for non-negotiables first. She also encouraged them to save their nickels, dimes, pennies and quarters.
“I have been saving my change since I was 16,” she says. “[I’m] now 24 and I am going to put it towards my wedding someday.”
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The Little Things CountDonna Maurillo’s mother, Mary, grew up during the Great Depression where, in her household, “paper towels were dried and used again. Shoes were re-soled and re-heeled. Wet garbage went into the compost pile to feed the tomato plants.”
This upbringing taught her to find little ways to save. She imparted this idea onto her children through her own suggestions: Make sure the chickens are at least three pounds each or you'll have more bone than meat; pick broccoli that has tightly closed blossoms because those will be freshest; don't pay interest when you don't have to.
“Mom taught us to make a dollar do a tap dance,” Maurillo says, adding that her mother’s suggestions have helped her do very well throughout life. “I have a nice home, a good car, a good job and I take several trips a year. I have enough to help out my kids and to give to charity.”
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Make an EffortSamantha McKenna was having a hard time finding a part-time job while in college, a setback that put her in a financial lurch.
“She called me, literally sobbing because she had less than $20 to pay her monthly bills,” Patti McKenna, her mother, explains. When Patti asked about Samantha’s job search, she found out her daughter had been applying for jobs by answering ads over the phone or online. Patti immediately suggested she change her recourse.
“You live in a college town,” Patti told her daughter. “It’s full of young people who are seeking employment. Businesses don’t have to waste their money on help wanted ads. Go get in the shower and get dressed in job interview clothing. Be professional, walk into businesses, and tell them you’re interested in applying for a position.”
Later that evening, following the pep talk, Samantha called her mother back, again, sobbing.
“She was frantic, not knowing what to do because she had been hired for two jobs, one part-time at a tanning salon and another as a nanny on Thursdays and Fridays,” Patti says.
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InvestWhen Laura Oliver had saved enough money to move out of her parents home, she asked her father, Jack, to help her look for an apartment. He refused, but offered to help her go look for a house to buy instead.
“It had never occurred to me that I could buy,” Oliver said. “I was 22. Who was going to give me a mortgage?”
Oliver fell in love with the first condo she and her father looked at, which she purchased after her father co-signed on the mortgage. Her decision ultimately paid off.
“Today, the condo has doubled in value, and I have used the equity to purchase my vehicle and pay for graduate school,” she says. “As I watch the market dip and swell, I sit comfortably in my living room thankful every day that my dad told me not to rent! “
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Don’t Get Short-ChangedJust before he died, Beverly Butler’s grandfather gave the following advice: When making change, always keep the bill that was given to you and not in the cash box. That way, no one can say he gave you a $20 bill when he really gave you a $10.
“I was in high school and working retail at the time and this advice served me well,” Butler says, before adding that she has since passed on the lesson to her children. “I know it’s simple, but it can be a metaphor for larger things, too.”
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Know Your MeansAry Rosenbaum put it simply when he told MainStreet that the best advice he received from his parents was to live within his means. I can tell you that Ary’s parents aren’t the only ones giving this advice. My own father, Reggie, tells me to be even more frugal.
“Live beneath your means,” he says. “Then you can retire rich.”
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