Anyone who has lost someone they love will tell you that holidays bring back some of their strongest memories of those people. That’s certainly true for me. So, with Mother’s Day this weekend, I’ve been thinking about my mom who passed away in December of 2003. This year brought back a memory of a conversation we had about money just a couple of months before she died. Lying on a couch, weakened from the effects of cancer, she wanted to talk about the money she and my dad planned to leave my brother and me in their will.
Even though my parents were both teachers, they had rarely given us any overt lessons about saving, investing, or avoiding credit card debt, so the topic caught me off guard. What would she say? Was she worried that I might mismanage it, as I had an inheritance I received from an uncle 15 years earlier? Would she implore me to save most of it? To invest it conservatively? No. She surprised me with the encouragement to make sure to use a portion to buy something just for fun.
It’s possible that my mom was feeling some regret over not spending more on herself. Both of my parents were always very conservative in their use of money. But she also knew that the financial crash and burn I went through had made me very cautious in my use of money. Maybe she thought I had swung too far to the frugal side and wanted to remind me that it’s okay to spend some money just for fun. Of all the final financial advice one could give, making sure we use some money just for fun isn’t bad.
It took me a few years to follow my mom’s advice, but I finally did buy something just for fun–a nice digital camera. I get a lot of pleasure from pictures. They help me relive great vacations my wife and I took early in our marriage, marvel at how much our kids have changed, and think back on special times with friends. As an added bonus, when I use that camera to capture a memory, it very often brings back fond memories of my mom.
What great financial advice, either by word or example, did you get from your mom?