Financial Lessons From Granny
By Kim Mustin
My grandmother grew up in the Great Depression and was the oldest of five children. She has been a huge rock in our family my whole life. I grew up hearing stories about her doing back breaking work as a child to help her family put what little food they had on the table. Despite this, she went to bed hungry many nights.
She also sacrificed her early childhood education in lieu of working to help provide for her family. Even after obtaining advanced degrees in Accounting and Finance and working on Wall Street for over 26 years, the best lessons I have ever learned about money came from my Grandmother. Here are some of my favorites…
Waste Not, Want Not
There was nothing that could rile my grandmother more than wasting anything. Given the times her belly rumbled as a child, nothing could set her off more than wasting food. She always instructed us to only place as much on our plate as we could eat and then held us to it – even if it meant spending half the night at the dinner table. I have expanded this over the years to include opportunity, skills, time and many other things that just shouldn’t be wasted or taken for granted.
Leave Things A Little Better Than You Found Them
Some might say I have a touch of OCD because I long to put things in their “spot.” This works out great in my kid’s rooms – but can be a bit odd in a public restroom! If things are out of sorts, I can hear my grandmother saying “leave things a little better than you found them” which sets me off picking up random pieces of paper on the floor, wiping down the sink or replacing bathroom tissue. Whether it is getting a job done at work or lending a helping hand, we must play our part to make the world a better place.
The Importance of Hard Work
From a young age, my grandmother instilled in all of us the importance of working hard. It had served her well in tough times and while she hoped we had a better road ahead, she wanted to make sure we could weather the rough patches. I will never forget when I earned my first dollar how she made me keep it. I thought it unfair at the time. I could have bought a Dr. Pepper, a Baby Ruth and had money left over with that dollar! Today, I am grateful to her for making me put that dollar aside. I still have it today and it reminds me of the importance of hard work and delayed gratification.
Save For A Rainy Day
My grandmother bought me my first bank and a fairly sizable portion of what I made mowing grass or washing cars had to go into that bank. When it started to fill or she would think I was about to make a raid on it to make a frivolous purchase, she would take me to the First National Bank so I could make a deposit. While I was lucky to never have the financial hardships she had as a child, this ritual of saving has been engrained in my financial behavior and is still something I practice today.
Life’s lessons about money can and should start early when behaviors can be shaped. They don’t need to be riddled with fancy terminology or complex math problems to be effective. A lot of Common Sense (Cents) can add up to loads of dollars later.