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Kids and Money: Financial lessons from Mom and Dad

I’ll never forget what my father taught me about credit cards in the days after graduating from college.

Since I was an authorized user on his card, he sat me down at the kitchen table to have a conversation about a few senior-year spending sprees that I had wracked up that he covered in full to avoid interest charges.

He talked about differentiating between wants and needs, being careful about spur of the moment purchases, paying in full and on time, and to not consider a credit card to be an extension of my salary. Then he took out the kitchen scissors and cut my credit card to shreds, clearly signaling that I would be on my own forevermore.

It was all very dramatic – and just the education in financial responsibility that I needed.

Which brings me to the theme of today’s column.  I asked several financial education experts to share a lesson or two they learned about money from their parents. Here’s what they had to say:

Vivian Tsai, chair of the College Savings Foundation

"When I got my first “job” at age 15, my mom made me save half of my paychecks – depositing funds in an investment account before doing anything else with my money. I passed this on to my kids as well, doing this as they collected paychecks and monetary gifts as teenagers – giving them the choice of putting it into their 529 plan accounts or their “nest egg” account. Paying oneself first by moving money directly into savings is a great habit that I continue to advocate for all young people."

— Vickie Fitzgerald, financial educator and author based in Portland, Ore.

“My grandfather, who helped raise me, taught me about supply and demand. When supply is low, like eggs now, the prices go up. He advised me to find lower priced substitutes that are plentiful and thus, less expensive. In this case buy other forms of protein – nuts, nut butter, and you can even use mashed banana for baking.”

— Kevin Ladd, chief operating officer,

“Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s we didn’t have much as a lower-middle class family in a small town in southern Maine. In those days, the cool kids wore Levi’s jeans, Adidas or Nike sneakers and a number of other name brands. My mom and dad were able to budget very little money for “back to school” shopping for each of their three school-aged children. Realizing I had few options but to earn my own money, I began selling a small weekly paper called “Grit” when I was around 12 years old. After that came an actual paper route and over the course of a summer when I was in 8th grade I saved almost $200 so I could buy a Schwinn World Sport.

Honestly, I now feel fortunate to be born to a low-income family, affording me lessons in earning, saving and budgeting to which my wealthier classmates were not privy. At the time I felt lesser than those other kids in a lot of ways. As an adult, many years later, I realized how lucky I was not to be handed everything, but to have to figure out how to earn the money to pay for it.”

— Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst,

“My parents taught me the value of a quality education. They sacrificed to put me through college without taking on student debt, which was a tremendous blessing. A college education greatly furthers your earning power and reduces your odds of unemployment. I was very fortunate to be able to graduate without debt, thanks to my parents’ assistance.”

— Susan Beacham, chief executive of Money Savvy Generation.

“ I learned silence around money does no one any good. I learned saving is important but spending on life experiences is what colors in the black and white of life and creates humility in your humanity when you see the vast greatness of our world. I learned that money is not the only thing in life that brings a sense of security. Love and family create the balance we all strive to attain.”


This article is written by Steve Rosen and Tribune Content Agency from Kids & Money and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to

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