debt debs

Personal Debt Wrangler – Had my money head in the sand – but no more!

7 Financial Lessons Learned from My Parents’ Debt


I am very happy to have a guest post from one of my blogging friends, Erin from Journey to Saving.  I’ve mentioned before about how I worried about the impact that our financial bad habits have had on our kids.  Erin shares her story about this below.

financial-lessons-learnedI am no stranger to debt. While I have only personally experienced student loan debt, consumer debt came knocking on my family’s door decades ago, and nearly destroyed us.

Debs is very open in sharing her mistakes and experiences when it comes to debt and her own family, so that others can learn from her. It’s for that reason I only thought it fitting to share my own story here, with all of you, along with some of the lessons I’ve learned from my parents’ debt.

Debt is a common enemy of ours, and even though it brings dark and trying days, I’ve been able to get a few things out of it after starting on my own financial journey. After reading this post, I hope you’ll be able to as well.


The Beginning

It all started when I was 7. My dad had been laid off. I suddenly began hearing the word “No” much more often, accompanied by frustration at the predicament we found ourselves in.

My 7-year-old brain didn’t comprehend this as I can now, but I knew enough to be scared. What will this mean for us? I often wondered, especially after hearing my parents speak in hushed tones.

Bits and pieces made their way to my ears: losing home, can’t afford, might not recover, and can’t keep this up, were just a few phrases that clued me in to what was happening.

The real warning sign was that my lovely grandma was showing up at our house more often, always with food and household products in tow. It was as if we didn’t have to go grocery shopping anymore!

My childhood self was more than a little naive, thinking my grandma was stopping by just to spoil me with goodies. While that was part of the visit, something deeper was going on, as I saw her attempt to hand my mom cash several times. My mom usually refused.

Thankfully, my family recovered in about two years. My dad worked part-time until he found a full-time position, which put us in a better place. On top of that, my mom began to work full-time once I turned 13.

We went on our merry way, and I was none the wiser to the increasing pile of bills that would slowly bury us in several years.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

financial-lessons-learnedIt was only at Christmastime that I was told money might be a little tight, but my parents always managed to get me what I wanted most. I never truly knew just how bad of a state we were in, until my dad lost his job again, this time, while I was in college. This time, I knew what was going on, and I wanted to run.

My parents had never gotten their financial act together. They had never saved, and they still hadn’t paid off their debt. I was angry at them. Why hadn’t they learned from their mistakes the first time around? Was I the only one that remembered those times? I didn’t know how they let history repeat itself.

What’s worse, my mom became resentful toward my dad. Without his income, we were relying solely on her income, which was only half of what my dad made. I should say that my parents were never extremely high-earners, so while we kept a mostly frugal lifestyle, losing my dad’s income was a huge blow that we never recovered from for many reasons.

My parents have always been prideful and unwilling to take “handouts.” As such, my mom shouldered the burden of making ends meet by herself, even when I offered to help. Likewise, Debs is the primary breadwinner in her family, and I know it’s not easy at all. There are plenty of mom’s out there who are shouldering this burden, and doing an amazing job of it. While it can be a thankless job, your children will grow up to appreciate and respect you for it.

To say this was a difficult time would be an understatement. I can’t even begin to tell you all how happy I was when we finally got through it. There were times I doubted we would. I took mental notes through everything, because I knew I never wanted to go through that again.

I wanted to make sure I could safeguard myself against debt. Student loan debt had been different in my mind, so I sadly didn’t avoid that, but you can bet I won’t take on any consumer debt after what I’ve seen it do. For that reason, I’d like to impart to you the financial lessons I learned from watching my parents suffer with their debt.

7 Financial Lessons Learned from My Parents’ Debt

  1. Save, budget, and track spending. Keep an emergency fund. Please. It kills me to know my parents would have been fine had they actually taken the time to save money. Because they didn’t have anything to fall back on, any unexpected expenses would go straight on the credit cards. It was a vicious cycle they were unable to break out of. My parents also thought they had a good hold on things, but I guarantee that a budget or spending sheet would have opened their eyes.
  2. Communicate. According to my parents, there was a bit of miscommunication going on. My dad believed that they were paying the cards off in full every month, when in reality, they were paying the minimums. This was because my mom balanced the checkbook and paid all the bills. I know Debs has mentioned a few times that she didn’t realize how bad things were because her husband was doing the same. Even though I handle all of our finances, I always keep my boyfriend in the loop. Your other half needs to be included.
  3. Perseverance pays off. I want to inject a little happiness into this post! I’m glad to say that my parents fought the battle and won, in their own way. They are still in debt, but they were able to retire and move to a place that is much more affordable. They purchased their house outright and no longer worry about a mortgage. With the sale of their old house, they were able to put a large chunk toward their consumer debt, and they now have a good buffer in their bank account should they need it.
  4. There’s more to life than possessions. Having a little less than my peers made me realize early on that there’s simply more to life than having the newest gadgets, prettiest clothes, trendiest accessories, etc. My parents never purchased name-brand anything, and they always shopped frugally. They’re both deal-finders. I got a hand-me-down car (from my grandma to my mom, then to me) and only replaced it once it was unreliable to drive. Even though it was a funky teal color, I didn’t have to pay for it, and that made it valuable.
  5. Experiences matter. I’m an only child, and many of my memories growing up involve my parents. None of these memories revolve around things, though. Yes, I can remember the gifts they’ve given me over the years, but what matters most to me now is spending time with them. No one lives forever. So the next time you feel pressured into buying something for your children, remember that prioritizing experiences is the way to go. They will thank you for it some day. Remember to enjoy the little things life has to offer.
  6. Keeping up with the Joneses? Nah. I never got the sense that my parents were trying to keep up with anyone, even though there were plenty of people around us that were clearly questioning our priorities. They were never phased by it. Sure, it’s a little sad to see people from college “living the life,” (or so they want us to believe?), but I’m happy where I am. I have a great boyfriend, two adorable cats, and supportive friends and family.
  7. Don’t give up hope. This has to be the most important lesson I’ve learned. My parents went through a lot in a short span of time, twice. Yet, they’re still together. They pulled through. And I turned out fine. Looking at my student loan balance can make me feel hopeless at times, but I know I’ll reach a $0 balance someday. Being in debt has taught me things I never would have discovered about myself, and for that, I am thankful.


financial-lessons-learnedI want to close this out by saying that things could have been much, much worse. Compared to some people, my family had it easy. I am very grateful that my grandma was there to help us through everything, because I’m not sure we would have survived without her generosity.

Don’t let debt take away from you any more than it already has. I know it can be soul-sucking, and that the journey is a long one, but you’ll make it through if you choose to fight. And I know you want to, otherwise you wouldn’t be here!

What are some of the lessons that debt has taught you? Did you grow up around debt? How has it affected you?

erinmauthorpicErin M. is a full-time personal finance freelance blogger and virtual assistant. She’s passionate about helping other millennials get started on their financial journey. She blogs about frugality, being happy with less, and tackling student loan debt on Journey to Saving.





Author: debster

I am a fifty-something wife, mother and new grandmother, who admits to having their “head in the sand” about their financial situation until amassing $247,500 worth of consumer debt for a total debt of $393,500. We've paid $121K in 2 years with four more years to go. Join my journey at sharing ideas and motivation to all those coping with poor money management and bad debt decisions.

64 thoughts on “7 Financial Lessons Learned from My Parents’ Debt

  1. I have to admit I don’t really have a clue who things went with my parents finances. When I was younger money seemed to flow a lot and we got everything we wanted and then some. But when my parents divorced when I was a senior in high school, I sensed a lot of tension. My dad was a dentist and was money smart so he always did fine, but my mom I still can’t tell to this day. I think she was in denial about a lot of stuff. I know for me, after spending too much when I started freelancing, I learned that just because things start going well again, doesn’t mean you can just start spending again because there is always that rainy day. Even money I got for my birthday this year, I’m just throwing it into my account as if it were side income…well, about 80% of it. I’m still treating myself to a cheap massage. But I could easily blow it if I wanted to because it was a gift, but then what? Stress about money later because work is slow? No way!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…What I Know About Myself and MoneyMy Profile

    • I think it’s good to take a little to treat yourself! I’m not sure what caused my parents to fall back into their old ways and think everything was fine and dandy after my dad became employed again. You would think they would do everything not to land back in that place again, but I guess they thought they had decent job stability. Of course, no one could predict the recession would happen either. :/ I’m just glad I learned from their mistakes.
      Erin @ Journey to Saving recently posted…How I Overcame an Unexpected ExpenseMy Profile

  2. My parents were very frugal and paid off our house when I was in high school. The only debt I have experience has been self-imposed.

    Fortunately, I still learned from it. And now I’m a lot more like my parents- I hate debt!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…Who Sabotages Your Christmas Budget?My Profile

    • That is awesome they had the house paid off that early! I sometimes wonder what would have happened if my parents had been frugal. I wonder if I would have had to make my own mistakes. Sometimes, that’s more powerful than watching others go through something!

  3. I had sort of the opposite experience, in that my parents shunned debt, and modeled very frugal living. (It wasn’t until I went away to college that I realized that other people ordered drinks and appetizers at restaurants!) I’ll add that my father was a professional, with no school debt, and a good income. But my parents always preached “live beneath your means”. Unfortunately, I didn’t take their advice, and am now paying for it…
    Amy recently posted…Recent Recipes, and a Winner!My Profile

    • It is really interesting to me to see how our experiences in childhood shape how we act later on. I wonder if, in many cases, children are so restricted by their frugal parents, that they live it up when they finally get away, and end up in debt. I’m sorry to hear you’re paying for it now, but I wish you all the success in paying it off!

  4. Hey Erin! Great inspiring article. Thank you for sharing the lessons you learned from your old folks.
    How To Save Money recently posted…Saving Money on a WeddingMy Profile

  5. Unfortunately debt taught me my lessons later in my life, but the good news is we are teaching our children better then we were ever taught. We don’t want them to make the same mistakes we have made as they begin their financial lives.
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…Help a Reader: How do I get back on my feet without declaring Bankruptcy?My Profile

    • I have no doubt your children will grow up to be much more knowledgeable, just based on a few of your posts! I know going through debt payoff is tedious, and that it’s hard to look on the bright side, but I think being able to save your children from such debt later in their lives is a good thing.

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  7. My son is 8 and I think a lot about how our money conversations impact him. I can’t imagine how stressful it was for you to hear so many scary conversations! I think it’s important for parents to include children in money and family finance talks even if they are scary. There are ways to talk through them with kids and together to help alleviate some fears. I am happy to hear that your parents have worked through everything and together. Some lessons can be very painful; however, as long as they are learned then they have served a purpose.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Commitment is KeyMy Profile

    • I completely agree, Shannon. I know it’s hard, and that parents don’t want to expose their children to the realities of their financial situation, but I can almost guarantee they’re going to sense something is up anyway. It’s better to be open with them in a gentle way. I would have preferred to hear what was going on straight from my parents!
      Erin @ Journey to Saving recently posted…How I Overcame an Unexpected ExpenseMy Profile

  8. My parents never really got into too much debt, but they did live paycheck to paycheck, and that’s what I learned.

    The good news is that we finally been able to figure it out and even though we’re still learning, we are making a lot of progress and can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    Aldo @ Million Dollar Ninja recently posted…Living On Campus Costs More than Off Campus (Infographic)My Profile

    • I’m glad to hear that, Aldo! My parents lived paycheck to paycheck due to their debt as well. My boyfriend’s mom once made a remark that most people live paycheck to paycheck (she assumed we were). It blew my mind, as it’s such a horrible mindset to be in. You *can* beat the cycle, it just takes time.

  9. I grew up lower income. My parents didn’t have much debt but the money coming in barely covered expenses. My mom was a stay at home mom with 4 kids and dad worked a full time job and followed with 1 and for too long 2 part-time jobs. He would only have 4 or 5 hours between his work days so would sleep in the camper-shell he left on his truck year-round at his full time job parking lot to avoid loosing time driving 20 miles home and back. He would have to use the janitor’s shower to change and prepare for work each morning. Weekends he was dead tired and caught up with his sleep. They were too prideful to ask for handouts. I decided that wasn’t what I wanted for my life and even though my family was debt adverse it did make me aware of the importance of saving, frugal living, and education (dad only 6th grade/mom 9th) to get a decent job. It also taught me that you do what you have to do to raise your family. The fear of living like my dad is probably my biggest subconscious motivator to get me where I am today.
    LeisureFreak Tommy recently posted…Early Retirement Side HustleMy Profile

    • I’m so sorry your dad went through all of that, and I have to imagine it left quite an impression on you. It’s amazing what we can learn and internalize from watching our parents. I’ve come to question whether fear is a good motivator, though, as it can lead to irrational assumptions (at least, in my case!). It’s great to want to stay far away from getting ourselves into bad situations like that, but fear can drive us to the extreme.

    • Tommy – how dedicated your Dad was to providing for his family. I can see that having a big impact on how you manage your finances.

  10. What a great list. My parents talk about money quite a bit because we never had much, but we always had enough. They weren’t rich and we lived like we weren’t rich so debt was never a problem. My dad was an elementary school teacher and they made double payments on the house and had it paid for when I graduated high school. They lived conservatively for decades and then my dad retired early in his 50’s and makes more retired than he did working. He and my mom have been doing whatever they want for nearly a decade because they made right decisions early on and always lived with-in their means. Best lesson and example to me ever! They never invested their money so that is the only difference that I have added in to our finances which has accelerated the time table for my retirement.
    Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income recently posted…Oh No! The Stock Market is Going On SaleMy Profile

    • I would say that is an amazing example of what can happen when you’re diligent with your finances and live below your means! That’s awesome, Lance. I agree that investing is key in accelerating the growth of your assets. My parents were never big on investing at all, so I’m diving into it with no experience, but at least time is on my side.
      Erin @ Journey to Saving recently posted…How I Overcame an Unexpected ExpenseMy Profile

  11. Thanks for sharing this! I actually wish my parents would learn how to budget and communicate with us openly about whats going on with their finances
    Ciel Belle recently posted…Week 19 : Long weekendsMy Profile

    • I think part of it has to do with the fact that money was pretty taboo for them growing up. My grandma never goes into great detail on her financial situation, but I know she tries to live below her means and is more frugal than the rest of our family. I have to wonder if my grandma and grandpa were ever open about their financial struggles – that could be why my parents never thought to talk about it.

      • I think that is very true. It’s a generational thing. No one talked about money in the past and we’re just starting to break the stigma slowly now, IMO.

  12. Thanks for sharing your story Erin. I’ve simply learned through the years that I want no part of debt and being forced to comply to a debt driven cultural system that really doesn’t have the best interests of the consumer in mind. They (banks, credit card companies, loan companies, etc.) are in it to make money and they will do so off our ignorance and cooperation. I’ll have no part of it.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted…3 Sneaky Marketing Words Companies Use to Lure ConsumersMy Profile

    • Well put, Brian. I don’t want the banks making money off of me! I’d rather keep it and put it toward my goals. People often don’t see past being able to purchase what they want with a credit card, leading them to neglect the interest and other nasty consequences of debt.

  13. Funny looking back at the way my parents handled finances from an adult perspective. As a kid you really don’t know what is going on but I could definitely tell the differences between my parents. My father was self-employed for as long as I can remember. Always a risk taker and good about “business.” And while he did provide a good solid upbringing for my family he was always riskier with his money rarely putting anything aside for a “rainy day.” My mother, on the other hand was always careful about spending and saved and saved and saved. I guess my parents have a really good yin-yang relationship that way. They are still married after 44 years and despite being on opposite poles of the financial spectrum found a happy medium to make it work.
    DivHut recently posted…Recent Stock Purchase – October 2014My Profile

    • I am glad your parents found a way to make it work! It is interesting to look back now. My dad seemed less concerned about our finances, but I think that’s mostly due to the fact my mom paid all the bills and balanced the checkbook. He wasn’t as involved, and that’s where the miscommunications came into play.

  14. Thank you for sharing this, Erin. I didn’t have a lot of visibility into my parents’ finances growing up. They’ve always been frugal, but 3 kids and earning a PhD did put them into some credit card debt. I remember celebrating with pizza when they paid it off! In retrospect, I wish my parents had given me greater insight into their financial decisions. I plan to be much more transparent with my kids and I wonder if it’s a generational thing to an extent… hmm. Now I want to ask my parents if they intentionally shielded us kids from their financial decisions or if it was just the way they did things.
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…Frugal Hound Sniffs: Cottage RetreatistMy Profile

    • Pizza is the best food for celebration sometimes. =) I also wonder if it’s a generational thing. I plan on asking my parents how their parents handled finances, or if they even knew. I’m sure you and Mr. FW will be amazing role models for your kids, though. I doubt very much you’ll have anything to worry about on that front!
      Erin @ Journey to Saving recently posted…How I Overcame an Unexpected ExpenseMy Profile

  15. Thanks for sharing Erin, I really enjoyed reading your financial lessons. Growing up, my parents never really discussed finances and budgeting with us kids. Now that I’m older and my mom has developed a girl crush on Gail Vaz-Oxlade, we talk about finances all the time! It’s great to have someone who can answer my questions in a way I understand :)
    Downstairs and In Debt recently posted…Moving ForwardMy Profile

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! That’s so cute your mom has taken an interest in finance now! Ever since I started blogging, I’ve been discussing it more with my parents as well, and they’ve been receptive to the ideas, albeit slow to take action. I would love to see them pay off their credit card debt once and for all, though.

    • I have a crush on Gail Vaz-Oxlade as well!

  16. Thanks for sharing your story Erin! As others have mentioned, my parents haven’t really shared much about their finances with me or my sister. I wonder too, if it’s a generational thing. While we’ve managed to stay out of consumer debt, student loan debt is a different story. On the bright side, debt has given me a lot (can’t believe I’m writing that!) It’s forced me to get my shit together and think about my long-term plans. That’s probably a whole blog post in itself!
    Liz recently posted…6 Surefire Ways to Hurt Your Credit ScoreMy Profile

  17. I can relate somewhat to your situation, Erin. It wasn’t so much about debt when I was growing up, but just that it seemed to be tough to make ends meet. My parents always worked hard, but there were lay-offs and some times of uncertainty. The one big thing I have taken away from it is that I absolutely do not want my daughter to worry about our finances. I want to teach her about money, but I never want her worrying about us.
    Lauren recently posted…How Teens can Make Money:10 Easy IdeasMy Profile

    • Lay offs and job loss are the worst. If my parents had been able to save, it wouldn’t have affected us as badly, but losing one income was really rough. I would have been much less worried knowing they had more in their bank account, so I’m sure your daughter will never have to worry about your financial situation!

  18. Don’t give up hope- maybe the most important lesson. If you don’t have hope, you won’t even try to be proactive.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…The Latte Factor In Reverse: Make The Little Things Work FOR YouMy Profile

    • Exactly, Stefanie! I saw my parents struggle not to give up hope, but in the end, they made it through. They could have succumbed to a lot worse and let debt overtake their lives, but they made the choice to fight through it. When you’re hopeless, you don’t think anything you do will change your situation, which isn’t true.

    • Very good point, Stef. If someone decides it’s a lost cause then they don’t even try. I’m here to say it is not a lost cause.

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  20. These are such great lessons learned, Erin. I know how tough it is to have a mom as a breadwinner with a dad who is out of work :( It’s so tough on the family. You have come out strong and resilient though!
    Melanie @ My Alternate Life recently posted…This Weekend’s Declutter: The BathroomMy Profile

  21. I also experienced a parent, my mom being laid off when I was pretty young. It was a rough time and I could feel her anxiety and stress levels shoot through the roof. I will never forget that time and how she got us through it.
    Kassandra @ More Than Just Money recently posted…When Being Frugal Becomes UnethicalMy Profile

    • Me neither, Kassandra. I’m sorry you had a similar experience. This is why I’ve become such a big proponent of either diversifying your income, or having a large savings cushion. A job loss won’t have as much of a horrendous impact on your immediate situation if those are in place.

  22. Thank you so much, Erin! Like Debs, I also have grown and growing children, and I often wonder how our years of debt and financial stress will play out in their lives. Your post makes me feel very hopeful! I’m so glad that your parents are still together and doing better. and that you’re on track to be financially fit and free from the trappings of our consumer society. Others who are “living the life” now will turn to you as a role model some day. Keep it up!
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…Mid-Week Guest Post: Debt-Free FriendMy Profile

    • I’m so glad it has made you hopeful! While we went through some very stressful times, I believe I at least came out slightly better for it. I’m happy I only have student loans to contend with; I definitely have no plans of dealing with consumer debt. I already plan on having a very affordable wedding. =)

  23. I think this are all great lessons. I feel like the biggest one to hold on to is to hold on hope.
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  26. Ugh, that’s such a rough lesson to learn so young. My dad is self employed and when I was younger things were always really tight. My brother is about 10 years younger than me and when he was growing up, they were finally kind of comfortable. I still can’t get over how differently we approach money and how nuts I am about not taking on big expenses and building up an emergency fund while he doesn’t care about either of those things.
    Mel recently posted…Financially Savvy Saturdays #60My Profile

    • That’s really interesting that there’s such a divide between you and your brother from what you both went through! I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to see him not care. :/ It was pretty rough to watch my parents go through rough patch after rough patch, but I’m glad they finally realize the importance of saving!

  27. Hi Erin!

    Really interesting blog post! My mum was never very great with teaching me about money but she lived quite comfortably so for me the issue was – she never taught me about the value of money and until recently I hadn’t realised just how hard she must have worked to make our lives comfortable growing up. She worked as a teacher 5 days a week and worked a Saturday and Sunday job too while we were growing up. Having needed to take on multiple jobs myself I’ve no idea how she did it with 2 young children!!

    I think financial education is just so lacking and we need to change this – we all suffer in silence because we’ve never been taught and that is exploited by credit companies. Hopefully things are changing though otherwise I despair for the next generation especially with the increase in costs of tuition, living and everything else!

    Love the post!
    Natalya @ Cottage Retreatist
    Natalya recently posted…Our end of year GoalMy Profile

    • Wow, your mom was quite the hard worker! I do agree with you that a lot of us have seemed to suffer because our parents (and schools) never spoke about the importance of finances. From what I’ve seen, at least in our little personal finance community, the next generation should be okay as money is becoming less taboo. It’s been nice to hear so many current parents determined to set a good example for their children. I can only hope the trend continues, and I’m glad you liked the post!

  28. I had mixed examples with my parents. My mother and stepfather were very careful, and we lived quite frugally. My father and stepmother, though wonderful people, tended to spend whatever came their way. I like the peace of mind that comes with having a solid savings and a plan for retirement. And you’re right — keeping up with the Joneses is for the birds! :-)
    Jean recently posted…Retirement: Changes and Community (and Brazil!)My Profile

  29. We always learn from our parents, but sometimes the way that we learn is by watching them make mistakes.

    One thing that may also show up with parents is that spenders are attracted to savers because they see that as a way to have more money to spend. Someone I worked with divorced her husband because she got tired of him spending all the money she earned. Good Life Lesson for their daughter from that, if she was paying attention.

    My parents were both Last Born basket cases used to someone else taking responsibility in their families.

    I couldn’t afford to go to University when I finished High School the same month I turned 17 so I got a job in a construction camp at a mine in the BC wilderness where we got to work 10 hours a day when there was enough daylight, and every second weekend. Room and board included at no cost. The Prime Contractor arranged for bankers to come to the camp every payday with an escort of Off Duty RCMP officers, so I deposited most of my pay and get a bit of cash for spending at the canteen. No need to leave camp, so no need to get a vehicle. My biggest expense was buying winter clothing and boots for working outdoors in the winter, a mile above sea level.

    Those savings paid for most of my University and I paid my student loans off within 8 months of graduation.

    My father called me once at University with a sad story about needing money for an oil heater, since my brothers would rather sit around in their winter coats than start a fire in the wood fired central heating. He slammed the phone on me and never tried again after I asked him the name of the business he would be buying it from. He asked me if I didn’t trust him with the money and I said no I did not. End of conversation.

    My wife and I are a closely matched set in many ways, including financially.

    We have IT jobs, so we were part of the alternate reality of full IT employment during the RayGun(SDI) Thatcher Mulroney depression of the 1980s. When times get tough process improvement and automation are even more important to the bottom line than during boom times.

    We bought a house in 1982 with a fully assumable k$60 1st mortgage at a (for then) bargain rate of 16% and a BC Home Program 2nd mortgage of K$10. The lady behind the counter freaked out when my wife went in to pay off the 2nd mortgage off 9 months later.

    We were only allowed to pay K$6 as extra payments against the 1st mortgage each year, so it took us 5 years and 3 months to pay off the 1st mortgage. We bought a min-van without a loan with the surplus cash that was accumulating in our savings because of the Annual Mortgage Principle Payment limit.

    Afterwards the bank kept sending us letters demanding proof of insurance with bank being the 1st loss payee, so my wife called them and asked why they were doing that.

    The loan officer answered “for your mortgage”. My wife replied “what mortgage?”.

    That was followed by a brief silence punctuated by the sound of rapid keystrokes, a pause, then “Oh!” and “But you are only 34!”.

    At that point I decided I should go to the local Property Registry and get a Statement of Title to confirm that the bank had removed the charge against our home.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Kelly. I admire all that you accomplished with managing your money effectively. You learned though negative reinforcement from your parents but it’s better than not learning at all. My parents set a good example for me but I did not heed that example and so am still paying off debt now at 55. I’d be curious to know if you have children and how they are with spending and debt.

    • Yes, thanks for sharing your story, Kelly! “One thing that may also show up with parents is that spenders are attracted to savers because they see that as a way to have more money to spend.” Really interesting observation, and one that is true in some cases. I have guarded my savings closely for fear of it being used, but thankfully I’ve had respectful significant others as far as money goes.

      You’re a great example of how hard work and diligence pays off, and it’s great you’ve set such a wonderful example for your children!
      Erin @ Journey to Saving recently posted…Day Trip to Asheville Recap (Plus a Surprise!)My Profile

  30. Our oldest son and daughter are working on their PhDs, debt free.

    Supporting them to attend the local university wasn’t a big financial deal.

    Both got scholarships, including National Science and Engineering Council undergraduate summer work term funding.

    My son worked for a year as a web developer after graduating with double honours in History and Engineering Computing Science. He had a few K$ in the bank from his last co-op work term and saved most of his earnings for his masters degree, along with Social Science and Humanities Research Council Fellowship Funding for his masters and now for his PhD at an Austrian University.

    Our daughter worked as a research assistant and lab instructor for a year after getting triple honours in Chemistry, Earth Science and Ocean Science. She got accepted into a direct to PhD joint program run by MIT and WHOI. I started collecting my pension from an earlier employer to support that, but between MIT Funding, SSHRC and NSERC funding it isn’t a huge financial burden supporting our 2 oldest children through University.

    She worked part time and summers at a local Starbucks during her first years. In between her 4th and 5th years she won a paid summer internship spot in the annual competition at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute but there wasn’t a lot left over after paying for her food, student accommodation and cross country airfare. Her 4 year entrance scholarship had run out (triple honours is a lot of course work) but she got a Bob Wright scholarship to help with her final year.

    She also got a paid flight to MIT and to a Hawaiian Oceanographic Institute when she was considering grad school. Jocks aren’t the only prospective students who get star treatment for recruiting.

    Obviously we are proud of them, but the big thing is that they are pursuing their interests without going into debt themselves and without us going into debt either. My daughter says that some of the PhD students in her cohort have University Professor Parents who are going into debt to pay their children’s tuition and expenses while studying at MIT.

    We feel that we are very fortunate.

    Our youngest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s and Tourette’s syndrome while in primary school. Sheldon Cooper or Amy from BBT only more pronounced.

    The psychiatrist who diagnosed him told us that he would be living with us, or in a group home, well into his 20s. At least we knew what to expect.

    I told the doctor that my wife and I understand that he is our responsibility and will support him as best we can. Reena Virk was a local object lesson for what can happen when a child or youth ends up in a group home after getting into conflict with parents.

    We hope that he will eventually follow his siblings to University and perhaps take up one of the professions where Asperger’s is diagnosed at much higher rates than in the general population, science, math, information technology, engineering …

    For some careers AS may be an enabling trait and organizations have developed an institutional tolerance or coping ability for departure from neurotypical standards of behavior.

    • Thanks for getting back to me Kelly. You’ve got some bright kids there and congratulations to them on their accomplishments. We are familiar with Asperger’s syndrome as our youngest has severe OCD and social anxiety and has been hospitalized a number of times. During her stays we have met a couple of guys with Aspergers and she and I both enjoyed talking to them very much. I agree that there are certain careers that are very suitable for certain conditions and it’s the same with our daughter as well. Her perfectionism and attention to detail can be considered an asset in some environments.

      I understand your concerns about his living arrangements. We are in the same boat. She is 24, not finished high school yet and still living at home, of course. There is progress, it’s gradual combined with setbacks but our hope is that she will get there eventually. She is quite smart and capable and has made some really great progress in the last three months, but just recently has experienced a setback. We’re praying that her accomplishments recently will help her to not backslide too much with these recent difficulties. Thanks so much for visiting and I hope you come back again so you can provide advice on our journey. ;-)

  31. Very inspirational Erin. Thanks for sharing your financial lessons learned from your parents. Experience is really helping, and realizing their faults teaches us not to be in that situation and to be better in finances. I’d definitely live by them. Thanks.
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    • It’s not easy to watch your parents make mistakes (repeatedly), but when it happened the second time around and I was old enough to understand, it really blew me away. You should always learn from your mistakes, that’s what they’re there for!