5 things my parents never taught me, a 23-year-old woman, about money — but should have
Though parents do their best to teach both daughters and sons about productive ways to handle money, some important life lessons do fall through the cracks. This is especially true for daughters who, despite all the progress women have made in the workplace in the last fifty years, are still not expected to be the “breadwinner” as often as sons are.
This is a problem, but one we can fix. Why shouldn’t the solution begin where the rest of our lives do: at home?
Parents have an inherent responsibility to take care of their children, and that includes teaching them how to take care of themselves. That means talking about finances, especially with their daughters. Though I credit my parents with teaching my younger sister and me as many financial lessons as they could, I have to admit a few important ones got lost along the way.
Here are five money matters I wish my parents had taught me about money and encourage other parents to teach their own daughters:
Several financial experts say the main way children learn about money is watching what their parents do. So while I received a crash course in flea market haggling, I was never really taught the proper way to ask for or negotiate a raise. With my first full-time paid internship out of college, I accepted their first salary offer, no questions asked. Granted, this was an entry-level position and, after countless unpaid internships in college, I felt lucky to be offered anything. Even if we’d ended up settling on the original offer, I would’ve felt more empowered as a young woman at least having done my part to close the wage gap.
The value in teaching daughters how to negotiate a raise goes beyond the wage gap. The skill of asking for what you believe you deserve is essential when it comes to progressing in your career at all, making other important decisions like buying a new car or home, and even having healthy relationships. Parents can instill this lesson in their daughters either by having mock negotiations with them about a fictional job or real negotiations with them about real, everyday matters like allowance, snacks, or even TV time. Though it might seem odd at first, practice makes perfect — and an empowered future for a female employee.
2. How to make wise investments.
You know what they say: “You give your daughter a fish, she eats for a day. You teach her how to fish, and she eats for a lifetime.” In this case, fishing is more akin to investing in her future. My sister and I were lucky enough to have parents with enough foresight to take us to the bank and open up savings accounts for us pretty early into our childhoods. This also taught us the value of hard work because the only money our parents gave us to deposit was what we made doing chores. Unfortunately, this was pre-ChorePal app era, a family-focused app that helps kids save, spend, or share their money. So while our parents, like the majority of Americans (68 percent), believed we deserved an allowance for completing chores, they often forgot to pay us. Consequently, we didn’t make regular deposits to our savings accounts, so we often forgot we even had them.
Later, when we were adolescents, a similar problem emerged when my dad invested some stock in each of our names. While continuing to have a savings account, even one you forget exists, is pretty easy, managing stocks isn’t. To do it well, you need to monitor the market and adjust accordingly. Because my dad managed “our” stocks alongside his own, we never really learned how to do it ourselves. Still, as technology has advanced, so have my hopes that I can use new resources available to not only understand the stock market, but make the most of it.
If parents want to invest stock for their daughters, they absolutely should. However, to make this initiative matter, they should also teach their daughters how to manage that stock on their own. Parents can get their daughters involved by sitting them down each quarter to go over their stocks’ progression and discuss with them their selling and buying options. Ultimately, the daughter should make the final decision, because even if she ends up losing money, she’ll have gained experience, which is even more valuable.
While my parents lived within a strict budget, and made sure my sister and I lived within it, too, they never really explained how to formulate a budget or give us strategies to stick to it.
After I went away to school, my parents and I discussed budgeting occasionally, but we always defaulted estimated figures and general ideas. We even talked about sitting down together and writing out a budget, but we’ve yet to actually do it. Now I’m old enough to take initiative and create a budget for myself using resources that will work for me, but I know I’m late to the game. Parents should teach their daughters about budgeting as soon as possible because whether they become a high-powered executive, a stay-at-home mom, or, most likely, someone in between — they’re gonna need a budget. Luckily, I’ve learned it’s never too early — or, hopefully, too late — to start.
4. To build credit.
To be honest, I still don’t know exactly what this entails. I know the goal of building credit is to have a good score so you can secure a loan on a house or a car someday. I even know a good credit score is anything above 700 and that it changes throughout time. Still, I didn’t know my own credit score for years and the only reason I even do now is because I recently checked it on a whim when the option popped up on my bank’s website. It was (surprisingly) half-decent.
My parents taught me to always pay at least the minimum amount I owed, but besides that, I really don’t know why or how my credit score got to where it is today, or how to build it. Well, if you’re me, you type that exact sentence into Google and read whatever the Internet Search Gods yield forth.
Or if you’re a parent, you can combine your personal experiences with this added research and pass it on to your kids before they’re forced to make huge life decisions with no more guidance than the words suggested by other Internet user’s previously asked questions. Whatever knowledge you give to your daughter might not be perfect, but, trust me, it’s better than nothing.
5. Not to rely on a romantic partner to take care of me.
No matter what financial lessons my parents did or didn’t teach, they all began and ended with teaching me to be self-sufficient. Sons are expected to have careers where they can provide for their families someday, and my parents expect the same — and then some — from their daughters. From an early age, we were taught not to rely on a man for financial stability. Instead, we were taught to work hard, seek out new opportunities, and take care of ourselves. That isn’t a concrete financial lesson, but nothing my parents taught me about money would matter if they didn’t teach me this first.
So maybe my parents didn’t hand me all the financial tools I need on a silver platter, but they did instill in me the desire to go after them myself. I have a lot of work to do, but I have the willingness to do that work, which I think may just be way more important.
Presented by Country Financial for A Plus