After some reflection this week, I wanted to deep dive further into telling my money story. Essentially learning what your money story is will explain more about how and why we interact with money in certain ways. We all interact with money differently and a lot of the foundations and values we create about money start in our childhood.
Growing up a millionaire kid made my personal finance perspective very different than most Millennials. Along with learning the basics about financial independence, came some interesting experiences. While at the time, I didn’t know how much my parents had in the bank, I knew deep down they were making sound financial decisions and were constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the impacts of their decisions. Yes, I know more of the tax implications than I would like to. In the long run, I am glad that they shared the tid-bits of financial knowledge here and there because like most children, we pick up on the habits of our parents. I knew that investing was a key strategy to grow wealth, so of course I had my copy of The Motley Fool’s Investing Guides for Teens by the age of 13.
Personal finance was not openly talked about at the dinner table, well probably because by the time my Dad came home for dinner, I was in my PJs watching the latest hit show on the CW. It was through the smart-alick commentary of my teen shows that I picked up the nuances of Millionaires. Clearly, my Dad had a knack for “nice things” when he would only watch The O.C. with me just to comment about the wainscoting in the homes.
Eventually while in college, I learned the basics about budgeting, tracking my spending, retirement, and overall financial planning. Yes, seemed pretty boring to me, until I realized that I couldn’t go back home after college because (while that would save me a ton of money AHMMM DAD…) I did not want to admit defeat on the personal finance front. So, I started reading blogs and finding my way into the business and personal finance section of the Half Priced Books store (now why pay a full price for a book that you can get at least half off?). After some reflection, I wish someone had taught a course in school to help you understand your finances – maybe it would’ve been called: How to Become a Millionaire. I bet kids would sign up with that title. With tools and knowledge under my belt, I know I can only continue to move forward and conquer all that is the financial landscape.
At the age of 23, people were surprised, impressed, and dare I say jealous, when I shared that I was going to buy my condo in one of the toughest markets since the recession. I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and was looking to buy in one of the most expensive cities – San Francisco. To me, it seemed like the logical decision, as I would be relocating there for work. I was paying $1300 for a one bedroom apartment in the East Bay and figured I could afford an apartment in the city for about $1500-$1700. My initial search came up empty – apparently it is a sellers/landlords market. After hearing how much a friend was paying to SHARE an apartment in the city – I wondered how I could have my money work for me in this case. Could I buy a house? If I was going to be spending more than $1700 a month on rent, could there be a possibility that I could “invest” in a property and instead of rent, have a mortgage? Turns out, the amount that I would be spending on a mortgage would be just about equal to that of what I would pay for in rent and with no equity. Now a $2000 mortgage is not cheap by any means, but why would I spend that in rent, when I could be owning it? (of course articles and real estate brokers don’t tell you about the hidden costs of homeownership – but more on that later).
My financial upbringing came with ups and downs, but I have learned that I have a deeper knowledge of personal finance that most come to have. My mom had taken me to the local bank and had gotten me my own checking and savings account when I was about 8. The account was tied to my parents (in case of any emergency) and such, when I owed them money, it was easy transferrable. But I left so empowered when I had my checkbook and COULD write a check if I wanted to.
About once a year, I would sit in my dad’s office with a baggie of empty coin rolls and take the change from my obscenely large white piggy bank and sit on the floor to roll it up. I would take it down from my shelf and walk very carefully down the stairs. My arms would barely fit around the white porcelain pig and I knew that I had to be careful with it or one of my mom’s prized childhood possessions might be ruined.
Roll after roll of pennies, dimes, nickels, and quarters, I was shocked as to how much change can actually build up and amount to large sums. I am not sure how many kids sat and rolled their own coins up (a pretty antique behavior) but each time, my money amounted to more and more. I would feel so prideful walking into the bank and handing them my stack of rolled coins. The teller would always comment about how great of a saver I was, but I am sure they were just glad I had rolled the coins for them and not slapped down a gigantic bag of mixed coins making them do all of the work.
Anywhere we went, my family members would pick up the dime or penny that was left on the ground, and I was always left to wonder, how much would all of this amount to for people if they had just picked it up? Every once and a while, we would stumble upon a dollar and would pick it up, feeling like a million bucks.
Even with birthday money or the occasional hundred-dollar bill from Christmas, I would go straight to the bank and deposit it into my savings account. Each holiday, my grandmother would reason with me, “now Kelly I wasn’t sure what you wanted, so go spend this money on something you want AND DON’T just put it into your bank account”. I would always smile and tell her, “of course grandma” but a day or two later, I would find my way to the bank and deposit it. The feeling of having my money grow was fulfillment and security.
My reflection of how I thought of money and what values my family shared has stayed with me as I grow older. In telling some of my money story, you get a better understanding of how and why you interact with money the way that you do.