Thursday, January 1, 2009

What were you taught about finances?

It is said that we pick up our money habits from our parents. I think that how your parents look at money says a great deal about how you will someday look at money.

My father never incurred debt. Debt was "evil," and if you could not afford it, you shouldn't buy it. Now, that is definitely not a bad way to live, and is a quality that I am striving for as well. Most of the money problems we face are caused by too much debt. For instance, 100% of all home foreclosures occur on houses with a mortgage!

But, my father took it to another extreme. He hoarded cash, just to hoard cash. Any money that he spent had to make more money. This was his passion, earning money, and that is where all of the resources went. Very seldom was money spent on something fun. Then again, very seldom was TIME spent on something fun, and I think that could have made up for spending money on enjoyment.

You see, his money was just to be there. His goal was, and still is, to hoard large piles of cash. He has no vision, or end goal for that cash. I think that he is looking towards a day when he can't work anymore, but the key is, when he can't work anymore. Not when he doesn't want to. He has never taken a vacation.

His love of his money has driven him to have to always be doing something that can make money. If it does not make money, it is not worth doing. Unfortunately, some of the things that he couldn't be bothered with that don't make money was spending time with his children. Unless, of course, that involved making money. But making money with the children wasn't teaching them about money, and how to do it. It was employing them in his own form of slave labor. Commissions for us from his money making ventures were not to be found. He figured that he supported us, and it was our duty to work to make him money. Unfortunately, as he has aged, he has not learned anything, and is simply carrying on the same attitudes. He hasn't seen his granchildren, to actually come and visit, for several years. When questioned about this, he will tell me that "He is always so busy, and can't possibly be expected to come and see them. However, if we would like to bring them down to him, he can take minute or two between jobs."

I have gotten over the bitterness some time ago. As I build my own "fortune," (a major goal for 2009 is an emergency fund of $20,000), I stay challenged to remember that money is just a tool. It is a way to accomplish a goal. My $20K stash has a goal... the security of my family, so that we do not have to worry about as many things. It is not a bank balance that I will worship. In addition, we have a goal to fund a vacation to Disneyworld for our family in early 2010. Of course, I also want to fund our retirement, so that I can stop working and enjoy life while I am young enough to do so. And, not be a problem for my children and grandchildren.

The lack of a realistic approach to money by my father built up a desire in my to consume, and to aquire stuff. I mean, when you grow up, and don't have stuff, perhaps there is a great deal of pent up demand.

Teach your children right about money. Debt free is excellent, but teach them that money is a tool to take care of the things important to you, and to have some fun with as well.

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