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Just talk about it, be honest


My parents paid for my siblings and I to complete our bachelor’s degree if we so chose. All this time I thought they had saved enough money to pay for 4 years of school for all 5 of us. As missionaries who struggled to raise support for most of the years I remember (my teenage years), I have always been in awe of this.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know my grandparents contributed in some part for each of us. At one point, before my 16th birthday, I was shown a check for $10,000 made out to me. It wasn’t given to me, but explained as a contribution to help with my car or college or something. My memory is fuzzy.

Idyllic years

While I was growing up, I knew there were times we struggled with money. My mom was frugal to a T, scouring grocery ads and visiting numerous stores to get the best deals. It was exhausting. And I remember the tears and fear. Most of the time, those were just my impressions, but a few times, I saw it.

But the only money talk we ever heard from my parents was “Give 10%, Save 10% and then…” with the rest. And that mantra would supposedly end up with what I saw my parents doing.

college books

I loved my years at college. They were carefree and some of my favorite years ever.

And I never thought anything of it. I just trusted this advice. (Not that I followed it.) But I always thought that doing this formula would result in savings to pay for 5 kids first cars and 5 kids to go through college, etc.

In fact, during college, I never once thought of or even saw the cost of my schooling. I never heard them discuss the thousands they must have paid for room and board and tuition. They just let me make decisions on housing and meal plans and classes and they paid the bill. I have no idea how much those years of idyllic living cost them.

The reality

It’s just been in the past month that I learned the reality. My dad would borrow money for college tuition and then pay it back at some point. I don’t know what platform he used to obtain these loans or even how long it took him to pay them off. But finding this out made me look back to a very different reality.

Not a blame game

I’m not writing this post to blame anyone for my choices. But hearing how my dad paid for our school, just made what I had believed my whole life a falsehood.

I wish my parents would have been more open about the costs and payments they made for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for those idyllic college years where I didn’t worry a thing about money. But I really believe I would have a completely different view of money if I had been more exposed to reality.

That is something I have done with my kids. Exposing them to our household finances, being open with them about my mistakes and also showing and explaining finances as they change and I make better decisions.



  • Reply Walnut |

    Dear Lord, don’t blame your parents for your bad decision making. You’d be in a world of hurt without their frequent hands up.

  • Reply Cwaltz |

    I was hoping this post would be a budget post since you are presently talking about saving for a used car and you have told us you have to pay thousands in medical debt that was not saved for in addition to another thousand plus for a lawyer. I have mixed feelings on posting about parents and their decisions on what to share and not share with their children. It is possible that sharing too much or children observing financial insecurity can lead them to be anxious about money and also lead to an unhealthy relationship with it too. Over time I’ve learned that while there may be some fast and loose rules to teach children about finances and economic principles (allowances teaching kids about unlimited wants with limited means being one of them) that the extremes of sharing nothing or sharing everything are not really good ways to endow kids with fiscal responsibility per se. Each kid is different of course so the outcomes are going to vary as well.

    • Reply Melissa |

      Nothing is ever truthful and always blaming others. Considering the number of times they have helped her out and now she blames them for paying for college. WRONG

      • Reply Hope |

        Interesting judgment perspective.
        I’m not blaming them for anything. In fact, I state that and that I’m grateful. What I am stating is how more transparency might have helped me have a different relationship and perspective of money.

    • Reply Hope |

      My budget is set for this first quarter. Not altering it at this point. Perhaps in April.

      As for this post, there are certainly age appropriate things to share with children. I am stating that things I assumed based on my parents teachings and lifestyle were completely false. And perhaps, having some oversight to what college specifically was costing them may have given me a completely different perspective on money earlier. Maybe. The news that my dad took out loans to pay for at least my college, shocked me.

  • Reply Denise |

    I think some are missing the point of Hope’s post. I don’t see Hope as blaming her parents for her own issues, per se. But I see it more as a cautionary tale that how we talk to our kids about money will have long term consequences in their own relationship with money.

    • Reply Cwaltz |

      I don’t think I missed her point at all. I said I think that some of her children may have a difficult relationship with money despite her best efforts to educate them. The reality is her kids experienced the insecure nature of Hope’s financial journey as well as she did and that may impact them as well. It isn’t just about what we tell our kids, it’s also about what they observe and experience.

  • Reply csdx |

    I’m not sure knowing that your parents were taking out loans would’ve changed much. It sounds as if the attitude was we’re taking loans because it’s normal and expected for people to do so. In the end it’s about attitude towards money is the important thing to teach. If you didn’t think taking out loans was a mistake, it’s not something you’d be cautioning your own children against doing.

  • Reply Maggie |

    Hi Hope,
    My Dad never liked talking about money. But Mom was a little more open. My Mom worked full time as a nurse, not common in our social circle. But she did sit my down one evening and talked about a 403(b) account she had. They were closing the first one she started and her contributions were going to go to a different account. So she was able to show quite clearly how she started putting X$ per pay period over y number of years and how compound interest contributed to her balance.

    As for college, thanks to my Mom contributing through the years to the household and Dad being in middle to upper-middle management as well as money inherited form my Dad’s Mom, Three of us went to parochial school and there was money for college. A certificate came due, Dad signed it over to me and sent me to the bank to open a checking account for my college transactions. (Funny story, I put my Dad as the co-owner of my account, My brother, a year younger put Mom on his account. I figured Dad would have an easier time getting to the bank because he ran such errands on his lunch hour. DB thought Mom would since she had a week day off each week). But we were responsible for writing the checks for tuition, room and board and books. We managed he money. I got to my last quarter and figured out I was going to be short. I figured out how much I woudl need and took my spreadsheet home. I asked Mom first who referred me to Dad. I was scared. But he took one look at the spreadsheet I had in my hand, asked me how much I needed and said he’d have a check for me later that evening. He never looked at my spreadsheet. years later he told me he could see that I made the effort to figure it all out and he trusted me. I did something similar with my boys and lunch money in High school. I filled up their account once a month and when the money was gone, they’d have to pack their lunch the rest of the month. One month my son was eating breakfast as well as lunch and came to me halfway through the month saying he was out of money. I told him I got paid once a month so I would not going to add more money when he could pack his lunch (and breakfast). That was a safe financial learning tool.

So, what do you think ?