Recently I was asked who my female financial role model has been in my life. When asked about a role model, we typically think of someone who has done everything right, setting an example we want to follow. But sometimes we find a role model who did some things we do want to follow, and other things that taught us what we don’t want to follow. In the case of my female financial role model, both of these would apply. Let me explain:
I grew up at a time where it was very common in conservative households for the man of the house to be the sole breadwinner for the family and the woman of the house to dedicate full-time to caring for the children and keeping the home. Lana Turner, a famous actress of my parent’s era, illustrates the typical mindset of their era in her quote, “A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man.” It was very much considered the norm for the man to be responsible for the family finances and the woman to be responsible to take the amount budgeted to her by her husband for groceries and the needs of the children and make it work. And that is exactly how it worked in my own home growing up.
Learning to Live Within Our Means:
My Father was in charge of keeping all the family finances and my Mother was tasked with living within an allotted monthly budget, which she did quite well. It was through watching her carefully plan out what meals we could afford, clipping coupons to make each dollar stretch, recycling hand me downs to reuse kid’s clothing whenever possible, and making smart purchases such as buying Toughskin jeans because they came with a guarantee that they could outlast your children (however, I don’t think they anticipated families with ten kids, like ours had, when they made that guarantee!). My Mother was careful with every dollar spent and somehow she always found a way to make sure all of our needs were met. It was her example of being frugal in her purchasing and always seeking out the best deals that taught me the importance of spending money wisely and living within my means.
Learning to Earn Money:
Being one of ten kids we were all expected to get jobs and help pay for our own wants in life. My parents rule was that they would pay for our basic needs only, so if we wanted anything more we were expected to go get a job and earn the money ourselves. This one rule probably had more to do with me becoming a success in life than anything else. It was this rule that taught me how to work! And work hard I did – heck I wanted out of those Toughskins and into a pair of the ‘oh so popular’ Guess Jeans! So I began babysitting at age 12, then I worked in a clothing store, and by age 14 I was working as an assistant for the CEO of a company. I went on to work for a dental practice, then a surgical center, and finally I was running medical offices until I became an Entrepreneur and started my own healthcare technology company.
Learning to Manage Money:
With each job I held in my teens I would bring the money to my Father and he would deposit it in an account for me. My Father handled the account entirely and he would share the balance of my account with me in a monthly Daddy/Daughter meeting. He did that up until I turned 17 and I left for college. Given that background, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that when I opened my first checking account in college I knew nothing about managing my money…heck, I had never done it before! Suddenly I found myself with paper checks I could write and people would accept them as if they was cash – it was fantastic! So I just kept writing checks, not having the slightest clue that I was supposed to track the amount I was spending to make sure there was money in my account. It was only fantastic until the day the bank called to inform me that I had bounced a ridiculous number of checks. I was stunned…what did they mean by “bounced”? I decided it was time to call in the cavalry. My Father flew out to meet with the President of the Bank to explain what had happened. He then took me back to my college apartment and asked me to get out all my Bank Statements so he could walk me through balancing them. Bank Statements?? Ohhh…those must be those envelopes the bank was sending me each month…frankly I had stopped opening them because I didn’t know why they kept sending me copies of checks I had already written?! So I brought out a pile of sealed envelopes and handed them to my Father…Let’s just say that was a learning moment for both of us.
Learning to be Financially Independent:
After going through that experience I decided that I didn’t want to follow my Mother’s example of letting someone else take charge of the money. From then on I was determined to get educated and informed on how to manage money for myself. The more I did, the more empowered and independent I felt, and it was those feelings that helped give me the courage to start my own company and become an Entrepreneur.
That independence became vital in my twenties when I became a divorced, single Mother of two small children with the sole responsibility of providing financially. That was not a role I had ever expected to play, but I was so grateful for the lessons I had learned from my Mother on how to be frugal, how to live within my means, how to separate true needs from wants, and how to be patient enough to work for the wants rather than going into debt for them, because those lessons helped me to survive the tough times and they made me a better Entrepreneur. But truth be told, I am just as grateful for her example of what not to do, because that helped motivate me to get to work and achieve the financial independence that I have. So to my female financial role model I would say, “Thanks Mom!”