Let’s face it, money is a total taboo topic. I can see why this exists in society, but I have no idea why it has to be true in your own private home. I have so many friends who say that they never discussed money in their household. It was a forbidden subject. Well, this was not the case in my house. By the age of 10, I had some serious responsibilities when it came to managing costs. Now despite what some people think about the millennial generation who was born into a digital world, there are still a lot of us that didn’t grow up with Internet until our late teenage years. So this was a time before fast connectivity, before online banking, before direct deposit, and before mobile check deposit (I should mention that I’m in my late 20s right now).
Here are the 6 things I did:
1. Balance my dad’s checkbook. Yes, this was a thing!
This was the only way of knowing how much you had in your checking and saving accounts. This taught me what the difference between debit and credit was, how thorough you had to be in documenting your transactions, how overdraft fees worked, and how to better budget by analyzing the flow of money.
2. Write checks. I loved this!
I often wrote out checks that were going to be mailed out (mainly because I had good penmanship). At the time, it felt like the most important job ever, and I took it quite seriously, measuring success by the number of checks I didn’t ruin (wasting a check was frustrating!). But writing out checks taught me what it took to run a household – how much electricity, gas, water, sewage, car insurance cost and how often these bills came.
3. Fill out deposit and withdrawal slips. I wasn’t a fan of this!
Since the closest bank was located inside our local grocery store, and at 10, I was often dragged to the grocery store…I usually filled out the deposit and withdrawal slips (again, because of my great handwriting). Although this contribution wasn’t my favorite because you had to write in the routing and account numbers, I did end up appreciating the process when ATMs were first introduced (even though it still required the slips). But the thought of inserting your cash in an envelope or requesting money from a fancy machine fascinated me.
4. Review grocery receipts. This was a personal interest!
While walking out of the grocery store, I always took the receipt to review in the car ride back home. I think the length of it usually attracted me. But in doing this often, I learned how much it cost to feed a family of 4. Each visit’s cost was typically the same, but I started to pick up on how much everyday items cost – milk, bread, cereal, chips, cookies (we weren’t eating so healthy back then).
5. Review paystubs. I really need to do this for myself today!
At the time, my dad worked an hourly job and often worked overtime on Saturdays. So it was routine for us to review his paystub and make sure his earnings were accurate. This exercise, by far, was the most meaningful to me. It really translated what his work was worth. It taught be the difference between gross and net income, how much was deducted in taxes, social security, medical benefits, and 401K (not to mention, what each of those things were and why we needed them). After months of reviewing his stubs, it really highlighted the importance of the above 4 responsibilities.
6. File paid statements and paystubs. Hated this and still do!
After checks were processed and mailed back to you as evidence, I was tasked to file the paid statements along with their checks in our file cabinet (my dad still has this cabinet!). We had a file for each merchant, and so I would carefully insert the documents accordingly. Usually towards the end of the year, I would pull out the entire file and go through each month’s statements…just to compare costs month over month (I promise I didn’t grow up to be an accountant!).
Although most of these menial tasks have now been automated with technology, I’m glad my parents pushed me to be part of their money management process. I was able to openly ask questions and was encouraged to think one step ahead, and in turn, it has made me financially wise. We live in a society that is motivated by money, but ironically, very few are savvy with it. Given that the US education system does not mandate personal finance classes, financial literacy needs to starts at home at a very early age. Millennials, a generation that has been deeply impacted by student loans and the recession, need to proactively smash the money talk taboo. Whether you’re in high school applying to colleges, right out of a university looking to start a career, new homeowners, first time parents, or taking care of aging family members, your financial questions are most likely in the minds of others like you. Financial curiosity is great…we just need to start talking!