February was National Parent Leadership Month, which highlighted the role parents play in shaping the lives of their children. As a sort of tie-in, the most recent poll in the Get Rich Slowly sidebar asked: “Did your parents prepare you well for financial independence?”

Over 1000 GRS readers responded; the results surprised me:

  • 17% of you said, “Yes, they did a great job in preparing me.”
  • 17% said, “They did well — I learned the basics.”
  • 18% said, “It was okay, but they missed some key areas.”
  • 48% said, “What preparation for Financial Independence?”

I, too, fall in that last group, but I guess I didn’t expect it to be so large. It’s great that a third of you folks felt well-prepared to tackle your finances, but it’s incredible that half of us feel like we had little or no preparation at all.

What did your parents teach you about money?
I wanted to know a little more detail, so last week I polled my Twitter followers (both at the site’s @grsblog and my personal @jdroth account). I asked: “What did your parents teach you about money? Anything? Did it work?

A lot of folks responded to say that their parents were poor examples:

  • @MoneyMateKate wrote: My parents didn’t teach me — I taught them! I was paying my own dental bills (no insurance) from age 12 onwards with babysitting dollars.
  • @RevancheGS wrote: My parents just taught me that you have to work hard to earn money, and how to write checks. I was on my own for the rest of it.
  • @liberryteacher wrote: My parents never had any money, and life was hard. So they taught me by example that that was not a good way to live.
  • @mike_strock wrote: My parents gave me money whenever I asked. Needless to say, that wasn’t helpful later in life. I’m learning!
  • tcita wrote: My parents taught me absolutely nothing: no chores, allowance, budgeting, spending money, savings — nothing. Though I guess that taught me value of work.
  • Via Facebook, Tamara wrote: What did I learn about money from my parents? “Don’t do any of things we did.”

But not all parents fail at training their children about money. Plenty of folks picked up good habits (like searching for a high interest savings account) from the Bank of Mom and Dad. Here are some of my favorite anecdotes and tips:

  • Pam from The Turtle Path (a running blog) told me: In junior high, my parents gave me $400 at the beginning of the year (instead of a weekly allowance). They told me I could do whatever I wanted with it, but they weren’t giving me any more money the rest of the year, so don’t ask.
  • @betsyatoreilly (who is on the PR team for my book!) wrote: My sister and I got $50/month to buy clothes, etc. I had a lockbox for cash and receipts, and a book to enter items. It worked great. I’m a great saver.
  • @Elle_CM wrote: My mom (and grandma) emphasized always saving a chunk of any income you receive. We used to make Saturday deposits at the bank.
  • Via Facebook, Cynthia wrote: As kids, if we were at the store and saw something we wanted, my dad would say, “Did you bring your money?” I think this is awesome! (And, in fact, I heard my friend Steve ask one of his kids this very thing last night.)
  • On a related note, Courtney told me that she and her husband have an interesting approach when their kids beg for things at the store. They simply say, “It’s not in the budget.”
  • @mattwakefield wrote: My dad taught me about the stock market by using a 1/100 scale model of the market (MSFT would be $.28 right now). Got hooked early!
  • @OregonCPAs_PR wrote: My Dad has always been adamant about avoiding monthly payments. They seem small, but add up quickly.
  • @EverydayFinance wrote: My father insisted on no credit-card debt and said, “Everything in moderation.” It worked like a charm.
  • @kingkool68 wrote: My parents printed family checks for my allowance. I could write checks to my parents in first grade! They also gave me monthly statements. I love this idea!
  • @studentfinances wrote: My parents taught me that hard work is required to be successful. Laziness is not an option. Time will tell if it worked…

That last comment is perceptive: “Time will tell if it worked.” Even if your parents did try to teach you about money, how can they be sure the lessons were right for you, or that they’ll stick?

Training for tomorrow
I’m curious: How did your parents prepare you for financial independence? What specific things did they do that helped you develop money skills you could use as an adult? Do you plan to do these same things with your own children?

And for those of you whose parents didn’t give you enough training: What do you wish they’d done differently? (For my own part, I wish my mother and father had included me in the household finances once I was old enough to understand. I know they struggled to make ends meet, but they never showed me exactly what the challenges were. They never showed me their income compared to their expenses. Also, I wish they’d given me a consistent allowance and required me to budget my fun with that.)

What was your story growing up? How did it affect how you handle money today?

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