Mother’s Day is tomorrow, and though I miss my mom all the time, I think about her a lot around her birthday (in April) and Mother’s Day. If she were still around, we’d be in Olympia, planting flowers.
So, I was thinking about my mom when Fidelity reached out to me to see if I wanted to talk about financial lessons I learned from my mom. They’re doing this whole series, and they have a series on financial tips for mothers on their site.
The lesson I want to talk about is a little funny. See, my parents never combined finances, not even when they were young and broke. They were married 36 years, and they split everything. It seemed normal to me, but when I got older and started talking to my friends about it, I realized it was anything but.
My parents shared a credit card (frequent flier miles, baby!), but I remember Mom and her little lap desk, with the credit card bill and a red pen, marking her initials and telling Dad to write her a check for x amount. Every single month.
Anyway, they made it work. It was weird, but it worked.
Lesson: Hide Money From Yourself (And Your Spouse!)
One day, right after I graduated high school, my mom pulled me aside. “I want to teach you a savings trick,” she said, “but you have to promise never to tell your dad.”
She pulled out her checkbook, and showed me her register (remember those?). It had a bunch of numbers in it, most notably subtraction.
She pointed to a section.
“See how I’m subtracting $10 here? And here? And here?”
She continued, “Every day I don’t go out to eat lunch, I pay myself $10. Then, I completely ignore my bank statement so the only way I can tell how much money I have in my checking account is to look here. That’s how I was able to pay for the kitchen remodel last year, and how I’ll be paying for a new couch this year.”
“That’s interesting, Mom,” I told her, but the lesson didn’t really sink in. “Why don’t you want me to tell Dad about it?”
“Well,” she confided, “your dad would take all of this money and do something crazy with it, like, invest it in the stock market!”
So I never told him. I tried to do her trick, but as I started earning money, banks went more and more into online banking, where it’s quite difficult to ignore the amount of money in your checking account.
I did think it was funny, though. She really wanted to keep that money hidden. Not that she ever did anything crazy with it, except pay for remodeling.
After she died, Dad and I had about a thousand heart-to-heart conversations (love those!) and I finally asked him if he knew about that money.
“Of course I did! How on earth was she paying for remodels if she didn’t have some money saved somewhere?”
I told him the story, and we shared a laugh.
So maybe it’s not the very best financial tip I learned from my mom (that probably has more to do with being fierce in the workplace), but it’s a memory that makes me smile.
More Financial Wisdom, from Fidelity executives in Portland:
- “Someone took me through a scenario long ago where I was the Mama Bear, and I had a cub. We needed food and the question came up: ‘Who do you feed first?’ I rushed to answer ‘My Cub, of course,’ which my confidante then pointed out was the wrong approach. Now, I was literally starving to death with no energy to continue foraging for food for either my cub, or myself. The best way to proceed was to feed myself first – it kept both us bears alive. This example is applicable across many facets of our lives, including finance. We have to save and invest appropriately for our own future while giving our children all the tools to make their own futures successful. By doing so for ourselves, our children get to see not only what it takes, but they get to see first-hand how to implement those strategies in their own lives. It is very empowering all around.” –Rebecca Morris, VP, Financial Consultant, Fidelity Portland Downtown
- “Teach your kids how to save at an early age. I taught my daughter ever since she learned how to walk that any penny, dime, nickel or quarter that she has to make sure to put it in one of her piggy banks. Now she’s made it a personal goal of hers to fill up all the piggy banks in the house. When she was 5 we went to the bank to open up her first savings account so whenever a piggy bank gets full she know she can take it to the bank and deposit it in her savings account. She is learning the value of saving money.” – Mae Judar, Relationship Manager, Fidelity Portland Downtown
Do you have a story to share? @Fidelity is tweeting out the best financial advice learned from Mom in honor of Mother’s Day. Participate by tweeting the best financial advice your mom ever gave you @Fidelity, using the hashtag #MomQuotes.