What Do Your Parents Mean for Your Money?

Cheryl Lock

3. My Dad’s Legacy Made It Hard to Leave My Job

While staying loyal to a company has its perks, Lisa Merritt found it hard to move on in her career after watching her father—a union worker and the family’s sole breadwinner—stay loyal to his job from the time he was an apprentice at 15 until the day he died. “After I began my career with a Fortune 500 company, I assumed I would stay there until I retired,” Merritt said. “It took tremendous courage, seven years later, to leave and become an entrepreneur. I’m so glad I did, because I learned many new skills, met new people and learned more about my capabilities.” 

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If you’re like her dad, you should discuss with your children the jobs you have and why, says Harman, and explain that there are so many different kinds of jobs available. Parents “can encourage their children to identify what they might like to do, how they might prepare for that, what it would pay and where they might live,” she said. “They can even take them to experience a workday at their job, or visit the job of a neighbor to see how his or her job is the same or different.”

4. My Mom Taught Me to Save for Things I Love

Melissa Pearl grew up with a mom who taught the importance of saving up for things that make her happy. “Thanks to my mom, our family had some cool holidays and got some amazing gifts,” says Pearl. “Plus, my brother and I got braces, which I’ll be forever grateful for!” Pearl now saves for the things she really wants: “My husband and I save everything. In addition to the essentials, we always have something fun we’re saving for, and it makes it a pleasure to squirrel the money away.”

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If you’re like her mom, you should impart that same great lesson to your kids! Show them that while saving for big future goals is important, that doesn’t mean sacrificing everything in the short term. Pearl and her husband are what Harman calls “goal-oriented” because they delay instant gratification for the sake of a larger purchase or to fund a dream.

Talk to your children about how you balance a good mix of saving for big-ticket items and fun activities, and squirreling away for important goals like emergency savings and retirement. Try to balance fun with necessary tasks by using the 50/20/30 Rule and you should be able to have the best of both worlds.

5. My Parents Inspired Me to Work Hard

Marie Phillips’s parents were self-sufficient, hardworking and entrepreneurial. So, when Phillips went back to work after taking years off to stay home with the kids, she kept her parents’ example in mind. “I set up my own daycare business to earn money to get retrained as a computer programmer,” she said. “Programming paid well with the least training back in the early ’80s, and I viewed it as a huge opportunity. It did well by me, and now my two sons are pursuing careers in next-generation computer programming.” 

If you’re like her parents, you should explain to your kids the reasons behind your hard work, so they’ll grow up to follow your lead. Strong role models and mentors are the key to successful financial futures, says Harman. If you’re currently a stay-at-home parent looking to get back out into the workforce, we’ve written about a recruiting firm that specializes in flexible jobs that are great for parents, and these five tips for re-entering the workforce.

Tell us: How did your own parents’ parenting style affect the way you handle finances?