A Mom’s Final Advice on Money

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?

3 Responses to A Mom’s Final Advice on Money

  1. Chuck Kramer May 9, 2010 at 5:13 PM #

    My sister, brother and I worried about how generous my mother was with her grandchildren and great grandchildren, giving away her money everytime she saw them. She only had about $15,000 and we were worried she might need it. Her response was that she was “rich” and could afford to do it. When she died, she had $15,000 and no debts; and gave it all away anyway, just as she would have wanted to do. I am sure she was pleased when I gave my portion of her estate to my daughter who needed a boost in paying down her debt. Thanks, Mom, for showing us that being rich begins with a generous heart.

  2. Craig May 7, 2010 at 1:02 PM #

    My mom shared the very same thoughts with me under similar circumstances. She wanted to be sure we knew it was OK (and possible) to experience joy and responsible decision making at the same time. Miss you, mom.

  3. Andrew May 7, 2010 at 12:29 PM #

    Use money to make and capture memories. I like to have something to show from my purchases (stuff!), but my mom’s life demonstrates her belief in the importance of living adventurously and richly. I think she’s probably right.

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