We all learn how to relate to money in the families we grow up in. They not only teach us who we are, they teach us what money means. Some of those lessons are helpful, some are less so. But I see value in celebrating what we learned from our parents about money. It helps us see the strengths in our family and in ourselves, which can help us approach our ministries more positively and powerfully.
Here are five things I learned from my father about money that I am grateful for in my ministry and in my life. And I’m grateful he’s still living to keep teaching me. He turns 91 on April 28, and we’re celebrating tomorrow. (The picture above is from his birthday last year.) He is amazing.
- Don’t spend it. Like many family lessons this is a mixed bag, but the value in being able to regulate my spending has given me a lot of freedom in my life.
- If you do spend, buy quality (especially big items). He always bought new cars. My parents bought furniture which is still in great shape 50 years later, and I now happily own it.
- Find ways to get what you need other than spending money. We had a conversation this week in which he said, “I never fixed anything.” Dad doesn’t have that gift. But he was a genius at charming neighbor men into helping him out – at no cost.
- Learning is worth spending money on. Dad paid for years of music lessons and paid for my college without complaint.
- Say yes to opportunities. Dad came “from nothing,” as he says and through hard work and frugality achieved far more than he could have imagined. He said “yes” to the GI bill and got a college degree that he says was a much about having a life as making a living. He said yes to a business opportunity across the country when he was in his late 50s. I admire his courage, and like him have made cross-country moves.
- Do give. My dad gave me allowance starting when I was five years old, and made it clear I was to give. I can’t remember how I tithed a nickel, but I know I gave to the offering out of my allowance. He tells a story of having lunch with a missionary couple who said they gave a double tithe. After lunch, my mom and dad looked at each other and thought, if they can do it, so can we. And they did, for decades.
What did you learn from your family about money: earning, spending, and giving to the church and to others? How do those lessons benefit you today?