Midlife can bring on the nostalgia. There’s something about the whole life cycle thing that causes one to ponder and look back. For me, I believe this whole process is amplified by my own attempts to prepare my kids to make their own way in this big ‘ol world.
When I look back at my childhood, we didn’t have the newest or shiniest material possessions, but we were rich with living. I learned that life is about a lot more than money, but then that’s because my dad made such sound decisions with his. When it comes to financial matters, here are some really helpful money lessons I learned from my dad that have helped me live a lot more and worry a lot less.
Some Really Helpful Money Lessons
1. Live Within Your Means
My dad was a school teacher and my mom was a teacher’s aide. Even though the budget was obviously tight on a teacher’s salary, my dad managed to take us on vacations every summer. We traveled all over the US and experienced a lot of the country.
Now, our lodging usually consisted of camping broken up by occasional house stays at the homes of various relatives dotted across the country, but I have seen a lot more than many people I know.
We’ve all heard it said a million times… live within your means. But, I think a better phrase is, “Adjust Your Expectations To Your Budget.” Yes, luxury hotels would have been great, but we couldn’t afford them on a teacher’s salary. So instead, our family did trips in a fashion that we could afford.
When you try to adjust your budget to meet high expectations, you often end up spending more than you have. Yes, it’s compelling to desire the best, but can you afford it?
So, I really didn’t get to spend much time in that dream house. And, I can honestly say that my life was not adversely affected in any way. I hear it said, “I want my kids to have a better life than I did.” And often, this phrase precedes an explanation of why someone worked too hard or sacrificed way too much.
3. Money Can’t Buy Integrity
My dad originally studied architecture in college, but somewhere along the way he realized he didn’t want to be sitting at a desk for his whole career. So, he changed his major to education. He ended up becoming a special education teacher.
Money can’t buy integrity. He prioritized life, not high living and he invested in people instead of things. Of course, I am not suggesting that an architect can’t positively impact others’ lives – just make sure that there is something waiting at the end of your rainbow besides a pot of gold. Money is a great tool and it sure makes life easier, but problems creep in when money becomes your sole motivation for living.
How I Practically Apply These Life Lessons
Don’t live on any one else’s money but your own.
- If I can’t afford it, then I don’t buy it. That means my husband and I never carry a balance on our credit cards. We have them set to pay the balance every month.
Never pay full price for clothes.
- I have always said, “Anyone can look great if they spend enough, but it takes skill to pay very little and still look like a million bucks!” I buy everything on clearance and off-season.
Research before you buy big-ticket items.
- When I go in to purchase a camera or a laptop I do a cost comparison and I’ve read dozens of consumer reviews.
We give our kids ample amounts of our time and attention, but not tons of money.
- We have tried to teach them the value of money. Our kids are never paid to do chores around the house because we wanted teach them that they help out because they are part of the family.
Make charitable giving a lifestyle.
- We try to prioritize the needs of others. A certain percentage of our monthly income goes to our church and other charitable organizations.
Live like tomorrow will come.
- My husband and I have considered what it will take to retire. We are investing into our retirement and diversifying with real estate to make sure we are prepared for the future.
Money does not bring fulfillment, but poor financial decisions do take a huge toll emotionally. The good news is you can still turn things around at midlife. Consider ways to simplify your life and make some financial planning decisions now so your life will reflect the lessons you’ve learned along the way.