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family of origin finances

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Normally, I write my posts the night before they go up, but a spontaneous trip to the pub happened after work last night, and - with good reason - I’ve made it a rule not to try to write after consuming more than, say a couple of pints. This means that I’m posting on the fly, but this is good because I can tell you about a conversation I just had with my dad on the phone.

We drifted on to the subject of personal finance, and the management of it, and I discovered that when my parents were together, my mum did all of the day to day money management - budgeting, paying the bills, cutting the costs.

My mum stayed at home for the first few years of their marriage, and did the things like grocery shopping and so on, so it made more sense for her to take control of the finances. Added to that, she is good at it, and my dad, by his own admission, is not hot on detail - especially when it comes to personal finance.

I didn’t know any of this information before, and it came in passing as we were talking about something connected with our respective day jobs. Thinking about my parents personalities, it makes perfect sense that they organised their joint finances this way, and that it worked well.

As I suspect is common in most families, we don’t normally talk about personal finance. Not the details of how what we’ve got, nor the approach that we take. I am vaguely aware that my parents used their overdraft when I was younger, and I imagine that my dad still does. I know that my mum believes strongly in paying off your credit card bill in full each month, and that she was concerned about some of my siblings having access to credit whilst at university. I also seem to recall (somewhat unusually for the time) that they were not in favour of endowment mortgages.

The things that I don’t know are more interesting to me. I’ve never known how much income they have  - I think they might tell me if I asked, with a good reason. I don’t know any of the details about whether they even have savings, investments or debts. I have no idea what they thought about educating us financially, and whether they think they were successful.

How much do you know about your family of origin’s finances? How much do you want to know? And, if you’re a parent, what will you and won’t you disclose to your children, and why?

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15 comments for “family of origin finances”

  1. Growing up, I always knew my dad took care of the finances, and that he wasn’t very good at money management. I had no idea how much income my parents had, other than it wasn’t very much, until I went to college and applied for financial aid. Then I saw their tax forms.

    As a parent, I’m not comfortable disclosing our income, because I don’t want my kids to worry or to tell all of their friends for comparison sake. We talk to them, or are planning on talking to them, about every other aspect of money management, though. I want them to be educated. :)

    Posted by Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net | January 24, 2008, 1:58 pm
  2. Always been my dad doing the finances. Mum a bit disorganised, my dad very organised (seemed to be a match that worked). He kepts all his finances correct in A4 hardback books, which we were not allowed to see ;) I’m too lazy to use books like that, although I did a bit when I was a student. My dad was rather risk averse so didn’t have many shares I think. Just savings. Am not sure if he uses books or spreadsheets now, although I suspect he uses books still.

    Posted by Llama for brains | January 24, 2008, 2:12 pm
  3. I know a fair bit about my parents’ finances. My dad and I talk a lot about investing and our portfolios. My mom and I talk a lot about wise spending and budgeting. I look to them for advice because I think they’re good role models for how to spend wisely and get to a comfortable place financially. Maybe I know more than most people do about their parents finances but I think because I look to them for advice and they freely give advice about it, it’s almost like they have to open up a bit so I know I’m not taking advice from two people who are talking the talk but not walking the walk if that makes sense. It gives them credibility by opening up and showing me what they did to get to where they are.

    Posted by Emily | January 24, 2008, 2:21 pm
  4. It’s looks as if I know less about my family finances than other people. When I was younger, I don’t really think that it ocurred to me that finances need to be managed, so I probably didn’t ask any questions.

    Posted by plonkee | January 24, 2008, 4:08 pm
  5. More about my Mom’s finances then my Dads (Divorced). Mom’s a bit of a partially reformed spender and Dad isn’t frugal, but not flashy to the extreme.

    The only advice Dad gave me about finances was, “Boy you have Champagne Dreams on a Beer budget”

    Posted by RacerX | January 24, 2008, 4:46 pm
  6. My parents kept the finances under lock and key for my entire childhood - in my adult years, they’ve opened that door a bit because they needed to explain things a bit surrounding their will, assets, and so forth.

    Posted by metroknow | January 24, 2008, 5:54 pm
  7. My parents don’t like discussing money. But, I do know that they’re quite frugal - prefer to pay cash for everything, including cars, prefer to invest in property instead of pensions etc.

    And earlier on, they bought most things - eg furniture second hand.

    I don’t ask them much about what they make - they have a business, so I really have no idea.

    Posted by Catherine Lawson | January 24, 2008, 6:24 pm
  8. I knew virtually nothing about finances, and it affected the first three decades of my life. There were no ‘lessons’ on what to do or not do, no suggestions on saving or how to spend. My parents didn’t discuss money, and it was known that we DIDN’T talk about it.

    I’ve reversed that completely and talk with my pre-teen about our finances, how much we make, and how they should be handling finances. I don’t want him to end up being middle-aged before he finally gets a handle on everything.

    I’ve got a good post back on my site (I won’t post the link because of etiquette, but look at the Aug 31st, 2007 entry if you’re curious) that tells in more details the LACK of discussion we had.

    plonkee says: this is the link that you want folks

    Posted by Randall | January 24, 2008, 8:36 pm
  9. I knew this and that. For example, I knew that they were paying off some credit card bills when I was younger. And we celebrated when that was done. And that they started using credit very very rarely after they starting paying down those bills.

    And I knew they invested, but not much about it.

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | January 24, 2008, 9:13 pm
  10. My parents have always told me more about their finances than I cared about or wanted to know. Even growing up I was very aware of their finances because of their use of the envelope system (I always thought it was so embarrassing when they would haul out this envelope to pay for things!) and because they recorded every purchase. Also because I knew things were tight and we couldn’t afford what my peers had. After I left home my father read Your Money or Your Life and then made a gigantic wall graph showing the progress of their mortgage repayment, which he put up in the hallway where all visitors could see it. When they paid it off, they had a bonfire and burned it!

    I did not discuss my own finances much with them until relatively recently (last year in fact — when I started to get serious about personal finance). Now they know exactly how much student loan debt I have left, when I expect to pay it off, etc. I do not want them to how much I spend on alcohol per month though!

    Posted by Monica | January 24, 2008, 9:42 pm
  11. It sounds like you’ve got quite financially sensible parents. And I wouldn’t want my parents to know how much I spend on my vices each month either.

    Posted by plonkee | January 25, 2008, 6:16 am
  12. Although my mom does all the day-to-day admin of the finances, it’s my dad that drives all of the financial decisions. Although they’ve never been particularly flash with their cash, we have always been comfortable and I don’t recall a time when we were struggling for money (at least non that I was aware of). They’r also quite well setup for retirement.

    My dad in particular worked hard, doing his day job plus eventually a weekend job too, and he’s still working despite “retiring” from BT at the age of 48 (he’s now 60).

    I guess I get most of my financial sensisbilities from him.

    Posted by Rob Lewis | January 26, 2008, 2:31 pm
  13. @Rob:
    I think that naturally taking after parents who’ve got it together financially is a very fortunate position to be in.

    Posted by plonkee | January 26, 2008, 2:37 pm
  14. I knew nothing until I was 20, and my dad retired (I’m a late baby!). I was utterly shocked by how little he’d earned all his working life, and how much he’d managed to put aside on that. This was mostly due to my Mum managing all the money and giving him pocket money :-)

    They are very up-front with us all now, mostly because of wills and so forth.

    I take the opposite approach and tell my kids a lot more - it helps to stop them from demanding all the latest gadgets if they know what needs to be sacrificed to get them…

    Posted by Annie | January 29, 2008, 7:33 pm
  15. @Annie:
    Don’t get me started on wills. We think that my mum has one, although no one knows what’s in it, or where it is. We’re pretty sure that my dad doesn’t have one - he’s just too chicken to write it. From his point of view, he wants it to go to us kids, and it will through probate anyway. But he’s not going to be the one going through probate. :(

    Posted by plonkee | January 29, 2008, 10:49 pm

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