Sunday, April 7, 2013

Are You Like Your Parents?

     I was paddling through the usual round of blogs when something on Get Rich Slowly caught my eye: a long, involved post on the U.S. current financial status, plus an interesting question:

Do you save more or less than your parents? 

That got me to thinking -- it's not just finances.

Are you at all like your folks? 

     In some ways, the Brick and I are very much like our collective parents. We both grew up on the poor side, although I honestly didn't realize it until high school. Our parents all grew up in very modest circumstances -- much more so than we did.
     We worked as kids. We worked as teenagers. Our parents all worked as kids, mostly on their parents' farms, but also took jobs young. The Brick's parents both graduated from high school, but WWII intervened after that. My parents took different roads: Mom had a year of nursing school and a year of college -- but my dad only graduated from the eighth grade.
     This is far different from our own circumstances: we both have Master's degrees. One girlie took a year of college, then went to a separate school for training as a jewelry appraiser. Our other daughter is a year away from her B.A. in journalism. (I should mention here that both Brother and his wife have Bachelor's degrees -- the Brick's brothers do, as well -- and our combined children either have college or Navy training. Big change from the past.)

We eat quite differently than our parents did. Lots more international-type items. My dad, a meat and potatoes guy, probably would consider pad thai some weird kind of mattress pad. He referred to espresso as "that stinky stuff," and did not care for Chinese food -- period. Even sour cream and cottage cheese were referred to as "spoiled," though he ate plenty of it in various dishes. (Hey, he grew up on a farm - makes sense, if you think about it.)
     The Brick's parents were more adventurous - probably because his dad was stationed at Hiroshima not long after the atom bomb dropped. (If you're getting the feeling that the Brick's parents were a good bit older than mine, you're right. His dad was born in 1919; mine in 1934.) What I do find particularly curious is that now my mom is in her 70s, she's far more willing to try new foods than I ever remember. (Although she still hates sushi. You can't win 'em all.)

Financially, we are very much like our parents -- simply because we have a lot of trouble spending money that we do not have. They did this out of necessity: there was no way to borrow extra, and yet they had to have a place to live. Both sets of parents bought land; one set built a barn, which the family lived in. The other set of parents bought the old farmhouse, then fixed it up.
     Our first home was only in fair shape. We worked on it, then sold it and bought our current home. In each case, we paid a good deal less than the market price. (Although my dad was outraged that we even considered spending more than $70,000 on a home in 1988 -- their farm only cost $10,000! In 1960, that was.)
     They were big on saving -- we could have saved more, but we did, and regularly. That money has gotten us through several tight periods, and is currently helping pay for the upcoming trip to Ireland.
     The Brick's dad had a Navy pension; his stepfather, a much more substantial one from Bell Labs, as well as the Marines. Military blood runs deep in the Brick's family, although my dad and grandpa both served in the Army, as well.)
     They both ended up with paid-off houses...and very modest savings accounts. My dad worked until not long before he died, at his own business. (Any pension disappeared with the farm supply business that my cousins took into bankruptcy.) I would be in similar straits. (Working for yourself means no benefits, unless you pay for them.)
     The Brick, on the other hand, has a comfortable pension coming in from working for the State of Colorado lo these many years. (We also bought some years of service.) Social Security would be nice -- but we could make do without it. Our house has been paid off for years, and no other debts -- though we'll have to buy a car soon.
     Our savings? Way too small...but honestly, on a bus driver's and quilt teacher's salary, it was the best we could do at the time.

So are we like them?  Yes...and no. But yes, in that we believe money is a gift and a responsibility. When we have some, we're supposed to keep our bills paid (which means we can't ring up extras). But we're also to help out others. And we do.
     Both sets of parents would approve of that.

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