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7 lasting money lessons from mom

Hitchhiking = bad; saving money = good

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Mom taught you to tie your shoes, say "please" and "thank you," and never pick up hitchhikers. What else did she do? She acted as your first teacher of personal finance. (See Poll: Mom matters most in shaping our financial habits). Here are the most-lasting lessons people learned from their mothers about the right and wrong way to use money and credit. 

parent-child 1. Money equals effort: waste neither.
"My mom gave me the single best piece of financial advice I ever received," says Corona, Calif.-based motivational speaker Barry Mahar. "She said, 'Before you buy anything, think of how long and how hard you'd have to work to earn that much money.' It's amazing how many things I've thought I needed turned out to be a lot less necessary when stacked up against the hours of work it would take to own them."

2.  Don't wait to save.
Blogger Emmie Scott from Richmond, Va., cites her mother's instruction in socking cash away as pivotal to her positive net worth. "She helped me open a savings account when I was about 8 years old, so I could start getting in the habit of putting money aside." 

At 23, Scott has two high-interest savings accounts, maxed out her 401(k) and will soon open a Roth IRA. "I'm so grateful to her for taking the time to set me on a smart financial path and get me interested in what happens to my money." Today she features financial tips -- based on her mom's counsel and her own research -- for young adults on her blog, Are Toe Rings Professional Attire?

3. The sky's the limit.
Atlanta-based financial planner Karen Lee became a self-made millionaire by the age of 37 and credits her wealth to her mom, a high school economics teacher.

Besides teaching Lee to invest her savings, shop from the clearance rack and cook inexpensive food, she instilled the unerring belief that economic aspirations are not just limitless, but achievable. "She told me and my sister that we could do anything in life and to become independent financially. No glass ceilings here!"

4. A good budget keeps you out of debt.
The woman is the accountant in many homes, and so are often coaches of the craft. Such is the case for Michelle Morton, an organizing consultant living in Raleigh, N.C. Not only did her mother teach her how to create a budget, but she uses the very same plan to this day.

"I wanted to learn how to save and pay off some debt when I was in my early 20s and didn't know how to do it all, so she sat down with me and showed me how to budget," says Morton, who notes that the lesson also included essential banking skills. "She taught me how to balance my checkbook to the penny!"

She showed us by example that if you didn't have enough income to pay the bills, you go out and do something about it.

-- Andi Wrenn
Financial counselor

5. You're never too young to spend smartly.
Sarah Finch, a Chicago corporate trainer, cites the early education she got from her mom (Lynn Finch, author of the family finance book, "No-Cash Allowance") for her own financial aptitude and resilience. "She began teaching me money lessons when I was 5," says Finch. "I was given responsibility for real expenses as I grew older -- school supplies, lunches, clothes, etc."

Finch believes that the skills her mom gave her have been instrumental in keeping her out of financial trouble, even in down times or unexpected unemployment. "I will be using this same approach with my 3-year-old daughter as she grows up as well," says Finch.

6. Stop whining -- get to work!
Self-reliance is paramount. That's what Andi Wrenn, a financial counselor from Boston, says she gleaned from her mom. Though they were poor, her mother neither complained nor went on government assistance, even though she probably qualified. "She showed us by example that if you didn't have enough income to pay the bills, you go out and do something about it," says Wrenn. She soon began earning, too, taking on babysitting jobs and newspaper routes. As a high school student, Wrenn pitched in for household bills.

"It was so valuable to me to learn to be responsible for myself. By the time I left to attend college, I was prepared financially to enter the world as an adult," says Wrenn.

7. There is a cutoff point.
And what happens when cash is plentiful? According to Judy Woodward Bates, the Birmingham, Ala., founder of Bargainomics.com, a smart mom stops the gravy train. It's how she learned real independence.

"My parents spoiled me," admits Bates. "But when I married at the age of 17, she and my dad refused to pay for my college and told me and my husband, Larry, that we were on our own." While Bates feels confident that her mom would have helped out in a crisis, "she let me know that the free ride was over and that, regardless of how young I was, I was an official adult and responsible for my own spending habits at that point."

If you're free from debt, your bank account is brimming, and you can overcome financial adversity with aplomb, you may have mom to thank. Be sure to do so -- it's good manners, after all.

See related: Poll: Mom matters most in shaping our financial habits, Your first budget in 3 easy steps, 5 lessons to teach kids how interest works, What you stand to lose if you don't pay credit card bills

Published: May 5, 2011


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