In loving tribute to my mother this upcoming Mother’s Day, I’d like to thank my mom for teaching me how NOT to manage money.
Don’t worry, she won’t be offended. She’ll be the first to admit that she has never managed money well and has made numerous financial blunders during her lifetime.
My mother was raised in the “Mad Men” era when the men managed the household finances and the women managed the kids, shopping and cleaning. She never knew how much my father made. She got a weekly allowance that she tried her best to budget around. If an emergency expense came up, she had to ask for more.
My dad paid the bills. On Saturday afternoons, you could find him at the dining room table surrounded by a stack of envelopes and his checkbook with a grumpy look on his face. Despite his job as a banker, he had a tough time managing the family finances as well, as he was very, very fond of living beyond his means. God rest his soul. In fact, his financial behavior reminds me of the story about the plumber living in a house with leaky faucets. At work, my dad could make lending decisions in the millions of dollars. At home, however, he lived as if he made millions of dollars more than his salary.
But back to my mom. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling issued a press release this week announcing the results of a poll of its website visitors about how children view their mothers as money managers. The results revealed that 67 percent of respondents saw their moms as “someone who is intimidated by money, views managing money as a necessary evil or has never managed money.”
While my mom fits the poll results, I don’t. And I’m a mom now, too. However, it was her inability to manage money that motivated me to learn as much as I could about how to budget and live within my means. Part of my education was borne out of necessity — when my parents divorced, I was in high school, and my mom and I learned together how to budget and pay the bills. I vowed I would never be as financially ignorant and dependent as she.
Yes, I have made money mistakes. Who hasn’t? But I am far more financially savvy than my mother. And I would venture to guess that I have served as a much more positive financial role model for my kid. He knows about “paying himself first,” the importance of emergency funds and actually slows down his spending before his checking account balance gets too low.
My mom has come a long way since becoming independent, but she still seems to get into financial trouble fairly often. So, as I head off to spend a long weekend with her this Mother’s Day, I’m certain we’ll be sitting down and talking about her finances a bit. And I’ll get to use those skills that I owe, indirectly, to her.