How does your financial upbringing affect your stewardship today?
All of us come from different family financial backgrounds and those experiences shape who we are today. I was brought up in a household where money was in scarce supply, but even more scarce was any discussion of money. My parents almost never discussed finances. Even though they were successful at handling this important tool, they did not do the greatest job in teaching their children about money.
The positive result of this method was that I left home and went through college and entered my career without being obsessed with money or without a bent toward serving money. Salary was never a factor in my parent’s occupational decisions and salary has never really been a factor in my job decisions. This is one of the reasons that both my parents and I have worked almost exclusively for non-profit ministries. The other positive of this approach is that my siblings and I grew up mostly without a television, video games or vacations to exotic locations. Furthermore, we never pined for such things because we did not know what we were missing. We read, played hard outside and went camping a lot. We never really coveted the lavish lifestyle (by comparison) that some of our peers lived. We did not think about it; money was never a part of the daily conversation.
For most of my youth, my dad earned money on the side as a carpenter. When school was out, my brother and I would go with him to the job site and from the earliest ages, we found ways to help out with simple tasks and then more complicated as we grew and became more skilled. He never paid us. We never talked about money – we thought it was fun to work with our hands out in the sun all day with our dad. It sounds ludicrous, but I remember the first time that I helped out a different contractor for a couple of days and he wrote me a check . . . I couldn’t believe it. I was actually surprised that a person could have all this fun and get paid for it too. I think I was a sophomore in high school and it ruined me for working with dad.
We never expected money when we worked on a house with father, but my brother and I did earn extra money by shoveling snow, mowing lawns, raking leaves and other odd jobs. But we were embarrassed by any discussion of money. We would knock on the door, ask if the person would like their driveway shoveled. If the answer was yes, we simply went to work and left the level of pay up to that person. Sometimes we were even squeamish about knocking on the door when the job was done in an indirect reminder or a non-verbal request for payment. We just hoped the person would notice that we were finished and lean out of the door with a check or some cash. I know that at least once, we left a freshly shoveled driveway and just walked home rather than go through the excruciating pain of asking for payment.
I come from the kind of family that tips even when the service is poor and if the server makes a mistake with my meal, I eat it and pay for it anyway. For some reason, the subject of money was as taboo as sex.
On the other hand, as I look back, I wish that I could have known more about how both of my parents spent the money that they did have. My dad never told me what he made in a year, althought I’ve pieced some of it together since then. He never showed me a monthly budget, althought I knew he had one. He never showed me how much he spent or saved or invested. If I asked him for an item that I thought I needed, he would either say “no”, “maybe” or “buy it yourself”. When it came time for me to file taxes for the first time, I remember that my father handed me a 1040EZ and said “figure it out”.
I left home without a burning desire to be rich – a good thing. I was content to live a simple life with the money that I had. As a result, I was fairly successful at handling my money when I was single and in college. However, when I got married, started having children, and started to develop more expensive taste – the wheels started to fall off our money wagon. The thing that I had missed was how to be an intentional steward of my money. I did not know how to create and execute a financial plan for our family.
I know now that my father was good at budgeting and good at spending money wisely. My mother fed and clothed five kids for little money for years. They both had great frugal habits, but those habits did not do me any good because I didn’t know about it. I hope to intentionally train my children to handle money wisely.
What were the pros and cons of your financial upbringing?
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