How my past experiences shaped how I view money
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I am very passionate about money. What you probably didn’t realize is my passion started when I was a kid. Below are some personal stories about how my past experiences have shaped how I view money today.
The lack of allowance
Growing up my parents didn’t give my brother and I any weekly or monthly allowance. Instead, they would leave some coins and bills in a known location that my brother and I could take whenever we needed money. Whenever one of us took out money from the “money stache,” we were obliged to tell my parents how much we took out and what the money was used for.
Meanwhile, many of my school friends had a weekly allowance. Occasionally I would feel jealous of them for having spending money because they could buy treats at school. Most of these friends earned an allowance by doing chores at home. When I discovered this I asked my parents why I wasn’t getting a weekly allowance and demanded for an allowance based on number of house chores I did each week.
Each week, I would do chores like washing dishes, vacuuming, and taking out the garbage to earn a small amount of money. The attractiveness of the weekly allowance soon faded away as the money stache disappeared. Somehow the money stache just made more sense. I also later realized that these chores were family contributions/responsibilities rather than a way to earn a weekly allowance.
So we went back to the money stache and I grew up without an allowance. I could recall a few tough lessons that my parents gave me along the way about my spending choices. This was especially true when money was used to buy silly and unnecessary things. My parents would always make a point that I needed to be smart with spending hard-earned money. As a teenager my brother and I would continue to tell my parents whenever we took out money from the stache but they eventually stopped asking for the specifics. They trusted us and ultimately that had made my brother and I realize the importance of taking full responsibility with money.
Speaking of allowances, do we give Baby T1.0 and T2.0 allowance when they are older? Mrs. T and I haven’t quite gotten this figured out yet. As you can expect, I am a bit biased because of how I was raised.
Losing money for the first time
When I was 7 or 8 my mom decided that I was old enough go to the nearby grocery store to purchase a few items without her presence. She sent me away with a $500 NTD bill (~$22 CAN nowadays but it was probably worth a lot more 25+ years ago). At the time, I couldn’t believe I was given a $500 bill, the largest bill I had ever held in my hands as a young kid. I was very proud to be deemed responsible enough to hold on to such large sum of money.
I put the bill in the right pants pocket and every few minutes I would put my right hand in the pocket to check that the bill was still there. Never had held a $500 NTD bill by myself before, I was afraid that I would lose it if I didn’t hold onto it tight.
When I got to the grocery store, I grabbed whatever that I needed to buy and went to the cashier. When it was my turn to pay I reached into my right pocket only to find that the bill was not there!
Shocked and stunned I checked again. The bill was not there!
I checked again. Then again. Then again.
The $500 NTD bill was still not there.
My biggest fear had come true. I had lost the $500 NTD bill!
I came home extremely upset having lost such big amount of money.
And that, was my first experience with losing money.
I learned that I needed to be more careful when handling money. Losing money sucks, but I also learned there are more to life than just money. Life goes on whether you have money or not.
Realizing the power of compound interest
Growing up, I had a piggy bank where I could put lose coins I found around the house. When I was around 10 years old, my parents helped me open a bank account where I would deposit these lose coins regularly, along with any birthday money and Chinese New Year red envelop money.
Thanks to higher interest rates in the early 90’s, the value of my bank account would grow slightly whenever I went to the bank with my account book to check my account balance.
And that’s when I realized the power of compound interest. As a kid I would calculate how much interest I would gain over a certain period of time and what my account balance would look like if I were to regularly deposit a certain amount of money.
I calculated all this data by hand and my fascination with money, compound interest, and investment was born.
Stealth wealth Jedi in training
When I lived in Taiwan I had two very close friends from elementary school. One of them would always have the latest and hottest toys. He had multiple gaming consoles ranging from Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and Gameboy. He also had many games to go with these gaming consoles. On top of that, he would have many of the hottest toys at the time. Whenever we hung out, I would get very jealous of him and imagined what it would be like to be him.
The other friend, on the other hand, didn’t have all these fancy toys. Rather than sitting in front of the TV and playing gaming consoles when we hung out, we played games outside and got our hands dirty.
I had always thought friend #1’s family was rich. Given he had all the fancy toys and his parents had nice cars (I think they had a few Mercedes-Benz). They also had multiple TV’s and a number of computers at home. Furthermore, when Dragon Ball manga was popular in the 90’s, this friend of mine would always have the latest volume to read.
On the other hand, I had always thought friend #2’s family was more on the poor side due to the lack of materialistic things they had at home.
As a kid I began to judge and preferred hanging out with friend #1 because he had all the fancy things.
Then one day my dad sat me down and told me that friend #1’s family was struggling financially and friend #2’s family ran an extremely profitable business.
I was shocked and wondered how that was possible.
“Just because you have money it doesn’t mean you need to show off. There is more to life than materialistic things.”
I didn’t realize what that meant until much later when I saw my dad retiring in his early 50’s. How did my dad manage to achieve this despite being the head of a single-income family?
My parents didn’t own multiple cars or change their car often. We grew up with only one car in the family and we drove each car for as long as we could. They regularly purchased second-hand clothes. We didn’t have any fancy gaming consoles or fancy toys. The fanciest toys we had were Lego blocks which my brother and I would play with for hours each day. We didn’t get a computer at home until I was in high school. For summer vacations where we drove across North America, we would set up camps in local RV parks rather than staying at hotels.
Thanks to my frugal upbringing, I understood what stealth wealth meant and the importance of it.
There no doubt that my past experiences have shaped how I view money. I truly believe that all of these experiences have allowed me to have a positive outlook about money. Do I want to lose all these experiences and have no past?
We are who we are today because of our past. We need to learn from the past and make positive future decisions.
Dear readers, do you have any past experiences that shaped how you view money?