The Best Financial Lessons I Learned From My Mother

Let’s honor the most important women in our lives by remembering the most important things they taught us

Our mothers influence us and our financial habits more than we realize. Just by watching how they handle their money, we absorb lessons that we carry with us for life. In fact, studies have shown that mothers are more influential when it comes to finances than fathers.

My mother was a female financial trailblazer before that was cool. I grew up in a home that normalized women managing their own money. That culture, in turn, led me into a career in which I teach women how to be more confident in handling their finances. This Mother’s Day, I am celebrating my mother in a way that complies with stay at home orders: By reminiscing on some of the best personal finance tips she taught me. Here are some of her highlights.

Manage your own money. My mother taught by example in this case. As a woman who took control of her personal financial life, she showed me that yes, women can and should handle their own finances. There was never a question of whether or not she was able to manage funds, it was just something that she did. She shut down the notion that women aren’t good at math, because let me tell you, she certainly was great at it. Her confidence paved the way for my independent financial life and thanks to her, I knew I was capable of handling it on my own.

Be an equal partner in your finances. My parents took turns paying the bills when I was a child. (They did it in shifts of roughly six months because that was the point at which they both got cranky.) And it worked. Both of my parents always had a full understanding of their shared financial portfolio and whenever a big purchase had to be made, they would discuss it at length together. In addition to that, my mother took control of most of the paperwork and managed all of the investment accounts. My father would give input — but she did the work.

Save early and save often. When I was growing up, we had a family piggy bank. We all contributed to the family fund, and when we took a trip to Orlando, Florida, the coins in that bank are what paid for our admission to Disney World. Saving doesn’t just have to be for emergencies or retirement or even Disney World. Whatever you’re saving for, starting early and putting money away frequently are the steps it will take to get you to that end goal. Time and compound interest are on your side if your money is in stocks and bonds, and the earlier you get your hard earned dollars into that account, the more you’ll have when you’re ready to cash in. But a savings account — or family piggy bank — won’t grow without frequent contributions, so be sure to stash something away every once in a while.

Working is a must. I got an allowance as a child, but as my mother says, money is more valuable to you if you earn it yourself. I worked jobs throughout high school to fund my extras — like trips to the movie theater or meals out with friends. I continued to work through college for the same reason. Once I graduated, I was already in the habit of working hard, which made taking on a side gig teaching SATs a no-brainer when my starting salary as a journalist wasn’t enough to make ends meet.

Always ask for better deals. My mom was the queen of negotiating for a better deal. I remember her bargaining for lower rates on hotel rooms when she was planning a trip or asking the phone rep to match the price she was getting from another car rental agency. She taught me that it never hurts to ask, and that coming up with creative solutions to save money can be effective and even fun.

There is no shame in asking questions. My mother always says she learned so much just by asking questions. Money is complicated and handling your finances is no easy task. It’s okay to not understand something, but it’s not okay to ignore your bills, your investments, or your money because you don’t understand something about them. Getting the answer and figuring out how to do something that is standing in your way will boost your confidence to handle tricky financial situations in the future. Plus, you might be able to serve as a guide for someone else in your life when they are unsure about the same thing.

With Rebecca Cohen

Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky

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