A Lesson Learned on Money–from A Daughter’s Perspective
I asked my oldest to write up her experience in living in a home where saving and giving were required, alone with work and college happening at the same time. Below are her thoughts. Hope you enjoy it and find some encouragement or counsel within.
My dad took me to pick up my paycheck, then he was taking me to get a haircut, and then we were going to go and open up my own bank account. While I was getting my hair cut, the lady doing the cutting asked what we were up to that afternoon. I told her I had gotten my first pay check and we were going to go deposit it in the bank. She flipped out and demanded that my dad let me go on a shopping spree. She just couldn’t comprehend that he would make me save it, and the rest of the hair cut was spent with her insisting that I spend the money and my dad telling her no. Of course, I was traumatized. I think that was probably the start of my current approach to being trapped in a hair salon – make up stories.
From the time my siblings and I were little, my parents had us saving our money. We were all very much aware that one day we would have to pay for a car and for college and we were very impressed by that ambiguous, looming reality. Because my parents enforced this from the first moment we got money in the mail from a grandparent for a birthday, we hadn’t ever experienced any other thing to do with money besides save it. And if any of us ever suggested that something else was possible, “Car and college!” was always the response.
Once we got our first jobs and started seeing a bank balance that kept rising, saving got easier. It was pretty exciting – even though we knew it wasn’t ours, it was all going to “car and college.” It was exciting the first time I bought a car and paid cash for it and had money left over. And it was exciting when I started college and was paying for it myself. At that point I had been working 39.5 hours a week since the time that I was legally old enough to and saving the vast majority of what I was making. The moment I hit 18 I grabbed every opportunity for overtime that came along and watched as my savings began disappearing into the black hole I liked to call Carthage College.
Getting through college didn’t happen without sacrifices. I didn’t have a ton of free time between classes, studying, working, and church. I had to leave a college I loved a year and a half in because I ran out of money and had to chose between taking out student loans or going to a cheaper school. That wasn’t a decision my parents made for me either, it was one I made entirely on my own. As I prepare to pay for my last class next week and finish, debt free and with money in my savings account, I have no regrets. I worked hard to get where I am today.
A college education has a lot of value. There are the obvious benefits – a college degree is necessary for most jobs and education is always worthwhile. But there are a lot of soft skills that are crucial to success after college that are driven home much earlier when a student is going to school full time while working full time: time management, budgeting, prioritizing, scheduling, determination, and a do-or-die attitude (none of us died!) Every semester there was at least one week where everything seemed to be due at once and I can remember thinking those first couple of semesters “There’s no way. I can’t get everything done and still take my regular hours at work. There’s just no way.” But at the same time, I knew that if I didn’t take the hours, I wouldn’t be able to pay for the classes and it wouldn’t matter anyway. So I went to work, worked my hours, came home and studied until two or three or four in the morning. And I discovered that I lived.
Today, I use every single one of those soft skills that I picked up during high school and college as I work in a ‘real’ job as a ‘real’ adult paying ‘real’ bills. Just this past December I relived working until two or three in the morning for a couple of weeks to finish a project on time, only this time it was a project for work, not for school. Every adult knows what real life is like. Some adults want to keep their kids from experiencing that realness as long as possible. Others try to prepare them through experience. I know without a doubt that if I ever have kids they will get jobs at a young age, save their money, and work their way through school. It will be my turn to say “Save your money for a car and college!”