The Best Financial Lessons Our Parents Taught Us
Advice from professional advisors, fiduciaries and accountants can help shape your financial success as an adult, but studies show that fundamental beliefs about money are shaped in childhood. Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and other adult role models can significantly impact how we think about and manage our money. In honor of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, the Beyond Finance team shares the best financial lessons our parents taught us and the positive impact those lessons have had on our lives.
“Have a Rainy Day Fund”
A rainy day fund or an emergency fund is always a good idea! That’s a lesson Taylore H. learned from her grandparents, who were her primary financial role models.
“My grandfather is an entrepreneur and has always stressed the value of a dollar and the importance of having a rainy day fund. The best piece of advice my grandparents gave me is to save, save, save, let your money work for you, and pay your bills on time to build/have a strong payment history.”
Taylore’s grandparents also stressed the importance of the debt-to-income ratio. Keeping your balances low allows for optimum credit utilization and can boost your creditworthiness. Thanks to the good advice Taylore received, she has been able to build a life that she is proud of.
“This advice allowed me to position myself to purchase my first home as a single mother at the age of 28. I’m passing down these lessons to my daughter to ensure she receives the financial literacy I lacked in my household growing up.”
Beyond Finance Contributor: Taylore H., Contact Center Manager
“Learn How to Budget at An Early Age”
Angie C. started budgeting with her parents at an early age. By 10, she was balancing her Mom’s checkbook “for fun!” This helped Angie see exactly what her parents were earning for their hard work and how much they spent to support the family.
“My parents were immigrants from Panama and grew up poor in their home country before migrating to the US. When they moved to Houston, they saw the opportunity to create a future for their two children and did everything In their power to provide the best life they could and to teach their two daughters the true value of a dollar.”
Angie sees now how these early lessons in mindful spending have impacted her future. “Years of watching my mother be frugal and mindful of spending made me realize it was all for a reason – her kid’s future. Both my sister and I were able to graduate from college without debt. She worked for our future and ensured we were able to accomplish our life goals without having to worry about student loan debt.”
Angie is grateful that her mom’s hard work and important lesson set her up for success, and it’s a lesson and gift she intends to pass on to her children.
Beyond Finance Contributor: Angie C., Director of HR Operations
“Avoid the Pitfalls of Student Loan Debt”
Mikaela S. chose to major in music. While her parents supported this decision, they made sure she thoroughly explored the risks and rewards of her chosen career path and developed secondary skillsets for a dual career.
“My parents worked really hard to provide for myself and my two siblings, but they also had practical, age-appropriate conversations with us about money for as long as I can remember. Education was a big priority in my family. My mom and dad committed to paying for our undergraduate studies, but they also wanted to make sure we understood the true value of our education. If we got a C or lower in a course, they required us to pay out of pocket to retake the class and earn a B or better. If we qualified for a scholarship or a break in tuition, we were expected to apply.”
Although those lessons weren’t always “fun,” they paid off. After finishing her undergraduate studies, Mikaela decided to get a master’s and prioritized obtaining a graduate assistantship to ensure she’d stay debt-free. While she continues to use her degree professionally, she has a dual career in marketing which stabilized her income, especially during the global pandemic.
Beyond Finance Contributor: Mikaela S., Copywriter
“Make A Difference with Your Money”
“Put yourself in a good financial position where you can serve others who need it.” Having money is, first and foremost, a responsibility. The decisions you make about what you do with it impact not only you but also your family and community. It’s a profound lesson that Sandip P. learned from his father.
“He always told me to invest in something that will build an equitable financial future – i.e., real estate or stocks. This advice has kept my family and me in a good position to assist others. We’ve sponsored and paid for high school kids to go to college and provide assistance with books, tuition, and housing. It even gave me an opportunity to teach at local community colleges in Chicago.”
Beyond Finance Contributor: Sandip P., Head of Information and Cyber Security
“Reduce, Reuse and Repair!”
Writing this blog inspired me to think about the lessons of my own childhood. I grew up in a rural area where sustainability principles were essential to making ends meet. My grandparents lived through the Great Depression and instilled in my parents the importance of frugal and resourceful thinking, which they then taught to my sisters and me.
My parents taught me to reduce my consumption and my spending by buying things second-hand. At an early age, we learned how to make, repair or reuse things we already owned before purchasing something new.
When my family needed something around the house, whether it was a bookshelf or a dress for a school dance, the first question was always “how can I make that” rather than “where can I buy it?”
My mom and dad were also very good at fixing things. Things that couldn’t be made at home were often bought second-hand. Although I can see now that it was born of a desire to save money, It was a wonderful way to grow up, and it made the new things we bought feel special.
Beyond Finance Contributor: Anna C., Copywriter
Financial Literacy is Inherited
Financial literacy starts at home. Some lessons are explicit, like managing an allowance. Others are observed or implied as children watch how their parents and adult role models handle money. That means your parent’s financial strengths often become your financial strengths. Weaknesses can also be inherited.
These days, parents have to compete with the influence social media has on their Gen Z kid’s financial literacy. Research shows that Gen Zers (people born between 1995 and 2015) are more likely than older generations to rely on the internet and social media to influence their spending and saving decisions. That might not be a bad thing.
Gen Z is hungry to learn, and 89% say planning for their financial future makes them feel empowered.
Technology Can Help Break the Cycle of Financial Illiteracy
If you want to improve your financial literacy or unlearn bad habits you may have observed, online resources are abundant and at your disposal. Financial bootcamps, courses, seminars, and self-help books are now widely available, and many are offered for free or at a low cost.