Money Handling Baggage

Looking back, I can see why I ended up in money troubles over the years.  We learn how to handle money by watching our parents…and if they don’t teach us the proper way, we go out and learn from anyone who will.  I know it’s not just me.  Hubby said his father never taught him how to aggressively negotiate on vehicles when he was buying the truck (yes that one we are still paying on…that last debt that he drives) so he learned auto financing from the salesman

My parents lived at the financial edge when I was growing up, and I remember eating government cheese and bread and that awful WIC cereal.  I know they declared bankruptcy sometime when I was in grade school, although both parents refuse to talk about that now.  Although I learned absolutely great ways to stretch every last dollar that comes in, I also learned some very bad money handling habits.

From my parents:

  • “If you can afford to finance a newer car, that means you are doing better than when you have to pay cash for a beater.”
  • “If it gets too bad, you can always declare bankruptcy.”
  • “If you can get a credit card, that means you are doing good.”
  • “Claim zero on your W-4 so you can get a tax refund.”
  • “Spend your tax refund on yourself…something nice like a vacation.”

From my first husband:

  • “Get as many credit cards as possible.”
  • “If we are short money, we can get it from a payday loan place.”
  • “If we need more than a payday loan place will give, a parent will cosign for a signature loan.”
  • “We can always get a cash advance on the CCs.”
  • “Don’t put your true income on the application…always round up so we can get more.”

Hubby got from his parents:

  • “Finance the truck because you can earn more in a money market…you can beat the system that way.”  (Doesn’t help when you don’t have said money market account at that time…)
  • “Use vehicle financing and credit cards to build your credit.”
  • “Talk to your brother about money; he used to work for the credit union and knows the best ways to handle money.” (This is the brother who is now getting large student loans!)

I’m sure there were more, but those are what I have uncovered so far. My parents weren’t really major bill jugglers, at least not to the extent my ex still is. But my mom still believes that being allowed to finance a nice car is a sign of how well she is doing and that approximately $60k in her retirement (in single stocks!) at age 58 is doing good.

Hubby doesn’t know as much about his parents’ finances as I have discovered about my mom’s, but he said his mother is now worried and that surprised and shocked him. All his life he has been convinced his dad has his financial act totally together, and hearing his mom worry may have been another wake-up on that trip to Florida.  

Hubby resisted listening to the Dave Ramsey message for the good part of a year, because of his previous money handling “lessons” he got from his parents.  I jumped right on it after the first five minutes, because I have had my financial teeth kicked in enough to know my way just didn’t work and I wanted so badly to learn how to really WIN with money.  I just didn’t know how or who to listen to…until that drive home and that fateful billboard (which doesn’t seem to be there anymore).

Since I am feeling reflective about money management, I just have to ask: What lessons about money did you learn from your parents?  Were they good or bad?  If they were bad…where did you go to find better ways?