7 Money Lessons I Learned from My Mom

I was privileged to grow up with a mother who told me at every turn that I could be whatever I wanted to be. I could tackle any job, make as much money as any man, and control my own financial future if I was smart about it. Our families are often the first place we start to learn financial habits, so it can be helpful to reflect on these beliefs that underpin our perceptions of money—many times, for the rest of our lives. My amazing mom imparted a few key money lessons that still shape me today, and hopefully they will help you too!

 

1. There is no Prince Charming.

Perhaps there’s a prince and maybe he’s perfectly charming, but you shouldn’t count on him to fund your life or be the only one who handles financial issues. My mother taught me early on that it was incumbent upon me to understand financial basics—and to set myself up for a stable future regardless if I had a partner to share that future with.

In practice that meant her encouraging me in my early 20’s to save money and buy a house on my own, because in her view, there was no need to wait until I was married to make investment decisions. While admittedly it was a bit of a stretch at the time, but taking that risk truly paid off in the long run.

 

2. Money isn’t scary.

I’m a banker and an economist at least in part because my mom is in finance. I was taught early on that money and numbers were nothing to be afraid of and that personal financial skills could be learned just like anything else you would need to know while growing up! She led by example, sitting at our kitchen table on Sunday nights with her checkbook register and calculator in hand, cranking away at bills and deals for her clients.

Even as a single mom when things got tricky and when there wasn’t quite enough to go around, money wasn’t a topic to be avoided. It was a problem to be solved and a resource to secure just like any other challenge in life. This lesson helps me remember that money isn’t everything and it doesn’t have to be the intimidating issue we often make it out to be.

 

3. Save for big purchases.

Credit cards were few and far between in our house and if you wanted a fun trip to summer camp, you saved your pennies for it! My mother taught me the value of being very thoughtful in distinguishing between want and need and exercising patience when thinking about making big purchases.

More than just being aspirational about our goals, she also encouraged her kids to talk and plan for how to actually make them happen: “So how much do you have to save per week if you want to go to camp in June?” I learned that taking tactical steps and breaking the action into manageable pieces is how you achieve long-term goals.

 

4. Start planning for retirement now.

I landed my first “more than an intern” job at 20 and was over the moon to bring home a paycheck that had some actual heft to it. But the celebrating was short lived as my mother asked, “Did you sign up for their 401k?” I remember being baffled. Retirement? Who was thinking about a 401k! I just started working.

But in that moment she taught me that the early years in our careers are really the very best time to start saving for retirement, even if it’s a small amount. The magic of the time value of money means that early small efforts payoff in large ways down the line—you’ll be very happy you made the effort even ten years from now!

 

5. Keep your own emergency fund.

My mom bucked a bit of tradition and kept a personal account that she maintained her entire marriage, even when us kids needed new shoes or the roof started leaking. Its value certainly changed over time, but it was one of the things that helped her find courage and confidence to make it on her own when the difficult time came to raise her children by herself.

While we never want to have to think about challenging issues and hope they don’t happen to us, having our own personal financial security (whatever that may look like for you) can provide a sense of freedom and comfort knowing you always have your own resources to depend on.

 

6. Know your market value.

There was no tiptoeing around money in my mom’s eyes! When she knew I had a performance review, the question that followed was if I asked for the raise. If I didn’t, or even worse, if I didn’t think I deserved it, I earned myself a fun few minutes of talking through different ways to approach my boss and make the ask. She was always sure to add with that the expectation and reminder that I certainly wasn’t better than anyone else, but that I should always expect to be paid fairly for excellent work.

 

7. Sometimes, you buy the shoes.

Once on a trip with my girlfriends, I texted my mom a picture of a pair of gorgeous shoes I was mulling over, but really hadn’t planned on splurging on. She called back immediately saying, “Those are beautiful and you’ll be very mad at yourself tomorrow if you don’t bring them home.” This sentiment was a huge surprise from my conservative, money-minded mother!

It was comforting to know that even though she so greatly valued financial responsibility, there were times where she could feel justified by being a little bit out of bounds. So my advice? Not every weekend, but for the most part if you’ve saved, planned, and been thoughtful about your finances…..sometimes, you buy the shoes.

 

What money lessons have you learned from your mother? What other women have influenced your financial habits?

 

This article was originally published on April 26, 2017. 

  • JEPierson

    These are very good tips. I unfortunately didn’t grow up with any kind of financial guidance. I asked for a savings account when I was in 4th or 5th grade and my parents told me “no” (what?!). But, as an adult, it was my Grandfather that told me that if I get married, I should have a savings account my spouse doesn’t know about. It’s funny and sounds a little shady, but from what I’ve heard about what happened in his marriage to my Grandmother, I see that it comes from a genuine place and not about being dishonest in your relationship.
    Lastly, I always find it disappointing when I meet another woman who is waiting for a man to come along and rescue her. It’s just lazy and completely not progressive, but to each their own.

  • Karen Crawford

    Beautiful!

  • Tiffany

    Your mom sounds like an amazing woman, and you are so lucky to heave learned such great things from her! I’m jealous. 🙂

    • Thanks Tiffany! She is so special and I am grateful for her influence every day! 🙂

  • Nice post! I’m quite OCD when it comes to money and keep a very up to date checkbook with a dozen formulas for saving money for holidays, expensive clothes, house stuff, etc. But at the same time I can go on a shopping spree without knowing how much I’m actually spending. I’m a girl with financial opposites haha! But thanks for the inspiration!
    http://www.merely-merel.nl

  • Hey Elle! This is such a cute article – thanks for writing it. I love the comment about ‘buy the shoes’ – sometimes you’ve just go to do it. 🙂

    xxx

    http://www.sheislight.com

    • Thanks Elise! That really is such a great memory I have of my mom’s sweet wisdom. For better or worse she’s the voice in my head when evaluating cute shoe purchases. 🙂 thanks for reading!

  • Great article. I just listened to “Lucky Bitch” by Denise Duffield-Thomas and I think your article goes hand-in-hand. Do you like her work? 🙂

    • Thanks for the tip Marie! I actually don’t know her work so I’m adding that to my listening list ASAP.

  • The one piece of advice I received from my mother before she past when I was 23 years old was…..”If you walk away and are still thinking about it, then purchase it. If it isn’t there anymore it wasn’t meant to be” She was my biggest and best shopping partner. My financial advice always came from my father for whom I am grateful to still have in my life. My mother also instilled in me the importance of giving back and making a difference. Volunteering at Ronald McDonald Houses, Serving food to the homeless not just on holidays but as often as you can and donating clothing you don’t wear after two months.

    I miss her everyday but am blessed to have amazing memories and wisdom to get me through life. I carry her everyday in my heart.

    • Tracy thank you for sharing that beautiful memory! It sounds like your mother was an incredible woman and I’m sure her commitment of service to others lives on through you!

  • CarpeDiem

    Oh gosh! http://bit.ly/1SZ24Bb Such a beautiful article! Finally a lovely article after so many days. 😀

    • Thank you Farrah! 🙂

  • Y. M. Blaise

    Thanks for the lovely piece!

  • Jen

    I find it really shit that you have hundreds of thousands of followers and attract an audience based off images you’ve taken from others (credit or not) yet all of your ‘editors’ have flawless, self-created content. Your Pinterest especially is basically a fraud. Taking images that are pretty and bright doesn’t make you a worthy publisher – it just means you know how to manipulate your readers.

    • The Everygirl

      Hi Jen, we’re sorry you feel that way! We always give credit when photographs on our site do not belong to us and we work tirelessly to provide quality content — like this article — that will help our readers.

      • Stephanie

        It would also be nice if this was somehow marked as a “re-run” from last year, rather than as a new post on 4/26/17.

        • The Everygirl

          Hi Stephanie, thanks for the feedback! We like to run articles again so that new readers have the opportunity to see and enjoy them, without having to dig through our archives.

  • Cupi DeAnso

    My mother is horrible with money… I am trying to break the cycle… Cannot lie, it makes me anxious when I think of money & the future… But I love advice like this… Very practical & a needed reminder…

  • Hyatt Lam

    These are the tips I learnt by myself and from my elder sisters. My mom complains a lot about not having money but have no intention to save, every other day she goes shopping for stuff that no body needs. Thanks to the constant fear of not having money in my childhood, I started saving at 5 (not kidding), audited my mom at 8, got my first summer job at 13, and became a real auditor at 23… so on, now I can afford almost all the stuff I want or need, rent a nice place etc. while saving 60% of my income, and had already treated my mom two trips abroad. Sometimes you don’t need a financial expert mom to excel in finance, a mom who is very bad at it would work just fine.

  • Annie

    Great tips! It’s really important to get your finances in check in your 20s – or you’ll be playing catch up in your 30s! It’s a truly freeing feeling when you don’t have debt AND have a little money in savings.

    On another note, I’m disappointed in the image you chose to use for this article. Although I do like the blogger in the photo, someone who got married in college is hardly a good representation of the theme of this article. Nothing wrong with being married, but it would have been nice to feature someone who represents finanical independence.

  • I know I should be saving more for retirement but it seems sooooo far away lol. I’m glad that my work lets me contribute straight from my paycheck and then matches my contributions. It makes it so simple and painless.

  • These are such great things to remember. I’m also very frugal (learned it from my mom), but you’re right. It’s important to learn that it’s OK to treat yourself sometimes. Buy the shoes, take a class for fun, save up and go on that dream vacation. You just can’t say you’re treating yourself *all* the time. I also try to remember to be grateful for what I already have, before buying something I may not need. Saves money, and reminds me to be happier. Win-win.
    http://www.homedeconomics.com/spend-less-and-save-more/

  • Beautiful read. I would love to do some of these and pass them on to my daughters.

    http://lifestyle360.co.ke