How do childhood money lessons affect us?

Long time ago

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was about 7 years old and was sitting there on our large oval living room rug watching Saturday baseball with my Dad. We were probably the last people in our neighborhood to upgrade to a color TV and I was loving it. Those were the days! Great match ups with teams I wouldn’t normally get to see. Maybe the flashy yellow and green uniformed Oakland A’s, with their star, Reggie Jackson. Maybe somebody else. I used to love to seek out their baseball cards too, with the pocket change I’d make, running errands, mostly for my Grandmom, who lived right next door. You might remember from a previous post, that I’ve saved some of those baseball cards for a long time.

Nice profit margin

You see…my Grandmom smoked Winston 100 cigarettes. They came in a gold colored soft pack, and they cost 75 cents during the early 1970’s. She would give me a $1 bill and I would get to keep the quarter change. Not a bad return for a 10 minute walk to the store, where I could barely reach the counter. She’d either summon me from the window, or call on the phone. Often, she would just be sitting in our kitchen, having a short glass of beer, or chain smoking out there. I’d quickly run the block and a half to the corner store, announce the shorthand code of “Winston Gold” to the clerk, hand him my dollar and return quickly. It was probably the easiest 33% profit margin I ever made.

Not today, but maybe

On this particular Saturday, I wasn’t really feeling it. The phone rang and my Mom or someone else had answered the green colored Bell Tel wall phone in our kitchen. (with extra long handset cord) I told them to tell her I wasn’t there, or I couldn’t run an errand right now. She hung up and that was that…until I looked up at my Father, sitting there in his “Archie Bunker” chair, just feet away me. “Why would you do that?” he asked, disapprovingly.

I just shrugged with a twinge of fear and said, “I just don’t feel like it.” Also, there was something about…I don’t need the quarter, or something to that effect. My Dad countered with “You should want to do it for nothing.” He emphasized that the money should be secondary. I remember how my gaze was fixed on him as he spoke. He didn’t say much more than that. What stuck with me was his level of seriousness. I want to say that I got up and went, and I honestly think I did, because I had done it hundreds of times before, but again, I don’t remember. My Dad and my Grandmom weren’t exactly the best of friends. They weren’t enemies, but I had seen them trade barbs on occasion. I was kind of counting on that separation at that moment but it was nowhere to be found.

Don’t forget

I think about that day all the time as it relates to money and finance or should I say “personal finance”. How much can I have? How much do I need? Am I doing the right thing for my money? Am I doing the right things with my money? The questions and combinations are endless and I never had an opportunity to dig deeper into that topic with my Dad, since he passed away 7 years later, before I could discuss it as an adult with him. I still find myself “bucking the trend” sometimes, but that day gave me a reflection point that is invaluable to me and still guides me to this day. Do you have a memorable childhood story about money?

One of the few pictures I have of all 3 of us. (Granny is on far right)

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