What I learned from growing up without ever talking about money
There is a fantastic post from Charles, talking about growing up in government housing, which I found fascinating to read.
I would also highly, HIGHLY recommend reading Revanche’s post: Random thoughts on poverty and the poor.
Anyway, back to Charles’ post. Oddly enough, her (?) experiences were kind of eerily similar to mine in some cases, and in others, not at all.
I grew up solidly middle-class, if you can call it that. I call it more middle-class money with a poor mindset.
See, my parents won the lottery then wasted most of it on themselves, so we had money to pay for a middle-class lifestyle.. but they didn’t really earn it which means they didn’t really put the work into saving it and had no clue how to (still don’t).
A few correlations between that post and my experiences:
1. At that time, we were considered the “rich neighbours”
My father drove a luxury vehicle (no joke), a second car just for everyone else, and we had a huge house (3 to 4 times the size of my friends’ houses). By all appearances, we were “rich”, or at least well-off.
No one could understand how my father could afford all that just working part-time at a retail store, and it wasn’t until an actual rich kid who had doctors as parents asked me: But what does your dad do as a career? ..after seeing my dad’s luxury vehicle, that I found it a little odd.
Still, you’re a kid.
WTF do you know about how money works, if no one talks about it at home?
2. We kids had a burning desire to work for ourselves
So while Charles’ friends were talking about starting a business and becoming rich right off the bat but not wanting to talk about going to college, my sibling and I actually did it when we were kids but never thought that we would NOT go to college.
Specifically, when I was around 14 years old, I learned how to make thousands of dollars from virtual (fake) millions online. Then as I left that video gaming world, I started a second business consulting for small businesses when I was around 15, and from there, built a clientele that took me through my college days, and helped pay some of the bills.
(Good thing too, because I moved out at 19 to live on my own.)
But never once did I ever think I would NOT go to college. I knew that consulting for these small businesses was a feast and famine situation and I needed an education.
It didn’t pay for everything but it paid for a decent chunk of my living expenses and student loans.
My sibling did something similar and started a small business as well but that petered out after he graduated college.
Still, my one sibling and I had a kind of independent streak in us to do a side job on top of our real jobs, be it going to college or working an actual full-time job, which is the reason why we are now both independent freelancers.
..but we never thought that education was something to avoid, no matter how much it cost, which is a very middle-class mindset.
We naively assumed our parents would pay for at least some of it (how could we have suspected otherwise with the way we were living and what they were telling us about how they had all this money saved for us?), which turned out to NOT be the case.
3. My parents were and are still terrible with money
If winning the lottery and then spending the next 35 years of your life with ONE parent working part-time at minimum wage, while gambling a lot of that money away to try and win the lottery for a SECOND time (TO THIS DAY) is not an indication of being terrible with money, I don’t know what is.
If that doesn’t qualify, please tell me what “bad money management” looks like.
Not only that, they are terrible with judging how much money they need for the future because they never think about it.
They live in the present, and never think about what will happen tomorrow, much like how little children act.
My father thought he could retire on that money at the age of 35, and live the next 35 years or longer, while spending like a
rockstar moron on lottery tickets.
I guess he figured us kids would be the backup retirement plan, which he has made pretty clear due to our culture basically saying that kids HAVE to start paying for their parents, which I have ignored and had fights over, because… he’s STILL spending like a moron on lottery tickets and can’t be trusted with money.
(What my dad expects me to give him monthly to basically fuel his sense of worth to make him feel rich and to fund his lottery playing habits)
My mother still thinks that retirement money could only be gained from winning the lottery.
Savings? WTF are savings?
Are you insane?
The only way to get money is to win the lottery.
As a result, my parents can’t continue living their expensive lifestyle, even today with my mother pretty much making all the money in the house.
They basically think and live like poor people.
My mother for instance, saved well over $15,000 in her bank account this year.
However, instead of going on a modest vacation where she spends $5000, she plans on spending every penny down to $0 and enjoying her life for the brief week that they will be gone (yes, blowing $15,000 in 7 days is her goal this year).
They’re the adult equivalents of all the reasons why you and I overspend.
You could make the case that I can’t really say much.
I mean, who am I to talk, with my spending sprees?
THE GALL of me!
I didn’t work all of this year (not by choice, as I did hustle for contracts but they fell through & then this cute little surprise came along), and I spent about $15,000 on my wardrobe this year (mostly getting rid of Made in China crap)… but I have only 2 things to say in my defense:
- I am not living paycheque to paycheque (you can’t, as a freelancer).
- I am not spending all my free money before the year is done (“free” meaning cash).
4. My parents never talked about money but we didn’t grow up “poor”
I’d hear my dad getting mad if we left a light on or left the water running a little longer than needed, but that was more because he’s penny-wise but pound-foolish.
If you aren’t familiar with that term, it means that he economizes on the little stuff (also called being “frugal”) where he turns off the light and saves $0.000002 cents, or uses colder water to shower (another $0.000002 cents), but then spends a lot of money on stupid, STUPID things like $500 a month on lottery tickets in wanting to chase that second lottery win.
So my parents never talked about money, especially not with us.
I was also one of those kids that went to school hungry every morning. It wasn’t that we didn’t have money, it was that my parents were kind of .. lax in the whole parenting department.
This was mostly because my dad couldn’t be bothered to wake up to make us breakfast before we went to school.
It’s the reason how and why I learned how to open packages of food, soup cans and basically eat what was available in the fridge to cobble together a meal at a young age.
All of this, added up to being independent at a very young age, which I see as a blessing in hindsight.
Where was my mom in all of this?
My mother who is not lazy in the slightest, was TRYING to find a job but couldn’t, so she started getting another college degree, and left early in the mornings to get to her 7 a.m. classes by bus (also another throwback to my father not being bothered enough to wake up early enough to drive her to school).
My mother grew up poor, but my father grew up rich.
You can see it clearly outlined in their habits (my mother gives a lot of money to her family as well as working VERY hard), but that made for a very odd upbringing for us, because we were rich… but also poor in many ways.
WHAT DID THIS ALL ADD UP TO AT THE END?
Most of my siblings (exception of one), are basically financially independent and savvy.
That is, we know how to save, we understand how to invest our money and so on. Some more than others.
The downside is that we know how to spend.
In fact, we know how to spend like rockstars in the moment because our parents taught us how to do it.
It is something I still struggle with.. hence the spending / saving nature of my blog.
The only saving grace of our taste for spending, is that we are tempered by our fear of turning out like our parents, and I in particular, have a semi-frugal partner as well (I say semi-frugal because we always travel a lot).
One of my siblings in particular, seems to feel slighted that he doesn’t make as much money “as the rest of us”, but then goes and borrows thousands of dollars from my mother who doesn’t have the money to begin with, and then pretends he doesn’t owe her a dime.
He has learned that penny-pinching but pound-foolish, poor-person behaviour to a T.
(We’ve already intervened, and put the ultimate kibosh on her ever borrowing on credit to give him money for a down payment on a home.)
I should also mention he makes $60,000 a year which is NOT “nothing” or a small salary in my opinion, it is just that he thinks it’s low relative to what we can make, so he feels like a small fish in an ocean, and very jealous as a result.
Basically my entire childhood, up to the point of going to college was a blurry, hippie dream.
It wasn’t until my parents finally broke the news that NO, we do NOT have the money we promised you for college, that I had a huge wake-up call.
I had floated through my whole life thinking that money was not a problem because we never talked about it (and we always talk about problems right?) when in fact, it was a HUGE problem because we DIDN’T talk about it.
At the end of it all, I realized my parents would never be there for me financially, and that’s okay with me because it made me hustle and learn how to get out of $60,000 of student debt in 18 months, turn my financial affairs around by learning how to budget and track expenses.
…and now even after having worked basically half my career due to choices I made such as taking off to travel* and circumstances like this one, and a more relaxed approach to life a la mes parents, I still have a pretty decent net worth for someone my age.
*I did the math and I have traveled about 3 years in total to various places, for months at a time. See places below:
My net worth could be higher for sure, but I still have half my life ahead of me before I retire, and I am not too concerned about making enough money to reach it.
I’m still searching for the balance of saving and spending.