During my entire childhood (from birth to age 17), my parents never talked to me about money, especially the need to budget what income the family could depend upon. I grew up during the 1929-40 Great Depression, which was an ‘economic recovery process’ taking 10 years or so for this nation to recover from the excesses of Wall Street investors and speculators. As one of 12 children (9 boys; 3 girls) and my father working at the steel mill only 40 hours every two weeks (three days one week; two days the next: to distribute available work amongst the local steelworker labor force), you can easily assess that our family was impoverished during this time. As a child, I never had any awareness about our family’s impoverishment because both my mother, Guadalupe, and father Toribio, never talked about it openly. Somehow, the rent was paid monthly, clothing, food and a sense of ‘loving security’ existed. We all attended public schools and graduated. It was not until I married and dealt with all the family responsibilities in partnership with my wife, that I realized and appreciated the achievements of my parents. Both knew how to say NO to each and every one of their children when required. Saying
‘yes’ to every request is irresponsible. In partnership with my wife, I learned not to wait for someone else to lead the way when I was fully capable of making decisions responsibly.
The entry of America into WWII with the unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 changed everything. America became the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’; all 14 blast furnaces at Gary Steel Works were fired up and operating night and day: 24/7/365. As an outcome of full employment the family budget expanded. However, my two oldest brothers ,Seville and Andrew, were drafted, and I became the oldest son at home during my teens. It was during 1941-45 that I now recall dealing with family expenditures. The worst time was from Thanksgiving to New Years -holidays when St. Anthony’s held family events. Each attendee was expected to bring a gift or make a contribution (minimum was $5).
It is upon these memories that I base the following ‘rules about money’.
(1)Talk with whoever shares responsibility about the money available.
(2) Take care of your own family’s basic expenses (rent/mortgage, food, clothing, transportation). After dealing with all essential expenses responsibly, what is left is ‘your discretionary money’ which you may spend as you choose.
(3) Avoid making purchases using credit cards because that adds costs due to the interest charges.
My wife, Betty and I had that discussion during the past three days. We wrote our checks, made all payments due and planned for other payments. Upon completion we knew what was left. This approach reduces anxiety and stress levels. Over the years, we have come up with a few of our own rules. First: know what money you have available; Second: Learn to say NO. Third: If a relative asks for ‘a loan’, discuss it with them (purpose and reason), and then GIVE IT rather than loan it, because ‘loans’ between family members often end up with those involved avoiding each other later.
Make it a point to talk to your children who are planning to attend college. Mince no words about what your family can afford. Understand that it is not the grandparents responsibility to assist you unless they responsibly volunteer to do so. One way to cut costs of college training is to consider attending the first two years at a local community college. WHY? Many change their majors at least five times. Those two years attending a local community college provide that experience at lower costs. Whatever career path is chosen, have that student learn about the medium income level of the career chosen. Ensure that any and all college loans may be repaid within 10 years after graduation. Simply stated, each potential college student needs to prepare a ‘personal 4 year business plan’ in which all expenses are ‘covered’. The objective is ‘no surprises’. Why am I including this? It is because many local high school teachers & counselors do not know enough about today’s high cost of college education. You do not want a youth to end up with a ‘college loan burden’ which requires monthly paybacks for 10 years or more. Above all, read the ‘fine print’ contained in any student loan contract. Many are exempt from bankruptcy proceedings by law & regulation. After graduation, they should seek jobs which ‘forgive’ or assist with the ‘student loans’. This approach will prevent many from being part of that $1.3 trillion national student loan level which exists today.
During this Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years holiday season give the gift of responsible budgeting. Especially to youth applying to college; applying for scholarships; considering student financial aid/loans. If your family has no one with college training experience, ask your school districts about available mentor programs. Understand that today’s dreams through responsible budgeting become future achievements and happy memories, HAVE A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON!