In our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.
Today, one woman talks about the lifelong money lessons her parents instilled in her by letting her take control of her own budget from a very young age. The sometimes strict measures taught her not only to spend within her means, but also to save for the long haul.
Starting from the age of 4, my parents conducted a years-long, unplanned “experiment” on me. Don’t worry—it wasn’t as scary as it sounds. The experiment, so to speak, was intended to turn a toddler with a piggy bank into an adult with a well-funded bank account.
Let’s be clear: Their goal was not to teach me how to “get rich.” I grew up in an average, middle-class household in Singapore as the daughter of a technician and a housewife. We were by no means wealthy, but my parents had been financially independent by the time they were in their twenties—and they wished the same for me.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the goal of their experiment was to instill habits in me that would make smart spending, saving and budgeting almost second nature.
It Started With a “Salary”
The first major money decision they made was to gift me a set allowance for my personal spending. They would gradually give me “raises” as I grew older, and they changed the frequency with which they gave me the funds—all of which was meant to prepare me for when I got a real paycheck. My salary hikes, in Singapore dollars, went something like this:
From ages 4 to 6: 50 cents a day
From ages 7 to 8: $1 per day
From ages 9 to 10: $10 per week
From ages 11 to 12: $15 per week
From ages 13 to 14: $100 per month
From ages 15 to 16: $200 per month
From ages 17 to my early twenties: $2,000 to $2,200 every six months
When I was young, I kept the money in a piggy bank. The fact that I was responsible for the money inside not only taught me the importance of saving, but it also gave me ownership over my finances. I would use the money on purchases like chocolates and stationery when I was younger, and when I got older, it paid for after-school social activities and clothes. I would count the money regularly, and whenever the amount exceeded my last count, I felt exhilarated—my money was growing!