Lessons from my parents

I know that for a lot of people, parents/guardians set an incredibly powerful example on how to handle finances. This rings especially true for me. One of the most important things that they wanted to make sure that they could afford was an ideal home for their children to grow up in.

As I write this, I am spending one of my last few weekends living in my parents’ house. It is a modest but beautifully decorated home that is filled with hundreds of pictures and memoires from my childhood and my parents’ life together. In many ways it is the stereotypical ‘American Dream’ home. We live in a very safe middle-income suburb, in a house that my parents built, complete with a white picket fence (no joke!) and a dog.

I think that for my parents, a home in a safe area with good schools was the most important thing that they believed they needed to provide for their children. Both of my parents grew up in poor and dangerous areas: my mom in one of the worst neighborhoods in a major city, and my dad in a more rural area several miles from that same city (an exurb, in today’s language).

Although this house has been paid off for almost ten years, I know that my parents had to budget and save and cut spending in other areas in order to be able to afford such a residence. Even as their incomes grew, my parents continued to drive old cars into the ground and wear clothing and shoes until they were no longer presentable. We also never took extravagant vacations as a family. We traveled often around the US (by car) to visit our family, but we’ve never been to Europe or on a cruise, something that many of our neighbors have done.

As a result of their prudent decisions, my parents already own (and rent) a second home that they plan on retiring to. They have also begun planning the details of a month-long trip to Europe (we kids will be joining them for a week). I now know that many of our neighbors and friends are jealous of my parents for the supposed ‘windfall’ of money that they have come into. If it is anything at all, this windfall is simply the money that my parents have saved over the years by not being in debt.

And that is a powerful lesson for me, as someone who likes to be able to see the benefits of her hard work and sacrifice. Being careful about my budgeting and spending now (and for the next several years) will lead to big payoffs in the future-like a dream vacation to Europe!

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July 18, 2009. Uncategorized.

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