How we form our financial habits

Most people learn their money habits from observing the relationship their parents or other adults in their lives have with money. When we are young, the money habits adults in our lives have, impact us and help shape how we view money early on. As we age, our environment and societal norms also influence us and our relationship with money.

I spent most of this year writing my first book, “Dream of Legacy, Raising Strong and Financially Secure Black Kids.” The book will be released on Amazon on October 1st of this year and is available for pre-order here.

As I took a close look at my relationship with money, I spent time reflecting on my journey from childhood to adulthood and the money lessons I learned. It helped me realize how much my parents’ views on money affected me.

I was blessed to learn great money lessons from my parents that gave me a head start in life. I also realize that not everyone had the same opportunity.

Here are five money lessons I learned from watching my parents growing up, that I’m thankful for today.  

Avoiding debt

Avoiding debt is one of the principles my parents lived by. We rarely had money conversations in our household, but my parents were very vocal about their stance on debt. They emphasized the importance of saving for what you want to purchase and not using tomorrow’s dollars to pay for today’s expenses.

My mother always said that the peace of mind she had from knowing that she did not owe money to anybody was invaluable.

Though some debt like a low-interest mortgage or student loans might make sense, most personal debt, especially consumer debt, encourages you to spend more than you can afford. When I first found out about consumer debt like credit cards or car loans, I was taken aback because I could hear my mother’s voice in the back of my head.

Debt can produce additional stress in life. It is expensive and can stop you from achieving your financial goals. I’m thankful that I benefited from that knowledge early in life as it helped me turned down consumer debt as a young adult.

Living below your means

Spending less money than you earn is another lesson I learned as a kid by watching my parents.

As you do better in life, it is a natural reaction to upgrade your lifestyle. But, my parents’ conservative approach to spending taught me the value of living below your means. Though I did not understand it at the time, their actions taught me that you don’t have to adjust your lifestyle to match your income because you are doing financially better in life. Life is full of ups and downs, such as illness, short-term disability, loss of income. It is okay to upgrade your life, but as you earn more, increasing your savings rate is a habit that can help you face tomorrow’s financial setbacks and prepare you for the worse. There is incredible value in choosing to live below your means as it can help you stand the test of time.

Related post: 50/30/20 Budget rule

Planning and investing in the future

My parents did not talk about money very much. But I remember my mom telling me that I should always save at least 20 percent of my money as a teenager. That resonated with me and always stayed in the back of my mind. From the moment I created my first budget, I knew that anything less than 20 percent was not a good idea. I learned a lot about long-term financial planning, watching my dad growing up. He was always very forward-looking, focused not only on saving but also on investing in the future. Exploring different avenues to make your money grow is a money lesson that I appreciate even more today.

Giving back

I grew up in a culture where if you are doing well financially, society expects you to take care of the people around you beyond your immediate family. One day, my mother told me, “you become an adult the day you take care of someone else’s kids.” Though I did not necessarily agree with the statement, I understood my mother’s message. My mother was reminding me of the responsibilities that come with success in our culture. I grew up watching my parents provide financial assistance to extended family, friends, employees, and many other people. It was a way of life for them. I cherish this lesson I learned from them. I believe that no matter how much you have, giving back is an important and humbling practice.  

It’s not all about the money.

My parents’ actions taught me that chasing money won’t bring you happiness. Once your basic needs are covered, you should make decisions that feel right, even if they don’t result in making the most money. It is crucial to find fulfillment outside of material possessions because you will never be satisfied if you embark on the money chase.

When I was in middle school, my father decided to take on a leadership role within his profession. To take on that role, he sold a successful business that he owned to avoid any conflict of interest. My father believed that the impact he could make on his profession was more valuable than the money his business could generate. He sold the company to one of his employees. Twenty years later, the business is still open, and my father believes that he made the right decision.

Like most elders, my parents are a wealth of knowledge.

I was blessed to learn these money lessons from them early in life. Though there are many other lessons I learned from my parents, I believe these five have helped me the most in life so far. What is a money lesson you learned from your parent?

It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for.Robert Kiyosaki.

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