Financial Lessons Learned from Mom
In celebration of Mothers’ Day, all of us at Halpern Financial reflected on the financial lessons we have learned from our moms over the years. While some of our mothers worked and others were homemakers, all had important lessons to share about being thrifty, recognizing value, and keeping our financial house in good order. Those lessons stuck and now we look forward not only to passing them on to our families, but sharing them with you!
Believe in yourself. The absolute best lesson on finances I got from my mother was what she used to tell me when she would come up to my bedroom and say goodnight. Most nights she would sit down and just tell me that I can do anything I wanted! She was so overwhelmingly positive and flowing with compliments towards me that I realized (even as a very young boy) that my mom was just being a supportive mom….but it had an impact. A key reason why many people do not have wealth is that they do not believe they are worthy of it! They lack confidence that they deserve to have things others do not. This is a fine line for sure….but the key is she did an outstanding job instilling an internal confidence that I could tackle life to get out of it what I want. To accumulate wealth you have to think you can do it and you are worth it! Most people who have a healthy income but do not have wealth detonate their own financial life some way or another. Could be addiction, job swapping, over-spending, divorces…etc. They do not value themselves properly or the people around them.
Understand your income and expenses. Be aware of what comes in and goes out and be prepared for a rainy day. In addition, she did well to help explain–in a very non-detailed manner–that one has to manage one’s income. Account for what you owe and be sure you can handle twists and turns along the way. She always preached a work ethic and the value of integrity! No amount of money mattered if you compromised your integrity.
Melissa Sotudeh, CFP®
Director, Advisory Services
Knowledge is priceless. My mom taught me that the best investment is always your education. Consequently the achievement bar was set high and the expectation was to always go above it. We were taught, and she truly believed, that knowledge was the ticket to your financial and life dreams. As a Wealth Advisor, I passionately believe that educating and guiding our clients (and my family) opens the path to a wealthier life.
“Buy nice, or buy twice.” My mom taught me to buy quality always (but to wait until it goes on sale). If you buy things you know will last, over the long term you will save money by not needing to replace cheaply-made clothes or other products. However, if you can get a discount, you absolutely should! I am glad my mom taught me that you can live within your means and enjoy nice things.
Kirsty Peev, CFP®
Director, Portfolio Management
The envelope system. When I was younger, before the advent of online tools, my Mum actually physically segmented her money for each month’s expenses. She kept separate, labeled envelopes of money for different purposes. This helped her stay organized about current expenses, and she also used the envelopes to plan for upcoming expenses over time. Now you can use various online tools for segmentation, but the lesson is the same.
Don’t minimize the value of money, even small amounts. When I was young we were on vacation and I saw a penny in the street and I refused to pick it up because “it’s only a penny.” Later that very same day I wanted to buy a toy using the money I had with me, and….you guessed it, I was one penny short! My parents would not give me the extra penny so that I would learn to appreciate the value of money. To this day I try to keep that in mind and look to save money in so many different ways.
“Yes, but do you really NEED it?” Finally, the refrain from my youth from my ever-thrifty Mum whenever I wanted to buy anything! I try to say this to myself whenever I am about to make a purchase that isn’t something essential. It has saved me from making some questionable purchases over the years and directly saved me a lot of money!
Director, Client Experience
Stretching your dollar. Growing up, my father was a blue collar worker and mom stayed at home to raise me and my siblings. At the time we did not have many means, but as a child I was oblivious to that. My mother would shop the sales and use coupons for groceries and we would frequent yard sales and consignment/thrift stores first for our “new” clothes and household furnishings. When we did shop retail, we would always visit the sale rack first.
So now, fast forward to the age of when I was first employed and earning my own money. I appreciated the fact that my mother instilled the notion to shop smart and see how far your hard earned dollar can go. While I may not frequent the yard sales and obtain clothing as much from consignment, I learned that more often than not there are deals to be had if you are a smart consumer with patience. My savings portfolio has reaped the benefit.
Aaron Clark, CFP®
Understand how your money flows. While we may not use checkbooks as frequently as just 10 years ago, the basics of accounting for the money you spend was a key life skill taught to me by my mother. She would have me write the check, fill out the ledger, and account for the difference in the account to help me learn basic math, and finance. This has been a critical skill that applies to every dollar spent, and the dynamics of cash flow. Understanding how money moves through accounts to accomplish different goals is a key to successful investment and retirement planning for the complex situations we help clients with.
Jennifer Davis, CFP®
Head of Planning
Plan ahead and make the most of what you have. When we were younger my mom used to put aside cash in an envelope throughout the year for Christmas gifts. Even though money was tight, my parents were always very generous with us around birthdays and holidays and I think my mom’s envelope strategy helped. They always knew how to make an occasion feel special even if it didn’t cost a lot.
She also was really good at making an evening at home special when we were kids and my dad worked the evening shift. We’d get lots of blankets, maybe pop popcorn, and watch a movie together. Or we’d work on some kind of creative project, or sing and dance in the living room. Whatever it was, we didn’t go out much but I never really felt like we were missing out.
Have a strong work ethic and create a beautiful life. My mom was a business owner and a single mom. She worked hard to make ends meet and I was very aware of that. She taught me more about work ethic than money. She always said “money doesn’t grow on trees” but emphasized that “if you work hard, the money will follow”.
My mom does have a knack for finding really good deals! She loves the challenge of sorting through a sales rack or hunting a particular item second hand. I learned from a very early age that I can have beautiful things without spending a lot of money.
Retirement Plan Consultant & Portfolio Administrator
Work hard but smart. My parents were first generation immigrants to the United Kingdom and had no concept about investing. However, they did know about hard work and saving! They would work every day with only Sunday afternoon off. My sister and I grew up helping them in the candy/newspaper/post office. We learned at a young age what it meant to work hard and that work ethic has stayed with me.
Today, I encourage my own kids to work hard but smart! I tell them to start saving for their retirement as soon as they can, it is a good habit to form at a young age. I also tell them to enjoy life, as there will always be good and bad times but we can control how we plan for them!
Keep your hard-earned money. My mother always encouraged me and my siblings to build a good work ethic. In our teen years, we would find a summer job, and/or a part time job during the school year as long as our grades were up. I held two jobs during my high school years and won the “Work-Study Award” upon my graduation. The important lesson is to be responsible, independent, and SAVE money earned.
Look out for family. Also, from past experience, when my mom was elderly, she suddenly was in need of our help in managing her finances. It is so important to look out for the vulnerable elderly, who can be taken by scams or people who prey upon the elderly for money. I hope my children know to look out for me when I'm old and need their help!
Dan Trumbower, CFP®
Senior Wealth Advisor
Search for opportunity. My mom was a homemaker and raised four children. Growing up she clipped coupons and searched for the best deals to create a very comfortable home for us. She went back to work after we were all out of the house and took advantage of maxing out her 401k. Now as an adult, I will always do my homework searching for the best deals on everything from carpentry supplies to cars. And of course, I always salary defer the maximum allowed in my 401k.