I have been looking forward to the subject of money for May’s ad hoc meme, Life Matters, not only to share my own experiences, but also to learn from others. I grew up in a very conservative country, with parents who had to turn over every cent twice before they spent it. Some good lessons were learned from that, but also some bad habits, which thankfully aren’t with me anymore.
Where does money come from?
Both my parents worked full-time throughout my childhood and teenage years. Actually, after that too. My mother only started working part-time when she was 67, and effectively on pension. My father is on pension, but still taking on jobs to make gates and fencing, because he loves his hobby. He will turn 80 this year. From a very young age I understood that to have money, you have to work. This is something I have taught my children too.
I don’t remember my parents actually sitting down and telling us that they have to work to get their money, or how much a house cost, or food, etc. What they did do was when we – like children tend to do – nagged about something we would want, whether toys or new clothes, they would say that there is no money for it. We always had enough, enough clothes, enough food, but there was never money for the extras.
Except one: every Saturday when my mom went to the store to get fresh foods for the next week, either my brother or I was allowed to join her. Never together, only one of us, and alternating on Saturdays. Then, at the store, we got a chocolate which we ate on the way back home. I remember this as a real treat, but only in my teenage years understood that it was because they had a tight budget.
Learning about money and healthy habits
No one taught me about money or healthy money habits – not in school and not at home. I had no idea how to budget, how to plan ahead, how to save. These are all lessons I only learned once I started working fulltime at the age of 20. Everything I knew about money – the good and the bad – I learned by example. You see, my parents had loans at the bank, and growing up like that, I thought it was the way to go. My parents had cheque accounts, and because of that, I had one too. In my first year of work, I found myself in financial distress quite quickly, because I had no idea how to balance a cheque book. After about six months ,I changed over to a different account, because I had ran up a debt, which I didn’t want.
I taught my children about money. Cautioned them to never have a cheque account – something which thankfully doesn’t exist in the Netherlands. I also taught them to save money for when they want to buy something big, and not to think about taking out a loan at the bank. Even though I taught them this, my daughter did just that: a loan. Thankfully she married a sensible man who is incredibly wise with money. My son has a very small income, but even so, after he has paid his accounts every month, and bought his groceries, he still has money he can put aside on his savings account. We showed him how to keep track of his income and expenses in Excel, and he does that every month, and has been doing it for years.
Everyone has to pay tax
The one thing I understand about the tax system in any country is that everyone has to pay tax. I have never tried to understand the ins and outs of any tax system – here or in South Africa – but I knew from the first day I started working, that I will have to pay tax. Actually, I think this might be something my mom has taught me. She has always worked in finance – starting as a bank teller, and working hard to improve herself. She never had a university degree, but for the last 20-25 years of her life she was a financial manager.
After living and working in the Netherlands for 26 years, I understand that my employer deducts income tax from my salary every month, and then at the beginning of the year I have to fill in my tax forms and either get money back, or have to pay a bit more because not enough money has been deducted. Thankfully, mostly I get money back, even though it’s not a large amount. Then of course, we also have to pay sales tax which is added to any item you buy in the shops. But that’s not all… there’s also the tax on electricity, gas, property, waste removal, water.
Like I said, everyone has to pay tax, and in my humble opinion, it’s for a good cause. I only have to look out the window to see the street – a street without holes, a clean street, street lighting. That’s but a small part of what is done with our taxes.
Like I said in the first paragraphs, money was always tight when I grew up, but this was never discussed. When we moaned too much we would get the occasional snarl that there’s no money for it. My mother or father never explained why there wasn’t money for it. They just never talked about their financial situation. The first time ever my mom ever discussed her financial situation with me was about eight years before she passed away. I have never spoken to my father about his financial situation, and probably never will, but do know for some years he had been very tight on money, as he frequently asked my brother to borrow him some.
I never really discussed money with my children either, but when they had questions, I honestly answered them. In my first years of working, when my daughter and I were together, money was very tight. I couldn’t afford meat, so we ate soya products instead, and once a week we had dinner at my mom’s. It was only for about a year, until I got married. There was a bit more money then, but still not enough to allow any luxuries. It was only when we were in The Netherlands that I sometimes discussed money with my children, but by then they were teenagers themselves and understood where money came from, and that there were room for some luxuries, but not much.
And one thing I have learned in the past 26 years is that in this country money is not discussed. At least not how much you earn…
© Rebel’s Notes
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