My mom could stretch a dollar farther than anyone else. She washed plastic sandwich bags and re-used them. She'd use just a half-package of chocolate chips in her homemade cookies, saving the other half for another day.
Dad was thrifty, too. He kept our old, used cars running thanks to his shade-tree mechanic skills. The only credit cards he had were gasoline cards, and every card was paid in full every month. Every time.
My parents were savings supermodels for my brother and me. Every day, in hundreds of ways, they taught us that saving was the right thing to do. Just as importantly, they showed us how to live within our means. They weren't cheapskates; just realistic about their income and the financial curveballs life can throw.
A recent study by Bankrate.com showed 21% of working Americans don't save a penny of their annual wages. Another 20% save only 5% or less of their income. Most experts recommend saving at least 10-20%. So you see the problem - close to half of us aren't doing enough to build the future we want.
It's easiest to do what you've always done.
When I was about five years old, Mom and Dad took us to open savings accounts. We'd return regularly to deposit birthday money or allowance earned by doing extra jobs around the house. I felt a thrill each time I saw the number in my account go up. My brother and I began competing to see who could save the most.
The lesson was simple: part of what you earned went to savings first, and you lived on what was left. You celebrated the accomplishment of having a little fund tucked away for an emergency or for something you really, really wanted. I thought everyone lived the same way.
But there's nothing like going off to college to make you realize how little you know about the world. I saw friends struggle with finances because they had no idea how to handle money. No one had taught them that the credit card bills eventually come due.
It didn't take long for me to understand what a wonderful gift my parents had given me by teaching me how to get by on the little money I had. I could focus on school and my part-time jobs. I could think about possibilities for my long-term future – not about how I was going to pay the bills at the end of the month.
You don't have to wash sandwich bags or skimp on chocolate chips. That's the beauty of it! Everyone gets to choose what matters most to them, and what they're willing to do, or do without, in order to build financial stability.
It's never too late to start saving, or too early to begin teaching the children in your life about money and how to use it wisely. If you're unsure what to do or how to do it, don't worry. All kinds of helpful tools are readily available to get you started.*
You, too, can be that supermodel who puts kids on a path to their own fabulous financial future!
*TTCU has in-person and online tools to help!
- TTCU offers Kids' Savings Accounts. Get your little ones started on the savings path!
- TTCU has certified financial counselors at every branch. They're ready to help you to make a plan to get on solid financial footing. Best of all, it's free.
- Check out FoolProof and TTCU's other free online financial literacy tools. You'll learn how to take control of your finances and how to teach your kids about money.
- Sign up for the "Money Manager" in TTCU's online banking. It can help you build a budget and make
smart buying decisions.