What Helped You Become Financially Aware?
We all know people who, while being fantastic and otherwise brilliant human beings, just aren’t good with money. For whatever reason, they haven’t embraced a financially-responsible lifestyle and are anything but strategic about saving. It’s as if these folks missed the Money Management 101 curriculum that echoes in the back of our own minds. It prompts the question — why are some people financially aware and others seemingly blissfully ignorant? (See also: A Beginner's Guide to Frugal Living)
My Financial Wake-Up
I think my own turning point with money began at the tender age of 13.
As the youngest son of an older father (he was 52 when I was born. And before you ask, no, I wasn’t an “oops” baby), I was eligible to receive dependent benefits from Social Security when my dad turned 65. My parents, evidently seeing some seed of responsibility in me, allowed me to manage this modest monthly windfall all on my own.
Once a Saver, Always a Saver
Now, to a child of 13 back in 1982, $120 and some change each month was some serious cabbage.
I already had a bank account by that time, but now I had a reason to pay attention to it. I remember filling in those old bank passbooks (long extinct now), and although I wasn’t sure what my goal for the cash was at the time, I knew it was important to save it.
I didn’t do anything particularly brilliant to make the balance grow more quickly, and I didn’t leverage it to start a highly-profitable childhood business (what kind of young capitalist was I?). But in spite of my slow-and-steady approach, something kind of wonderful happened — I become aware of money. I logged my deposits and the interest religiously, watched the balance grow, and understood what I could afford and what I couldn’t.
I received those checks every month until I turned 18. During those five intervening years, nearly without realizing it, I began to understand the potential of money, the power of saving, and the amount of time it takes to build a nest egg. Combined with the part-time jobs I had during high school (candy counter clerk, fundraiser for the local police department, janitor, and kitchen helper at a nursing home, to name a few), I put some serious mileage on that little savings passbook.
Was It Me or the Money?
Now, so many years later, I wonder how much that early exposure to money helped to shape my choices and define my financial style. Would any amount of money have had the same effect, or was it precisely due to feeling responsible for an amount I considered substantial at the time? I’m not sure I know the answer. But I am glad I had the opportunity to experience some fiscal responsibility so early in life and feel like that little passbook held a hefty enough sum to smooth my first few teetering steps into adulthood.
Financial awareness can come from all sorts of things — early exposure to money, financial hardship, an inheritance, or a loss. How those situations are presented to us and how we respond to them can make all the difference in the world. It leads us to websites like this as part of a smooth journey or as an unexpected destination after a bumpy and wild ride.
What moments in your life helped shape your current relationship with money? What led you here as a fan of this site or this topic? Did your childhood help set up you up for healthy relationship with money later in life, or did you have to overcome some negative modeling before you found your groove? Let the rest of us know in comments below.