My parents have an amazing credit score, own their own home, are avid coupon-ers, and know how to live within their means. They provided my sister and I with a great childhood, and were able to provide us with everything we needed. While we were neither well-off nor poor, I’ve learned a lot about money from my parents, especially since I’ve been making my own money and learning to make my own financial decisions. However, as I have become financially independent, I’ve also begun to challenge my parents’ approaches and beliefs towards money to form an approach that’s my own. Here are some of the money lessons I was taught growing up that I no longer necessarily believe.
1. You can figure out your finances by yourself.
Other than consulting their siblings, my parents never had a financial advisor. I think there was the impression that having a financial advisor was a luxury reserved for the uber-rich, or those with more assets in general that needed special management. Since I started making a salary, I’ve found it helpful to get a financial advisor that I trust who is helping me plan to meet my goals.
2. Children are an investment in my future.
Sometimes I think it is because my parents are immigrants, and they grew up in a culture where it was common to have whole families (grandparents, parents, and children) under one roof, that having kids is a way to ensure you have company and someone to take care of you when you’re older. My mom says it to me all the time when she talks about the financial sacrifices my dad and she made to give my sister and I a great education: “We invested in you as an investment in our future.” I think this mentality is why my parents did not regularly contribute to retirement funds of their own. I currently plan my finances with the impression that somewhere along the line, I’m going to have to “pay for mom and dad,” and I don’t want my kids to feel the same way. I don’t want to move forward with the impression that having children will somehow secure me financially in the future.
3. Owning a home is better than renting.
I understand the arguments that owning a home can be advantageous. But owning a home is a huge responsibility. Both of my parents took little pleasure in the upkeep of our home— the walls were never painted, paintings and pictures were never hung, and when the fridge started to leak, my parents didn’t make a move to really fix the floor and do the expensive maintenance until it was time to sell the house and make it “buyer ready.” Though I think I do want to own a home someday, I think I will visit the decision with more caution and more consideration over home maintenance costs than my parents, taking classes on general home improvement, partnering with someone who is willing to take on the work with me, and hopefully starting a separate savings account to pay for those unpredictable home maintenance expenses.
4. Private school is better than public school.
Education is important— I had a great community and a lot of attention from teachers by being in a private school, but I also think I was a lot more sheltered from reality in my Catholic school upbringing. I also think that because my school wasn’t an elite, Ivy League feeder, I didn’t have a big advantage come college time compared to my public-school attending peers, and the “investment” may not have been necessary given the options for schools in the suburban neighborhood we lived in. Should I make future schooling decisions for future nuggets, I will not default to private school, and will instead consider all the options.
5. It is stupid to pay an annual fee for your credit card.
My mom always instilled caution into me when it came to credit cards. She never paid annual fees for her cards, viewing them as a corporate scheme to make money off of her. While I do follow her advice about always paying off the balance, I disregarded her advice about cards with an annual fee. While some annual fees are steep, getting a card with an annual fee can have some helpful benefits that reward you for your usage, which paying with cash or a debit card just doesn’t provide. If you use credit cards with annual fees wisely, you can build your credit and reap benefits like cash back on your purchases or free/discounted travel.
6. You don’t need to be investing. You need to be saving.
In my family, investing was always perceived as something incredibly risky, complicated, and just not guaranteed. Why put your hard-earned money somewhere when you’re not sure you’ll get it back? While it is important to save, and investing comes with the risk that you can lose money, if you have secured a rainy day fund and are able to make ends meet, why shouldn’t you try to learn more about what to do with your money, to make it grow at a faster rate than in your savings account?
7. PPO is best.
When I first started my job, I asked my parents about what health insurance plan I should choose, and I just selected what they recommended — a PPO. This past year, I reevaluated my selections with some of my colleagues, and I came to realize that there were tax advantages to opening up an HSA, and made the switch.
While I have learned a lot of good money habits from my parents, I have learned that it is important to challenge the beliefs you’ve grown up with and how they’ve impacted your own approach to money to try to create a better financial future for yourself. When it comes to making financial decisions, I still may ask for my parents’ input, but I’ve tried not to just blindly trust that they know best. I’m becoming more comfortable taking ownership of my own financial future, doing research on my own, and challenging their financial practices.
Antoinette is a coffee dependent, Boston-based business strategy consultant who enjoys learning travel hacks, watching stand-up comedy, and slurping oysters raw on the half shell. You can find her on Instagram.
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