Guest Post by Dr. Kimberly Greenman
Growing up, I remember eating on a picnic bench inside our home for several years. Why did we have a rough pine outdoor picnic table (splinters and all) in our dining room? We had a picnic table because we were a family of eight and my mom, Kathleen, was saving up for a brand-new dining room set. There were plenty of laughs from neighbors and friends about our picnic-style eating, but my mom was undaunted. In fact, she would laugh along with them at how silly the picnic table looked inside, and we would keep using it.
In time, Kathleen had saved enough for the dining room set she wanted. It was made of oak and had real padded chairs, and was much more comfortable than the hard pine benches of the picnic table.
That picnic table symbolizes what my mom taught me about finances. To sum up all the lessons — money is a tool. You have to make it work for you. Don’t let the social mirror determine how you spend money. Instead, focus on what you want and then create a plan of how to obtain it. It’s okay if it takes a little longer to achieve your goal. In fact, important goals often do take a great deal of time. To achieve them, be prepared to sacrifice other less important things along the way. Enjoy the process.
My mom taught me these lessons over and over again. Watching her, I learned she viewed small amounts of money as a means to obtain larger, important goals. Not only did I observe this process, but I also benefited from practicing it under her tutelage. In this way, she taught me money lessons in an even more personal way.
From the time I was a little girl, my mom and dad sat me down and reviewed my “money book.” What is a money book, you ask? Well, it was the brainchild of Mike and Kathleen Nielson. They determined all six of their brood of children would have the privilege of maintaining a notebook documenting any earned and spent funds. Every week or so, one or both of my parents would sit me down and request I show them my money book. While I was pointing out my tracked transactions and earnings, they reminded me of the importance of saving some of my money for college. I began doing so. After collecting coins and dollars in various receptacles, my mom would drive my siblings and me down to our local bank. We would make deposits of our hard-earned savings into our individual college savings accounts. We would receive deposit slips from the bank cashiers and then look in awe at our growing balances.
At a very young age, it became clear to me that I was going to obtain a higher education. Why? I had a dedicated savings account for exactly this purpose that I had started and was regularly contributing to. That balance grew slowly at first, then accumulated more quickly as time went on. By the time college rolled around, I had enough saved for my entire first year. I also knew I could continue working and saving for each of my following years.
Where did this sense of empowerment come from? It came in large part from watching my mom manage our family’s finances. I watched her prioritize our spending. This meant saying yes to the most important things first, and saying no to what didn’t fit in after. I was able to mimic this in my own way. I knew the set cost of tuition each year, so I knew how much I needed to keep saving for that expense first. By outlining my costs, I could work backward to how much I needed to earn each year to pay for the next year. It worked!
By living at home during the summers and working multiple overlapping jobs, I was able to earn everything needed (barely) for the next school year. I sweated each summer that I wouldn’t be able to save enough for the next year. How work was going and how much I had earned thus far was a regular topic of discussion. Following each discussion, I distinctly felt, “I can do this. It will work out, somehow.” I don’t remember my mom ever consoling me with a promise to pay the difference. Instead, I remember supportive comments like, “You will find a way.”
All six of Kathleen’s children obtained some form of higher education and training. To a large degree, this came from the sense of empowerment she instilled into her children. She helped us believe that we were capable of identifying our own future goals and how to save toward those goals. We had the benefit of watching her save toward her own goals and our family goals on a regular basis. Because of the example she set, we knew it could be done.
I believe the money lessons taught by my mom have a universal application. As moms, our kids watch us. They learn from our financial examples. Are we teaching healthy money management skills that we want our kids to have? If not, then the best time to start is today.
Money lessons learned from mom:
- Our kids watch how we view and manage money. Are we mirroring the financial management skills we want them to develop?
- Our kids clearly comprehend our opinions about their financial management capabilities. Are we emitting recognition of their empowerment to manage money?
- As parents, we hope to raise money-savvy adults capable of solving money problems. Are we quick to cheer and slow to take over?
About this Guest Post Contributor
Dr. Kimberly Greenman is an expert in employee financial fitness. She is CEO and founder of Financially Fit Employees, Inc. as well as a mother of three. Her corporation provides employee financial fitness services to companies of all sizes. For more information email: [email protected] or call 1-800-652-7118.