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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Living by example

Written by Amy, a mom without a blog.

Time and compound interest.”

I can still hear those words ringing in my ears from my father. My parents did an amazing job teaching me the fundamentals of finances. Growing up, they offered to match anything I agreed to put into the bank. If I wanted to take the money out for any reason, I would have to re-deposit what I had last taken out in order for them to match again. This was great motivation for me to save.

Now as an adult, it’s fair to say that I am a financially sound person. I make good money decisions. I am a saver. I am proud that I am virtually debt-free (mortgage only).

My husband on the other hand, came from a family with a lot of wealth. All of his cars were paid for, his private college and graduate school were paid for in total, and when he got into credit card debt hell that was miraculously taken care of too. (I forgot to mention above that I graduated from college with my own student loans and I paid for my own car which was a 1973 Pontiac Grand Le Mans – by NO means new, and by NO means nice).

Then, we say those magic vows and become ONE married couple with TWO very different financial histories. And then we have children …. and so the story goes ….

Producing financially sound children is a very big goal of mine. Yet, I have to say that trying to instill a sense of financial responsibility in my children has been one of the hardest things for me. I think about it a lot, grapple with the idea of allowance or no allowance, read books (loved Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats), and generally worry about them being financially sound. It seems to me that our generation of raising kids has a lot to do with over indulgence in many areas – something I am also guilty of and something that scares me to death.

One real nugget that I actually implemented as recommended from the above book, was that we fired our house cleaners and we started a Family Clean the House Day. In our house, this is the first weekend of every month. In the morning we divide who is doing which rooms and then we vote on the fun activity that will happen once the house is clean (last month it was a trip to Baskin Robbins). This is one of my favorite days because I always feel good knowing that I am a living example of pulling my own weight. Don’t get me wrong … I do miss the luxury of my house cleaners, but at least feel like this is one concrete message for my children which is worth more to me.

Then, I think, how did I become financially kind of with it? The answer is simple… my father. Hopefully I will be able to give that example to my children and that’s how they will learn too. Although …

Back to my husband …. since the stock market is in complete turmoil and after losing almost 40% of our savings, he is often overheard saying “A penny saved, is a penny lost.”

At this point in my thinking, he just may be right. I mean really. What’s the point anyway?

Since he has now come over to my way of “saving” thinking, and since we’ve LOST most of our savings, why the hell didn’t we both buy new cars before the stock market went to shit? (we both drive 1997’s with 200k miles on each).

And, yes, in a way, in my “saving” kind of thinking mind, I’m weirdly proud of this. It’s that over-indulgence life-style that I buck with my old car. But, when I think about how we could both be driving new cars and still have the same amount of money in the bank, I have to wonder if there is something to be said for living in the now and forgetting about saving for the future.


  1. You are very lucky to have been taught about money! My family really didn't have any money to teach me about. LOL As a result, I am not a spender. I don't go out and buy things just because I might be able too. In that same regard though.. I SUCK at handling money.

    I work 40 hrs a week, my husband is self employed. "Ours" has been ours for almost 18 years. Our credit sucks, but we are also debt free. Except for the mortgage and a few unpaid medical bills that amount to squat.

    I hope your kids will learn to be like you!

  2. That's such a hard thing to think about right now. My husband and I have said the same sort of stuff about losing our savings.

    Yet I can't help to think our kids are learning some of the most valuable lessons during the times of struggle. If they see that we were careful and logical with our money, perhaps that's a good lesson for them to learn.

    I don't know that there IS a right answer, but I do know that this is a very well written post. ;)

  3. I did without and saved all my life while my friends flaunted their new cars and new homes. Now, MY retirement fund went belly up due to them and what do I have to show for it? No more money than the ones who lived good ALL their lives......and I'm still in the original house.

  4. we are trying to get our beanies to learn the value of a dollar and saving etc...

    oh my car was a 3 speed pea green duster youe Le mans sounds like a caddy compared to my heap lol

  5. Teaching financial responsibility is definitely important and that includes not just saving, but also spending RESPONSIBLIY. It's important to enjoy the fruits of your labor right? Everyone should know how to save for something that is really important to them and to enjoy it, no matter what it is (trip, car, jewelry or for a luxurious retirement!).

    It's kind of a catch 22 though, in our current economic situation. It will turn around though, and hopefully, learn from mistakes made my so many and pass on that information to our kids.

  6. Oh I so hear you. My Hubs works for a major (privately held) financial firm, and it makes us both want to vomit when we think of all the savings gone.

    I do feel like the grasshopper is laughing at the ants. Nothing makes me more angry. Luckily some of "us" were responsible. Can you even imagine the mess if we ALL spent like idiots? It does suck to be on the responsible side, for right now. I have to hold out hope that in the end, we did it right. Setting a good example for the future generation that is going to inherit all of this debt has to be done.

    Now excuse me while I go loose my breakfast.

  7. My husband is the money savvy one in our family, thank god. He's taught both kids about the importance of putting $$ away, investments, etc.

    And I love your Clean The House Day idea. I might just have to steal that.

  8. I LOVE the idea of matching the savings. LOVE it!

  9. Great post Amy with great advice!

    I'm afraid I didn't learn how to handle money well. Thank goodness my hubbie did!

  10. man... great post. i am feeling pretty panicky about how my kids' spending/saving habits are evolving. my 15 y.o. is very good about putting 25-50% of every dime he gets into savings. however, the crap he spends his spending money on is ridiculous. he doesn't use a lot of common sense and has a hard time thinking long term. my little one, however, is much more sensible and doesn't spend, just to be spending.

    you are absolutely right that this is one of THE most important lessons we can teach our kids.

  11. My husband and I struggle with the whole "do we live life now, or do we live life later" thing all the time. Of course we want to retire comfortably but at the same time who knows when/if we will be able to retire or sadly, how long we will live.

    We have spent our money very differently then a lot of our peers and friends and it amazes us what people think they "need."

    I can only hope that our saving ways will rub off on our daughter.

  12. Great post! Wolf and I always live broke, so we haven't had any investments to a mixed blessing there. Definitely teaching children about the value of a dollar is something important. I wasn't taught squat about money, and had to learn the hard way when I was on my own.

  13. I love the cleaning idea. I had to fire my housekeeper b/c I could no longer afford her and frankly she did a freakin shitty job by the time I said goodbye to her.

    My ex is a spender and i have to live with him rarely saying no to my kid. I am the bad guy in every situation. Kills me.

  14. give us so much to ponder with this great post! I agree, teaching my kids to be "money wise" is certainly hard. I KNOW I do a terrible job. The fact is, I can give them more than I had growing's not always a good thing, though. It seems (for my kids anyway) that the more they have, the more they want. It's so frustrating.

    I'm definitely stealing your idea of "family cleaning day." This would benefit us in so many ways, I can't begin to list them! THANK YOU!!


  15. I, for one, unlike Kath, am REALLY upset you brought this whole family cleaning day idea to my attention. Because now when I DON'T do it I will feel even crappier about myself.

    Actually this post made me realize ALSO how lame I have become about the money thing - I have embraced the living now thing a little more than I should....oops.

    Love this post Ames.

  16. This is an awesome post Amy. It has gotten me thinking all day about money and the kids. My Dad too taught me a lot about managing money, spending wisely and saving. Thus I would consider myself well balanced when it comes to spending/saving. Thankfully my husband and I are exactly the same when it comes to money. (WE HAVE ALSO LOST A LOT OF MONEY IN THE STOCK MARKET :() One thing that I find interesting is that my younger brother who was raised in the same home with the same family is the total opposite of me when it comes to money. Very grandiose, never saves, buys very expensive and unnecessary items (and has been this way since we were kids). Which makes me ponder how much of this is personality or how you were raised?
    I will continue to shop at Walmart and Marshalls and role model to my kids the value of money and getting a good deal but hell no I am not going to fire my cleaning lady and I do not feel guilty!!!! LOL :)

  17. Ames...what can I say I feel your pain whole-heartedly having the same "mommy-saver, daddy-spender" gig going on. I, too, fired my cleaning ladies but out of necessity after my husband lost his job. And on the very day that I implemented our "family cleaning day" my sweet mother-in-law who rarely cleaned and always lived in the moment passed away suddenly. So with that major dose of perspective my house is still filthy and I am left with this philosophy of moderation which can be oh so daunting...Save a little, spend a little but Live a lot and Love even more becuase in the end there really is no right answer.


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