Monday, April 4, 2011

My Parents Taught Me...

...lots of things, but the thing that I keep thinking about lately is how my parents taught me how to be rich.  Let me start by saying that we are blessed, but we don't make tons of money.  And I think I feel so richly blessed not only because of our financial means, but just as equally because of our happy, loving home.  Travis told me a story when we were dating; we had been discussing income and what kind of income expectations we had for life.  Now not all people cover these topics so thoroughly but we did. Call me a girl scout, call him an Eagle Scout, we wanted to be prepared for marriage and really did cover pretty much every topic.  Anyway...he said when he was younger he would occasionally ask his mom, "Are we rich?"  She would always reply, "Yes, Travis we are.  We are rich with love."  When he originally told me this story I chuckled a little, thought it was corny a lot, but mainly liked the idea of keeping financial information from the kids.  Something we immediately decided to adopt for our future family.  Now that I am older this story seems far less corny and much more wisdom packed.  A loving family life seems to make up for a world of other shortcomings in my book and in this way our family really is rich.

But today's post is also about the good old fashioned dollar, the actual green kind and my parents teaching me how to collect them and become rich.  First and foremost my parents taught me how to work.  I am being serious when I say this.  Our weekday afternoons were filled with a chore list my mom would have ready by the time we would come home from school, our Saturdays we would spend from waking to dinnertime engaged in hard work.  On special occasions we would end this labor filled day with KFC or Chinese food making these days a treat despite having worked so hard.  And my summers were filled with working from sun up (at least it seemed that way) until well into the afternoon.  Literally my sister and I would eat Grapenuts every morning for breakfast trying to delay the start of work because it took us longer to eat than any other breakfast food we had found.  After many grueling hours in the garden, canning, and laboring we would end up at the Lake Club, a nearby private lake for swimming, canoeing, playing, etc...But not first without wearing ourselves out.  On those days my parents didn't have enough chores for us to do, my dad had a pile of leftover bricks and cement blocks he would have us move around the yard at will to fill the working hours.  Not being afraid of hard work always pays off and for those women out there who will someday primarily reside in the home and have less impact on what is being brought home know this, if you value hard work likely your spouse will have to have that virtue - at least that was the case for me.

Second my parents taught me about working smart.  Hard work can be grunt work unless you are working smart.  Working smart for me starts with a good education and I believe whole heartedly in a college education, no exceptions.  Additionally know what your priorities are in working smart.  If you care more about money than all else well than choose whatever pays the highest year after year.  But if you are like my husband and I it was equally important that we had good amounts of family time, a predictable schedule and flexibility to get away without too much notice.  This helped shape our career choices and likewise our income.  And no matter what you choose to do work smart and become the expert in that area - then you will always be in demand.

And last but not least, spend less than you earn.  I really don't care how much you make and how much you feel like this is an impossibility; it is possible - end of story.  There is no story about how little you make or family circumstance that will have me understanding your point of view.  I guarantee I have been there, I have done it.  And for those who really want to feel rich on any income I say budget.  Show me a person who budgets and I will show you someone who doesn't worry about money.  Living on less than you make is a great principle, living on a budget is a fantastic one.  When budgeting your family's income there are a million and one ways to do it, but...I will share mine.  Do everything in percentages.  For example, 25% of money is taxes, 15% is donated, 15% is saved, and live on 45% daily.  That 45% breakdown could be 25% is put towards a house, 10% is used for fixed and necessary bills, 10% is used for flexible and most easily adjusted bills.  Of that last 10% some of it can be fun money or personal money as you and your spouse decide but not always is it there.  But let me promise you this, if you work off your budget for a couple of months you will find the room for fun money.  I promise!  And note that not all people feel like these percentages would work for them especially if you are making less it might be hard to save that much, but a firm disciplined lifestyle in spending will lead you down the road to financial success. 

Last of all practice, practice and make your kids practice.  I have a three year old who gets allowance.  Some say that is ludicrous, but he is also the same boy who buys birthday presents for friend's parties, his siblings' Christmas gifts, and vacation souvenirs all from his own money.  He may need a lot of help making wise choices and getting the concepts now, but by age 9 like Bella he'll probably be a pro.  At least that is the goal.  Here's to green living, the old fashioned way!


Bizz said...

Mmmm. GrapeNuts!

We Three Queens said...

You're an amazing woman, Mary. I admire you so much. You are wise beyond your years. You are so blessed to have come from *good stock*. Your parents did good. ☺