About money, learning and teaching it

An image of money.

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.

Discussing money

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
Image from Pixabay


Money Matters

10 thoughts on “About money, learning and teaching it

  1. That was very interesting and it is great that you taught your kids to balance a budget and not take out loans (mostly…sometimes it is necessary). Next door in Germany we don’t really talk about money either and I do not remember being taught anything about it in school. No wonder so many young people rack up unmanageable debts.

    I like that you have a much more charitable view on taxes than most (myself included :-). We who grew up in Europe easily forget that there are countries where people pay taxes and get little in return because so much is lost to corruption and graft. Sure I think paying 40% in taxes and social security is a lot but the streets are in decent condition, we have good hospitals, police and courts who are actually doing their jobs instead of taking bribes and so on.

    1. I have long learned that there is no point in kicking back when the government decides on something, as long as it’s fair (and I know fair can be debatable too). We don’t all pay the same percentage of taxes. Those who earn less pay less, and those who earn a lot pay a much higher percentage, and that’s how it should be. And as long as we have clean streets, etc. I am a happy citizen, and pay my taxes.

  2. I think money not being discussed is a fairly universal thing. It’s taboo, or impolite, or some such. But if we don’t talk about the numbers – at least with those in our families who need to know – we’re actively creating misunderstandings.

    I think money was tight for a lot of us, growing up. How we interpret ‘tight’ varies, no doubt. But feeling the pinch is an important life lesson, I think. Because you have to work for what you want; not everything can be had by everyone, and things are not necessarily going to be handed to you on a silver platter.

    1. “feeling the pinch is an important life lesson” – I can’t agree more, Feve, as I do believe that my youth and my parents not having much, and me not having much as a young adult and for many years, is some kind of ‘preparation’ for when we stop working and we will undoubtedly have less money to spend than we have now. We are preparing ‘for later’ but one never knows how it works out, and it’s better to understand how to live on less money, than always being used to much.

  3. It does appear that money is not discussed weather there is lots or not. I wonder why that is – A bit like sex really. That is not widely discussed as a family either. Almost like the two things are taboo!
    I presume a cheque account is like “credit” or a credit card? I had a cheque book but it drew from the money I earned and put in the bank.
    All these posts are so interesting – and it is good to be discussing money openly.
    May xx

    1. It seems indeed that it’s very common for sex and money not to be discussed in families.
      A cheque (or check) account might have been (I don’t know for sure) the predecessor of a credit card. It’s the same as the cheque book you had, but when I had one they also allowed for overdrafts, like Feve spoke about, and then you were ‘in the red’ so in debt to the bank, with high interest being charged for that.
      And I agree, it’s good to be discussing money openly 🙂 xox

  4. This is such an interesting subject and I find it fascinating to think of how different our education/example on money can be. And yet, it is such a big part of everyday life.

    1. You are right, Jenna. I loved reading your post, and seeing the two different worlds you have experienced. I just think that all kids should be taught about money and money management so they are equipped for later life.

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