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What My Dysfunctional Family Taught Me about Personal Finance

Sandy at First Gen American has proposed another Coffee Talk.  This is when she presents a topic and as many bloggers as possible jump in on the same day to cover it from their unique point of view.  This month’s topic was “What my dysfunctional _______ taught me about _______.”  Since this is my personal finance blog, I’m taking a direct route to material.  🙂

Most of my family reads this blog once in a while and will probably chime in if I’m way off on something, but this is what I learned about personal finance from my family while growing up:

  • Mom – Take responsibility for your own money.  I remember that our credit union wouldn’t let me open a savings account that wasn’t accessible by my parents unless I had an official identification card.  My mom wanted me to have complete control over my own money and took me to the Department of Motor Vehicles at age 6, waited in that long line with me, and even helped me up on a step stool to have my picture taken.  I opened my own account with my ID in hand soon after.  I still have the picture from that ID in my closet.
  • Dad – Splurging is okay as long as your bases are covered.  Seriously, my dad is all about saving first, but I did learn that having a good time is allowed.  I remember visiting theme parks and seeing movies like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin in the theater.  I also used to talk him into buying me one treat from the gas station anytime I was in the car with him while he was filling up.
  • Grandma – Investments rock.  My grandmother has an odd sixth sense when it comes to investing in stock market shares.  She buys stable shares but always seems to know when to sell right before it tanks for a little while.  I remember her and grandpa talking about some utility shares she did really well on when I was itty-bitty.
  • Grandpa – Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.  My grandpa rarely buys something new unless he is replacing something that doesn’t work anymore.  This seemed to rub off on me when it comes to furniture and cars.  I will use something until it simply doesn’t work for me anymore.
  • Sisters – Put aside money for specific purposes.  My younger sister is 8 years younger than me and the youngest is 13 years younger than me.  There were several times in my teenage life that I meant to get them something but simply didn’t have the money for when I remembered to go and buy it.  It made me feel like a complete loser and I haven’t ever forgotten to budget or save since then.  I never want to be in a situation where I simply don’t have the funds for something I want or need so I live with a detailed budget.
  • Aunts and Uncles – Savings matters.  During the good times and bad times, I was constantly reminded that having some money stashed away is a good thing.

My family may not always get along, but they did very well by me when it came to teaching me how to handle my financial life.

What did you learn about personal finance from your family?

21 thoughts on “What My Dysfunctional Family Taught Me about Personal Finance”

  1. First Gen American

    I bet it was so exciting and grown up feeling to get your own picture ID. Sounds like your family taught you some seriously important lessons. Thanks for participating in this coffee talk. I always love reading how people interpret those topic ideas.

  2. 20's Finances

    What great advice you picked up from you family! It sounds like your family wasn’t ‘financially dysfunctional.’ 🙂 I also learned (from someone, not sure who exactly) that you should save first and also that there are times to splurge.

  3. STRONGside

    Learning money tips from your family can either be extremely helpful or downright destructive. It sounds like your family is on the right track, and passed down some gems.

  4. gharkness

    These are lessons that take some people a lifetime to learn – you had the advantage of a family that was all over personal finance. And look how well that has worked for you. Congrats to your family!

  5. krantcents

    Like most families, we learn good and bad, it is up to us individually to figure out what we should use. It is one way to stop the cycle of dysfunction!

  6. Jeff @ Sustainable life blog

    I learned not to get “cute” with personal finances from my dad. Stick to the simple things like buy/hold investing, reducing expenses, spending less than you earn, and you’ll be fine. If you need someone else to tell you how it works, it’s too complicated.

  7. Mom of Crystal

    Hey, we aren’t dysfunctional. We just don’t conform very well. You were always a bright kid. You have really grown into a fantastic person. Keep up the good work, lol.

  8. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

    From my mom I learned to thing about long term goals and what is really important to me. Traveling > Eating out for lunch. From my dad I learned to entertain others. Creating good memories is more important than not having someone at the event if they couldn’t afford it. Pick up their meal or their tickets. You want to spend time with them and not have them not there. From my little brother, know when to invest and make sure you always have a job. You never know what could happen.

  9. South County Girl

    My mom was really always hesitant about borrowing money and saved up and paid for things in cash. It stuck with me. To this day i’ve never paid interest to a credit card…

    My sister racked up 10k in CC debt… and got bailed out by my mom in a loan situation… and then she racked up another 10k in debt and had to get another loan from mom because she couldn’t pay her minimum payments… Needless to say I learned to never loan or borrow money from family… its just messy.

    My dad dragged my mom into bankruptcy and I learned that Both husband and wife need equal say in finances and both should know how to access and check the accounts to make sure no one is abusing them…

  10. The Financial Blogger

    I’ve learned that going bankrupt is not the end of the world 😉

    my parents lost everything when I lost 14. We went from a 6 figure income lifestyle to a $10K/year income lifestyle. It hurts, but you can easily fall back on your feet and restart allover again.

    10 years later, they were back to the same level of income… but spending differently!

  11. Barb Friedberg

    Impressive influences. You certainly profited from your family, they don’t sound too dysfunctional (financially) to me 🙂

  12. My University Money

    I envy the vast array of influence you had. My parents drummed the usual middle class lessons into me hard (possibly at the expense of a bigger wealth-building picture, but hey, no one’s perfect). The biggest things were: never go into debt if you can help it, make sure and go to university (because as well know that’s the magic formula for instant wealth), and pay down your mortgage as fast as possible. I think much more valuable than those things was just how hard I seen my parents work day in and day out, that sort work ethic is priceless.

  13. Invest It Wisely

    Hey BFS,

    They don’t sound too dysfunctional to me — financially — either. It seems like you learned some valuable lessons from them. That must have been a really cute photo at 6 — I wonder what they thought at the bank. 😉

  14. Cynthia

    What a great group of lessons! I love the story of you at the DMV at 6! It’s never occurred to me to do that for my kids. Do you feel you understood what was happening and that you were able take responsibility, albeit as a kid, at that point?

  15. Crystal @ BFS

    @First Gen, thanks for hosting!

    @20’s Finances, nope, my family may have been broke at some points when life really took a bite out of them, but they knew what they were doing financially, so they ended up well.

    @STRONGside, I did get lucky in the financial knowledge arena.

    @gharkness, thanks!

    @krantcents, I’m just glad I didn’t need to work out financial bad habits.

    @Jeff, good lesson. 🙂

    @Mom, LOL, what does “conform” mean again? 😉

    @Jenna, those are great lessons to learn too.

    @South County Girl, proof that you can learn lessons from other people’s mistakes.

    @The Financial Blogger, I honestly don’t know if that is a good lesson to learn or not, lol.

    @Barb, we aren’t dysfunctional financially. We are dysfunctional in lots of other ways, lol.

    @My University Money, a great work ethic is priceless. Congrats on having one.

    @Invest It Wisely, I really was an adorable kid…I had even brighter red hair and a pudgy, ivory face but I always talked like a miniature adult. I could charm the gold from a leprechaun, lol. Oh, and I was humble too, hahaha. 😉

    @Cynthia, I knew exactly what was happening since I was hoarding my money already as it was. And 2 years later one of my 3rd grade friends complained that her mom stole her money out of her piggy bank for cigarettes and that was normal. I was dumbfounded. My parents would never have dreamed of taking my money. That’s when I knew I was pretty lucky.

  16. Your family taught you well! I know of a mom who helped her daughter set up her own bank at age 6. She had it as a neighborhood bank for her friends. There are a lot of possible lessions she learned from that. I lost track of the family, but I have a feeling the grown daughter is in finance somewhere.
    My parents insisted we save 1/2 of our allowance every week in a savings account. What little money it was accumulated enough that in high school they let us spend it on something fairly big. Interesting approach.

  17. Anastasia Kinkusic

    Thanks for bringing back some memories – LOL! My dad was spend all you have, my mom was save as much as you can, so I am somewhere in the middle! I remember her hiding cookies from him too – he also “ate as much as he could” though never got fat, go figure, LOL!

  18. 101 Centavos

    Your family doesn’t sound that dysfunction to me, at least when it comes to money. Great examples to live by.

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