I've written before about growing up with modest, wealthy parents and I've shared a few lessons I learned early in life from my millionaire mom and dad.
However, I'm realizing that the greatest lesson I learned from my parents was in finding financial peace and establishing security.
Daddy and Mommy Thrifty
I recently told my parents about this project. In fact, they check the site religiously (and text me worriedly when a link is dead or I haven't posted in a few days).
I called them up one afternoon and interviewed them for writing ideas. I was interested in all the tangible -- what was your strategy in buying a home?, how did you keep grocery costs down?, etc.
Needless to say, it was in banter between questions that I got the best pearl of wisdom. After rattling off investment techniques and frugal hacks, my mom off-handedly said, "Well, mainly it's just about not having to worry about money."
My parents hustled hard and worked unbelievable hours for many years in order to enjoy an early retirement. Now, they're coasting through and although they remain very money-conscious, they have little everyday worry. My parents built up a nest egg that's not easily cracked.
Money can't buy happiness, but it can provide security.
Daddy and Mommy Spendy
My fiancé, "Mr. Spendy," did not grow up with such financial peace and security. His parents weren't spenders so much as "unable to save much-ers" and haven't shaken the curse of generational poverty.
Needless to say, money weighed heavily on the mind of his mother when it was time to pay the bills as she prioritized what needed to be paid first. We lost Mommy Spendy a few months ago.
After her death, we took the pile of statements and envelopes to make sure that Mr. Spendy's dad was set up to know who to pay, when, where, etc. Luckily, Mr. Spendy's mom had an organizational system to try to get each bill paid on time and to pay off any debt.
Going through her things, Mr. Spendy and I were overwhelmed by the realization that this ritual of robbing Peter to pay Paul must have been emotionally exhausting. As soon as they paid off the bill at the pharmacy and got one step ahead, there'd be a vehicle maintenance issue that put them two steps behind.
At one point, Mr. Spendy looked at the pile and said, "I just wish I could have given them $10,000 so she wouldn't have had this huge weight to carry."
I have no doubt that the constant stress that Mommy Spendy must have felt sent her to an unfortunate, early grave. Mommy Spendy was plagued in the last few years with numerous health issues. Although money couldn't have bought her happiness or even her health necessarily, it could have eased the anxiety of paying for prescriptions and doctors visits. Earlier on, a less precarious financial situation could have paid for preventative healthcare in lieu of reactionary treatments.
Money can't buy health, but it can provide options.
A small emergency fund could have alleviated the pressure each month and led to a better sense of security. If they had been able to get even one month ahead, despite modest take-home pay, I can only imagine the peace that would have brought them.
It's amazing how different your perspective on money can be if you're affluent or living paycheck-to-paycheck and how your upbringing can inform your current spending and saving habits.
Both Mr. Spendy and I are both committed to fully funding an emergency savings of at least six months of living expenses. This shock absorber ensures that flat tires and root canals have only a minimal effect on our finances, as opposed to a catastrophic one.
I feel so lucky that Mr. Spendy and I both make enough to cover our basic needs and a few wants each month. We're making a concerted effort to live below our means and are working to eventually have the financial security that my parents, Daddy and Mommy Thrifty, enjoy.
I wholeheartedly acknowledge that Mr. Spendy's parents faced a Sisphyean task in trying to make financial progress; they have encountered obstacles and misfortune that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
As they've arrived at retirement age, I see such a disparity between our sets of parents. We want to do everything in our power to be certain that we're finding peace and establishing security because we've seen first-hand just how devastating it can be to not be able to make ends meet.