Save. Spend. Splurge.

Money Talk: Did you know how much your parents earned when you were a child?

Not a damn clue.

No one talked to me about money, salary, saving, debt, nothing. Nada. Zilch.

I didn’t even know what things cost. I knew we had a 4-bedroom house in a nice area, and my dad drove a very nice car that was expensive because kids at school would ask curiously what my father did.

I’d reply he was a minimum-wage worker who only did work part-time and they would give me the oddest look.

It made me realize that maybe what my parents did was not normal. I guess everyone else’s parents went to work full-time, were in good jobs, but mine were unemployed and working minimum wage part-time, living in a huge house that made my other friends envious, and driving a fancy car.

It just seemed normal to me. I didn’t know differently. I didn’t know that expensive cars could be THAT much money, and completely out of the range of a part-time minimum wage worker.

I didn’t know that a 4-bedroom house was so expensive. I had no clue what anything had to do with anything else.

I think all my friends just assumed we were secretly rich from another country, and in some ways they were right because my father won the lottery (a small but substantial one, not millions) and then squandered it living a life he couldn’t sustain or afford.

My parents were, and still are, completely money clueless.

They are not money morons, per se.. now that the house is paid, and my mother is a little less of an Ostrich not caring about her money (5 categories of women and their money), and taking a little more charge, making sure she knows what she has, taxes to pay.. but just basic level stuff.

Even basic addition and subtraction can confuse my mother if the numbers are too big because she has always told herself she is too dumb to understand money or math and both are lies, but hey… she is a senior now, and she has us children to look out for her.

My parents were a thousand percent part of the reason why I got into so much student debt in school (spoiler alert: I did not know what being frugal meant, let alone what I had to do) and it wasn’t until I got out that I thought to myself — Oh. WHAT?!?... and then reality hit with my debt, and I just went to the other extreme, powering down on all expenses and sending pennies (literal pennies) towards my student loans.

I budgeted like nuts and cleared the $60,000 debt in 18 months….

I now know what that saved money costs. I know that there are taxes to be paid, expenses of the house, etc.

I had no clue what my parents made but it just seemed NORMAL that a part-time minimum wage worker had such a grand life, but it was clearly ridiculous in hindsight.

Goes to show you just how much we talked about money at home. I am aiming to be different with Little Bun.

I won’t tell him my real salary though because it isn’t realistic but I will give him my average salary, explaining that as a freelancer we make $0 and then a lot as well but we have to even out the income.

Did you know how much your parents made?


You can read the rest of the Money Talk questions here.


  • SarahN

    I do now (they still work, as do I). It’s never been a secret, but in primary school or even lower high school, it’s not that relevant. I went to a boarding private school, and I knew the costs were beyond my parents incomes, but due to a number of twists and turns in our life, it was possible for me to spend 8 years at this school – envious of students who had ‘better’ clothes and flashier holidays. That’s when and how my parents taught me about money and credit and choices. I recall being in Barneys and Mum buying a pair of socks. I asked her why – she said, she wanted something from Barneys (having come from Australia), but wasn’t going to go into the debt getting something. And we talked about credit cards and debt, and assumed some of my peers parents lived on credit (some were undoubtedly wealthy too). My parents started life as a bank teller and a teacher, and are now, a teacher and a teacher. They’ve earnt more (Dad) in years, but honestly? My salary eclipsed Dad’s highest salary within about 8 years as an Engineer, and he’s so proud. It’s given me choices (with money) that they couldn’t imagine – or could imagine but seldom entertained.

  • mia

    Nope. Though nowadays I could probably figure it out based on Glassdoor/the internet since my parents worked for very large corporations. But we didn’t have such information when I was growing up, and I’m glad.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Why glad? Did it not make it at least a good idea to use it to teach kids how you can afford everything around you? I’m curious, asking for Little BUn’s future…

      • Mia

        It isn’t the information per se, but how it is presented. I don’t think they need to learn in that much detail before they are ready and they don’t need to learn from the Internet rather than me. And they don’t need to have easy access to info on what all their friends’ parents make.

          • Mia

            It’s obviously easier if you work in certain professions/industries since that information isn’t public for most jobs.

            Unfortunately, in my case, this sort of information is disclosed once you get to a certain level in my industry/profession (since it’s related to lobbying).

            • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

              Oh I see. But even with Glassdoor you can find salary info… or at least an idea.

              Obviously the way we live, where we live.. there is no way he won’t know we are comfortable. I just want to be careful how we approach this subject.

  • Xin

    I generally did know what my parents made, or at least had several data points for it, starting from around age 10 or so. I think that was helpful to me, and it’s reasonable information for parents to impart. (I was still too young to fully understand what the numbers actually meant, in terms of real world spending power, and probably didn’t particularly understand money until I was in my mid-20s, but my parents were always reasonably frugal and responsible, and probably were teaching me a reasonable lifestyle and reasonable approaches to money management with their example.)

    There are still other things that they didn’t do quite as well (I generally feel like children often interpret their parents’ money lessons in odd and unexpected ways? so it isn’t exactly their fault that some of their money lessons came out weird). There were a few money related-things they made me anxious about when it wasn’t necessary, like with the lesson that we should only ever buy clothes from the sale section or discount retailers (a very small thing, and not an explicit lesson, just something that was implied).There have also been times where they weren’t great about communicating cost of university-related things to me, and it would have been helpful if they were more upfront with me instead of hiding the ball, but things ultimately turned out ok.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I want to do better with Little Bun. I think transparency is key, and showing him what a household budget is, and having him do exercises like log in online and see where he wants to live hypothetically and what it would cost to live that life… it sounds so heavy and real world and ADULT… but I feel like I missed all that as a kid and had to fumble around learning it on my own when I did become an adult.

      I just want him to be prepared.

  • Todd at Invested Wallet

    I had no clue, nor did I really care. Obviously, as I got older and wanted cooler things I could sort of guess. I always knew we were middle class and was always fine with it. My parents were hardworking people and provided everything they could for me.

    But I will say, they were smart with budgeting and not overspending, which certainly had an effect on me.

  • Clo

    My parents, and especially my father, took the opposite tack. Which I don’t recommend either.

    In our home, it was considered impolite to talk about money. I never knew what my parents made until I was an adult, but my father told us children that we were poor and that’s why he had to work three different jobs (two professional-class jobs requiring two different advanced degrees and one manual job). I always saw him in filthy work clothes driving around in old cars, and I really did think that we didn’t have enough money. We would get random flyers in the mail from agencies hiring truck drivers, and I would spend weeks nervous that since we were so poor, my father was going to have to hit the road to find good work and that we’d never see him again.

    Not a word of it was true.

    Yes, we had a frugal upbringing and yes, my parents were conservative spenders who were absolute sharks about paying off the very little debt they ever took on, but we were never hurting. And I can tell you that being led to believe that we were has had a very negative impact on the way I view my own finances, possibilities, and security in life.

    When I was about 30, my father got to talking about finances and I realized just how much he has been sitting on for years. It’s not tech-bro billions, but it’s a portfolio that would make a lot of investment managers cry. I am of course glad that my parents are not hurting, and grateful that we children had a financially secure upbringing, but I am (still) angry about the many wasted opportunities they had to talk to us about money management. And angry about the needless worry and anxiety that caused an already-anxious child.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Oh I definitely do not want to do that. I don’t want to lie to Little Bun, but I think until he is older, I do not want to reveal how much we actually have saved, for each of us.

      Your upbringing sounds like my partner’s.. his parents were lower class folks but they had enough money for everything yet refused to pay for anything. It created a lot of resentment and TO THIS DAY he remembers not having enough crayon colours for his first day of school.

      • Clo

        Yeah. Other people think about money in positive terms: how to use money to grow more money; how to finance new projects and bigger plans with carefully nurtured seedlings.

        Whereas I see constant deductions from a balance sheet. Little chips flaking away from a threadbare foundation of security. Scrimping because there might not be enough, even when there is more than plenty.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    Not a clue. But I can tell you for damn sure he always spent multiples more than he ever made. With car loans here and that weird mentality about debt being normal, I don’t think people had any idea our situation was weird but it was.

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