How My Upbringing was the Catalyst for Learning to Manage Money8 min read

I had an amazing childhood and was afforded many opportunities.

First and foremost, I had the great privilege of being born in the United States.

Another good fortune bestowed upon me was being born to incredibly supportive and downright pretty amazing parents. I am an only child and to this day have a great relationship with my parents. In fact, I always credit being an only child as one of the reasons we have such a close bond. They live about 20 miles away and we see each other often.

My mom and dad were married for 14 years before I came along (never give up hope). They had considered adopting, but unfortunately, it proved to be a cost prohibitive endeavor. After 14 years and relegating themselves to the idea they would never have children, I decided to show up on Christmas morning. Needless to say, I was their “gift” (although, I’m pretty sure during my teenage years, I strongly put that notion to the test).

I owe a lot to my parents and can confidently say without their influence and example in my life, I would not be who I am today. They are some of the most generous people I have ever known, are unwavering in their faith and have offered my wife and I an excellent example of a marriage which stands the test of time. 45 years this June and still going strong.

How My Upbringing was the Catalyst for Learning to Manage Money

Setting the Stage

Looking back, there are some things from my childhood and youth which had a strong influence on me wanting to learn about personal finance and managing money.

Lack of Education

I do not come from an educated family. In fact, quite the opposite. My parents did not go to college. Actually, no one on my dad’s side of the family went to college and only a small handful of family members on my mom’s side (an uncle and a few cousins) have a college degree. I am the only one in my entire extended family, on both sides, to have an advanced degree (MBA). Similarly, financial education is not prevalent in my family with many family members living paycheck-to-paycheck and generally making poor financial decisions.

Not a lot of money

We did not have much money when I was growing up. In fact, my parents have just recently reached a position where they are comfortable financially (thanks in large part to my mom’s pension and having no mortgage). Thankfully, we never went without and always had a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food in our bellies, but our financial cup certainly never ran over.

Small house

It’s amazing how once you reach a certain age, you start to become more aware of things. It was probably around the end of middle school / beginning of high school that I really began noticing my friends’ houses. We lived in an 800 sq. ft. home built by my maternal grandfather in the 1950s. I remember dreaming of living in a two-story home and for some weird reason, wishing we had an island in our kitchen. If I only knew then what I know now. Now, my wife and I talk of downsizing our >2,000 sq. ft. home. Nonetheless, at the time, I wanted a McMansion.

Crappy cars

Anyone remember the Chevy Lumina? How about the Chevy Luv? Oh yeah, Baby. Old and crappy … yet, still financed when purchased. Similar to the houses, around 14 or 15, I started comparing our car(s) (at times, only one) to the cars of my friends’ parents. Nicer … newer … that’s what I wanted too.

Dad becoming disabled.

When I was in high school, my dad was placed on permanent disability and was unable to work. It was around this time things got really tight. My mom is one of the strongest individuals I know. During this time, she was the sole income provider for our family, made sure I was taken care of, did all the shopping and cooking and provided care for my elderly and ailing grandparents. I still don’t know how she did all this. After realizing how much we were struggling, I vowed to one day become “rich” so I would never again struggle financially.

Motivation for Learning about Personal Finance

If you want to get rich, you’ve got to learn how to do it, right? My interest in personal finance, investing and business was piqued, so I began my quest for knowledge … a quest which continues to this day.

My motivation was much different back then than it is now. My three biggest drivers were becoming rich, the pursuit of material possessions and financial security. Only one of these factors continues to drive me. I wanted it all - to be rich and possess all the trappings of wealth. Homes (plural), cars, toys, luxury vacations … yes, please! Delusions of grandeur if I’ve ever seen them.

My motivation to continue learning all I can about personal finance and becoming a better manager of money is now much different. I have a crystal clear why and it is what gives me strength to continue on my financial journey.

Care to venture a guess as to which motivator from my past sticks with me today? The desire for financial security, more time with my family and the prospect of an early retirement all push me to continue learning and applying what I’ve learned. I no longer pursue material possessions (a fool’s errand, in my opinion), but rather experiences and opportunities I can give to my young and growing family.

How My Upbringing was the Catalyst for Learning to Manage Money


There are lessons to be found in every story and mine is no different. Below are some key takeaways.

Find lessons from your own childhood and youth.

Have you ever stopped to think about what experiences you had during your younger years which really shaped who you have become? It might be an interesting and worthwhile exercise to do. Find lessons from your upbringing which can serve you now.

Continue learning.

Unfortunately, some people think when they finish school, at whatever level that may be, the learning stops. Strive to become a lifelong learner. No matter where you are on your financial journey, vow to continue learning about personal finance and money management. Your future self will thank you.

You can change the legacy of your family.

Thankfully, we do not live in a caste system. We are blessed with the opportunity for upward mobility, provided we are willing to put in the requisite hard work. We are also not bound to the status quo. If you want to reshape the legacy of your family for generations to come, step out of line and do something different.

Plan for the unexpected.

Life sometimes throws us curve balls. I’m sure when my dad was my age (30), he never would have thought he would become disabled and unable to work in his early fifties. This is something I think about often. I try to lead the healthiest lifestyle I can, but will genetics eventually catch up with me and leave me disabled as well? God forbid that were to happen to you, what would the financial implications mean for your family? A good stance may be to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. This is the position I take when it comes to this.

The important thing is to keep the important thing the important thing.

Focus on what’s important in life. Life is far too short to spend your time wishing for a bigger, nicer, newer thingamajig or whatchamacallit. What good did all that comparing I did when I was younger do? If anything, it ensured I placed too much importance on the not so important. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Focus on what truly matters in your life.

Our experiences shape us and mold who we become. I would not be who I am or where I am today without the experiences I have shared with you. I am thankful this all culminated in me pursuing an understanding of personal finance. Through a series of events, one thing led to another and now I’m even writing about personal finance. Life truly is a beautiful journey with lots of twists and turns along the way.

What led you to learn about personal finance? What experiences from your upbringing shaped who you have become?   

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  1. I learned everything I knew from my parents, too! Then I married an accountant and he helped me even more.

    • It’s funny how we can learn both what to do and what not to do from our parents. Good job on marrying an accountant. That’s a good money move. Haha.

  2. Your experiences seem very similar to mine. My family is my rock. I feel like I am a better person and I am a well brought up person because of them. We’ve had a lot of struggles, but we’ve always grown because of it. Now we couldn’t be happier and I believe it’s because we struggled and learned from those struggles.

    • Thank you very much for sharing, Jessica. It sounds like we had very similar experiences indeed. My family is my rock as well. I’m glad you guys are in a really happy place now.

  3. Thank you! These lessons are so tough to learn sometimes. But, certainly not as much when you can reflect back on your own upbringing and decide whether you’d like for your life to be similar or different from what you had and act accordingly 🙂

    • I completely agree. If I had not stopped to really think about these lessons for the purposes of this post, they would still be unknown to me. It was a great exercise and I highly encourage it. Step 1 is deciding you want your life to be different and then Step 2 is actually putting in the time and effort to ensure that is the case. Thanks, Megan.

    • Thank you for your comment, Andrea. Good for you for recognizing what you want to be different in your own life and then working to make it happen.

  4. I can relate to so much of this in my journey from growing up poor to having enough money to choose whether I want to have everything I ever wanted as a kid (houses, cars, new shiny things!). Ultimately, I’ve been fortunate enough to discover that money can provide freedom from worry, stability and peace of mind. Wouldn’t the world be so much better of a place if everyone could figure this out?

    • Thank you for sharing. I’m glad you were able to relate to my experience. I find it fascinating how we grow and mature over time and how our wants and desires evolve commensurately. Absolutely, we would all be better off if more people caught on. Thankfully, with the minimalism movement really taking hold, I think a lot more people will be exposed to the notion of what is truly important in life. Thanks for the great comment.

    • That’s awesome you had your mom as a frugal role model, Tara. Thankfully, I had my grandpa as my own. I only wish I had more time to spend with him. Thank you for your comment.

  5. I really like your last point- focusing on what actually matters, rather than having the newest toys or the biggest bank account.
    Daniel Palmer recently posted…Budgeting VisualizedMy Profile

    • Thank you, Daniel. I’m glad that resonated with you. It took me a while to figure it out, but I’m so glad I did. It will serve me well the rest of my days.

  6. Love the last point. I think this is one of the reasons of my many setbacks. I keep getting diverted from the goal that I have set for myself. So now, it’s back to square one for me and I hope that I have learned my lessons well. Looking forward to being debt free and starting to be financially independent in a couple years’ time

    • Thank you, Liz. It is so easy to get distracted with the temptations that abound. I have a few recent posts on my site about purpose and motivation which may help you stay focused and avoid diversions on your journey. All the best to you.

  7. Yes, this is so important! I was always taught to be frugal and save, and I’m so glad I was. So many people are careless with their money these days.
    Amber Myers recently posted…Blink And You’ll Miss ItMy Profile

    • Thank you for your comment, Amber. You are very fortunate to have been taught to be frugal and save from a young age. That is something I am really passionate about teaching my kids when they are old enough to understand.

  8. Understanding your finances is critical. I am glad your childhood gave you a positive experience.

    • Thank you, Colleen. I completely agree that understanding your finances is critical and can make all the difference in your life. I’m really excited to now be in a position to help people with this through my blog.

  9. I love this post. My parents weren’t all that financially savvy either, and I always hated feeling like I was paying the price for the financial know-how that was lacking in my family. I took financing classes as electives in high school in an effort to not become my parents – those classes taught me so much! I learned how to balance checkbooks, manage bank accounts, create workable budgets and savings plans. I’m still a long way from comfortable, but the things I learned in those years of struggling to break the broke cycle my family was stuck in have been so meaningful. I hope I’m doing a good enough job of passing those lessons on to my own children.

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Brandi. It sounds like we share a similar experience. Good for you for recognizing what you did not want in your own life and then taking action, especially at such a young age and while still in high school. I completely agree, those lessons are incredibly meaningful. Just the fact you are working to pass those lessons along to you children leads me to believe you are doing a great job.

  10. Sorry to hear about the struggles you and your family faced growing up but look how strong it made you guys. In a way things happen for a reason and your childhood propelled you to the point that you are at now. It was the same for me x

    • Thank you, Ana. I couldn’t agree more. Although we struggled, we were still incredibly blessed and are stronger because of those experiences. I am a big believer everything happens for a reason and without those experiences I would not be who or where I am today. I’m glad you are stronger today as well. Thanks, again.

  11. My father never went to college either. He was a farmer who ended up in Vietnam, a good ole boy so to say. My mom went to get an AA and worked at the bank, and she is the one who truly taught me about money
    Jessi Joachim recently posted…Starting A Blog: From Inception to MonetizationMy Profile

    • Thank you, Jessi. That’s great you had your mom to teach you about money. Your dad reminds me of my grandpa. He was a good ole boy as well; salt of the earth, as they say.

  12. Such a blessing to have hard working loving parents. Whether you learn what to do or what not to do from them it is important they are there.

    I think all parents want their kids to have a better future than them no matter the income level. Parents working their ass off really helps.

    Eventually the child learns and the family can manage and things get better. My dad worked in a factory after his office job was cut and I slept in a unfinished basement. Now things are better and my family is better off because of all those experiences.

    Love that in the end it is all about learning from experience and leaning on family and what matters. Not all about the dollars all the time. Great post
    Cameron recently posted…The Save Splurge Deny Debt ManifestoMy Profile

    • Thank you for the great comment, Cameron.

      I completely agree! I could not have asked for better, more loving parents. I won the parent lottery in that regard.

      Thank you for sharing your experience. The old adage, “What does not kill us makes us stronger” is so true. I have a lot of respect for men like your dad who are able to swallow their pride and do what needs to be done to provide for their family. I am glad things are better now and your family is better off because of those experiences. Thanks, again.

  13. Taking the time to manage your money better can really pay off. It can help you stay on top of your bills and save £1,000s each year. You can use these extra savings to pay off any debts you might have, put them towards your pension, or spend them on your next car or holiday.

    • I completely agree, Karlyn. Investing the time to learn how to better manage your money can pay dividends for the rest of your life.

  14. My mom was big on us learning how to manage money before we left for college. I learned some hard lessons still, but I’m sure I’d be much worse off if I didn’t have her guidance beforehand.

    • That is great, Natasha. It sounds like your mom did a great job of providing you with a head start. Thanks for sharing.

  15. I always loved the joke that begins with the question, how does one make God laugh? Make a plan. I think it’s too true that we get caught up trying to forge our will when life is always throwing curveballs. I think the best thing is to be smart and learn but always be aware that things will not turn out like you think they will.
    David recently posted…Putting things to bedMy Profile

  16. I love this post. I have learned from my parents how to manage the money and now I am married so I am learning from my hubby as well as he into business from the last 10years.

    • Thank you, Shirley. That’s really cool you were able to learn about managing money first from your parents and now from your husband. It sounds like he has quite a bit of experience.

  17. I have learned a lot from my parents too. I do live frugally. I grew up in a simple and practical household. I try my best not to waste food and recycle things.

    • That’s awesome, Sarah. Thank you for sharing. I’m with you. We are big proponents of recycling and do our absolute best to minimize and avoid food waste.

  18. i loved this. I wish I came from a background of how to budget but I feel like my parents didnt know how so why would i learn 🙁 Now I budget using ynab and I love it

    • Thank you, Stacey. I have heard really good things about YNAB. Glad to hear you are happy with it.

  19. No doubt that our upbringing will allow us to learn many things and that definitely includes surviving financially and thriving as well. Thanks for sharing your story. I love that you and your parents have such a strong bond. Your mother is amazing.

    • Thank you for your comment, Elizabeth. I am very thankful for the bond I share with my parents and hope to create as strong of bond with my own kids when they are grown. I completely agree with you, my mom is amazing! 🙂

  20. Wow. It’s really amazing what we realize as we grow old and we start building our own lives. It’s really from experience that we learn to grow as a person and improve our way of living.

    • Thank you very much for your comment, Carol. I agree. It really is an amazing and enlightening process.

  21. Awww! You are really their gift. I’m glad that increase your bonding with your parents and you learned how to be prudent in spending!

  22. wow , your narratives about your childhood was really inspiring. I would like to congratulate your parents for raising you well.

    • Thank you so much, JoJo. I really appreciate your comment and very kind words. I’ll relay your message. 🙂

  23. That’s so awesome that your parents were so supportive!! You are very blessed in that sense. I know there are a ton of kids whose parents could care less. Mine were supportive also and it really helped shape me into the person I am today!

    • Thank you, Erin. I was, and am, incredibly blessed. I’m glad you were equally blessed with supportive parents. Also, I am now salivating after visiting your site. 😉

  24. Thanks for sharing snippets about your childhood. My parents also taught us to be wise with money. They taught us the value of hard work and that I am so thankful for. I hope I will be able to pass onto my children the lessons I learned from my parents. That is the only way I can pay them back.

    • My pleasure, Annemarie. Teaching the value of hard work is one of the best gifts a parent can give a child. Your parents sound awesome. Thank you so much for your comment.

  25. This is really great that this taught you so much and how to manage your money. I grew up very similar, but I wouldn’t change anything. I am great with my money now and appreciate the little things.

    • Thank you for your comment, Jay. I’m with you. I wouldn’t change it either. That’s awesome you are a money master now and the ability to appreciate the little things in life is something that is unfortunately lost on many.

  26. Our upbringing has a lot to do with shaping up our personalities. What a great post. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing your post with us.

  27. Our upbringing has a lot to do with how we are when we are adults. I struggle with money now. I really need to come up with a budget.

    • I agree, Jacqui, it most certainly does. I would definitely recommend creating a budget if you feel like you are currently struggling with money. It really can make all the difference. There are a ton of great resources online to help you with this, including on this site. Here’s to your success!

  28. I completely agree. I was taught to manage money and till now my friends always wonder why i always think in that direction.

    • Thank you, Bel. That’s great you were taught to manage money. It makes a big difference when you learn and apply those principles from a young age.

  29. I grew up in a single mom family. My mother is my rock star. I’ve learnt to appreciate the value of money growing up. Life is tough but so does everyone! Thank you for sharing your life with us.


    • Thank you for sharing, Molly. That’s awesome your mom is your rock star. My mother-in-law was a single mom to my wife and her brother and I have the utmost respect for single parents. I know how hard it can be with two parents in the home, so I cannot imagine the challenges faced by a single parent.

  30. Yep, there’s always going to be a curveball in the future. Planning for them makes good sense!! Hurrah that the mortgage was paid off for your parents, that really does make a big difference.

    • Thank you for your comment, Rosey. I agree, it is prudent to expect curve balls and plan accordingly. Yes, not having a mortgage has made a huge difference for my parents. Thanks, again.

  31. This is such a great story to read! My parents gave us (their children) almost everything we want growing up. I’m not very good with money but I married a guy who taught me to be frugal.

    • Thank you! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. It sounds like you married well. It’s always really cool when we can learn something so valuable, like being frugal, from our significant other. My wife has taught me so much.

  32. This is a great article. I was given mostly everything and I think that made me not care so much about money as an adult. I taught my children the opposite.

    • Thank you, Cynthia. Good for you for recognizing that and doing the opposite with your own kids. As a dad to a 1-year-old and 3-year-old, I can already see how parents just want to give the world to their kids, myself included. However, it is prudent to realize giving them everything may not always be in their best interest. Thanks, again, for sharing.

  33. That is great that you are changing your money habits from what you were taught growing up. Excel is such a great budgeting tool, and having a budget helps tremendously.

    • Thanks, Andrea. I’m very thankful my path led me to learning to better manage money. I agree, Excel can be a great budgeting tool and budgeting, in general, can make all the difference in one’s finances.

  34. I think we learn and have our personalities shaped around was we were raised with and by. I grew up raised by parents who shot straight, taught us right from wrong, how to be productive citizens when we moved out of their home, independence and work ethics. I love your article and it hits home in a lot of ways.

    • Thank you so much, Wendy. I’m glad it resonated with you. It sounds like you were very fortunate to have parents like that. Those are amazing values to instill in kids and ones I hope to instill in my own children. Thanks, again.

  35. This is a good read. It’s a good thing knowing you learned that from your upbringing. I find you lucky to experience and learned it unlike other people who never experience that. Mostly people who never grew with that don’t know how to handle such difficult things.
    Anosa recently posted…Tips for keeping Menstrual cramps under control My Profile

    • Thank you, Anosa. I’m glad you liked it. You make a very valid point. I am definitely stronger because of it.

  36. I learned about money from my parents and now I am a banker. However, I still learn something new every day. And I agree with you that we should look and think about our childhood.

    • Thanks for your comment, Vishal. That’s really cool you learned about money from your parents and now work in the financial industry. They must have definitely helped spark an interest for you.

  37. Looking back on my childhood, I think the best thing I could have learned from my mom (single mom) was to always work for what you want. She worked two jobs just to make sure we had a roof over our heads and food on the table. We never had the best material things and of course that upset me as a child, but looking back I know she did the best she could. She took risks (even without proper education) that ended up providing us a better life and today I’m as hard an all-around worker as she was (and still is).
    Danielle recently posted…The Ultimate Easter Basket + I See Me! GiveawayMy Profile

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Danielle. Wow, your mom sounds like an amazing woman. I have so much respect for single parents. The value of a solid work ethic cannot be overstated. It sounds like things turned out well for you guys. I’m really glad that is the case. Thank you, again, for the great comment.

  38. Bringing up people’s childhoods is a loaded endeavor. Kudos on a job well-done. The way we are raised is a powerful catalyst for shaping our decisions in every way. I believe that’s especially true when considering finances. Without major effort, we default to what we’ve seen by our families.

    • Haha, you are right, Beka. I was very well aware of this going into writing this piece and took it into consideration. That’s one of the reasons for the long intro about my childhood and how great my parents are. I did not want to come off as being ungrateful or like I thought I was dealt a bad card because that could not be further from the truth.

      I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. Thank you very much for your comment.

  39. I’m very careful with my money but my brother is the opposite – if he has the has to spend it. My mum always said it’s so strange how different our attitudes too money are. It obviously didn’t come from our upbringing as we had the same one!

  40. Thank you for sharing, Emma. It is interesting to me how two kids, from the same family, with the same parents, can be so different in ways. Your experience is very similar to my wife and her brother. She is a saver whereas he is a spender.

  41. Wow! I am so thankful to have read your story. My dad’s upbringing was similiar in some regards. I benefited from his background (he was the 1st to go to college in his family & everyone grew up with a strong work ethic), but feel like I’ve failed my own kids in some regard.

    I am HUGE on financial security and will have disturbed sleep over bills coming due if the money is not already in the bank. As for the house, I love our log home (3000 sq. ft.) for our family of 6. However, a move to an area this summer with much higher home prices means we’ll be downsizing. On the upside, the smaller the place the less it typically costs to run it!

  42. Thank you very much for your comment, Laura. I really appreciate it. Your dad sounds like a great guy and a very positive influence in your life.

    I’m with you. The value of financial security and the peace of mind it can afford us cannot be overstated.

    Wow, your log home sounds pretty amazing. Best of luck with your move this summer. I hope everything goes smoothly for you and like you said, there are definitely advantages to downsizing. It seems we have fairly regular conversations about eventually downsizing as well.

    Thank you, again, for your comment, Laura.

  43. Yes, sometimes our upbringing is all the catalyst we need to kick ass. I call myself and “up from the ashes” girl
    Mardene R Carr recently posted…Noise Cancelling Headphones For The Dentist Office PleaseMy Profile

    • Thanks for your comment, Mardene. I agree, I see too many people do (or not do) things because of, instead of in spite of. I like “up from the ashes.” It sounds like you have a great story behind that. Thanks, again.

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