Growing up, I was raised by women. My parents divorced when I was young and I never really knew or thought about my situation being unique, it’s just the way it was. The only condition I really knew was being raised by a single mom with a lot of help from a widowed Grandma who at times lived with us. I know that it was not always an easy journey for the women tasked with raising me, but those trials made all of us stronger and taught me many a lesson about life and money.
Before I started elementary school, we moved into one of the top school districts in the area so that I could benefit from a good education. The unsurprising fact is that usually the best schools are in areas where people have a lot of money, and we did not fit that bill. So not because it was easy for a young single mother to assimilate into a culture of wealth, but because that was what would be best for me, we moved into a small apartment in one of the best school districts. I was being taught at a very young age that sometimes life hands you tough decisions and that putting the betterment of others ahead of yourself is a noble virtue.
Growing up I had a different lifestyle than my friends in school, but my mom had a great way of not stressing me out about finances, but instead turning it into fun for me. We had a fun game to see how close we could get to $100 at the checkout line at the grocery store. We would go through the aisles and I started keeping a mental track in my head and then see whose mental count came closest to the amount once we rang it up. This game in hindsight was out of necessity as there just wasn’t any more than that amount to spend. These early lessons in budgeting have stuck with me to this day and I still can’t help getting a little excited when I hit my mark at the checkout line.
Some of my fondest memories as a kid were the weekends when I got to spend time with my mom and grandma. We would often go visit model homes in the area, and with fervor I would run through each house and pick out my room. I have fond memories of going fishing on a local lake and packing some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for us all to have a picnic outside. Sometimes we would just drive and see what we could find. I think this is the most valuable lesson I learned; that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the company of others. That time together is worth more than any amount in any account.
Fast forward a few years and I now find myself a husband, and also a father of two wonderful kids. I thank my mom for the lessons she taught me, and I thank her for getting me set on the right path in life. I truly believe that those early lessons have now enabled to me to provide a comfortable upbringing for my family now. I try to, and sometimes even succeed in; putting my family first, minding a budget, and most importantly valuing the people in my life – not the things. I have been blessed with many things in life and so much of that is due to the strength and determination of women in my life.