Within the last several weeks, two of the bloggers I read regularly have written posts about their parents and how little they learned about finances from them. Each of these bloggers basically said that they were lucky to have turned out financially responsibly because their parents were woefully irresponsible.
Something about these posts bothered me. In each case, their parents earned very little money, and whenever they did manage to make extra money, they spent it on their kids to give them something they had previously not been able to afford. Each blogger routinely condemned their parents for doing this instead of saving the money.
So, I started thinking about my grandparents, who raised a family of nine children all while living off one salary, my grandpa’s factory salary, while my grandma stayed home and kept up the house and took care of the kids. They were VERY financially responsible. They both lived through the depression, and my grandma washed out baggies and foil until she was on her deathbed. My mom tells stories of her parents looking over the grocery ads together and shopping the loss leaders at several stores. They paid for a private education for each of their children even though it was a financial hardship. They invested wisely and spent conservatively. My grandpa lived to 88, my grandma to 90, and they never ran out of money in retirement. In fact, there was enough leftover to give each of their nine children a small inheritance.
Unlikely the bloggers’ whose posts I read, my grandparents set a beautiful financial example for all of their children. And you know what, I have come to think that means very little. Of their nine children, two have filed bankruptcy during their lifetime. A few are routinely late on bills and have collectors calling. Several others pay their bills on time, but don’t save a lot. Whatever extra they have, they spend. Then there are a few who are very financially responsible, just like my grandparents.
It seems to me that parents’ financial habits do affect their children’s financial habits, but ultimately, the individual has the choice of how responsible they want to be (or not be) with their money.