I feel like telling you guys a story, so I will. That’s what nice about blogging, you always have the impression someone is listening as you write.
My love of money is rooted deep, very deep. My father was alway good with money and I would consider him a very wise spender. I can say the same about his father before him, who still working by the way… 86 years old! He never retired, and not because he couldn’t, just because he loves his job. Anyways, I’ve always looked up to both of these men for their financial wisdom and their great ability to balance hard work and their family. I was wondering how I came to love money and how I came to be “financially wise” (if I may be so confident to say so).
This is not summary of how they transferred their knowledge to me, it’s really not (and I could never summarize such a complex feat). Rather, this is an accumulation of tiny snippets of life events that I feel shaped me financially to become who I am today.
It all started when I was 4-5 years old (1994), doing what most 4 year olds do. Playing with my neighbourhood friends, hockey, Legos, video games and such. I was always a curious fella, looking through every nook and cranny I could find. Adventures often lead to a great discoveries, and this was true in my case. While looking through old dusty corners of the unfinished 1/2 basement, I found a 1923 Canadian nickel exactly like the one pictured here:
I immediately fell in love with this coin. Not because it was particularly pretty (although I think it’s pretty quaint), but because it was the direct result of my personal efforts. It was my reward. My little treasure.
I immediately showed my parents the coin. My father told me to keep it, and that one day it might be worth a little something. So I did.
The notion that money could become more money
I didn’t put any importance into the actual value of the coin, but rather it was the fact that it represented undying value that appealed to me. I felt compelled to gather more. So I decided I would gather a coin of every type, for every year. It was the start of my personal coin collection, and it would last for a few decades.
But I’m still young at this point and gathering the missing coins (which was pretty much every coin!) was no easy feat! Random pocket change wasn’t cutting it any more. Because at that age, “pocket change” is literally whatever you find lying around. I needed an access to more money, I needed to rely on something more than just luck. I started helping my mother roll her coins every now and then whenever her piggy bank filled up. Searching through the myriad of coins all laid out on the bed, trying to fill in the blanks on my printed excel spreadsheet.
Yes, my father had taken advantage of my new-found love of coins to teach me about the famous software. I am forever grateful!
The notion that being systematic and organized are key to success.
My mother was more than willing to give me the coins, but I never wanted it to be easy. I specifically felt like I needed it to be harder. I realized that coins found when looking through my mothers change weren’t giving me as much gratification as the ones I found by myself. So I wouldn’t just take the coins. I left whatever new coins I didn’t have in my parents room and whenever I had in my possession their corresponding value, I would “buy” them from my mother. Trading penny for penny, nickel for nickel, etc. This was done on my father’s suggestion and I’m only realizing it’s significance and importance now. To a certain extent, this mindset was part of my personality, maybe as a result of seeing my father’s ways, and his father before him. Who knows…
The notion that nothing is free.
About a year later (1995), my coin collecting began to stagnate. Accumulating coins was easy, but becoming increasingly specific about which coins I needed to find was a stick in the wheels. Some coins were obviously inherently harder to find than others. Living in a small town, there was no local coin shop. But luckily I found a man selling some coins at a local fare and found two coins I really liked. A 1864 and 1861 New-Brunswick pennies. Example below:
Each coin was $5.00. So, my father agreed to lend me $10.00. Why a loan? Because coins weren’t a necessity. My parents believed I should myself pay for the things I didn’t need and that they would gladly offer me anything I ever needed (clothing, school supplies, sporting equipment, etc). This applied mostly later in my young life, for obvious reasons!
My family was always comfortable financially and my father wasn’t just being “cheap”. Rather, this was a very strategic move on his part.
The notion that if you can’t afford something, you shouldn’t buy it.
The point is that I now had a debt and no way to earn money to pay it back. So my parents and I came up with a job. I would help with the dishes every day and in return they would give me $5/week.
After paying my debt with 2 weeks of work, I started accumulating – slowly but surely – some capital. Initially, I would buy some candies for me and my friends (oh the good old days when candies were $0.01 each…) and the money would go really nowhere productive. After a while, around the age of 8 (1997), I developed a taste for music and would buy CDs. They usually cost around $15-20 each. I would listen to them on the CD player in the living room which annoyed me (and most likely the rest of my family). My older brother had recently bought a brand new sound system to put in his room and made me want to do the exact same. And so the shopping began, and this is what I found:
A $360, 240 Watt sound system (surprisingly they still seem to be making these, although mine had 3 separate trays for the CDs, and the remote wasn’t quite the same). Let’s just say I had a lot of dishes ahead of me… But I got grinding, and never spent a dime during all the time I was saving up for this bad boy. Every month I would go down to the bank with my father and deposit my $20 (I think I still have my little bank booklet lying around somewhere, If I find it I’ll scan it and put it up here). It took me about 18 months but I got it. Paid in cash. Felt like a total boss. My father had taught me that whatever was worth buying, was worth waiting for. I really enjoyed the sound system and it still sits in my old room (now spare room) in my parents house.
I would go on like this, finding things I enjoyed and saving up in order to purchase them.
Somewhere around my tenth or eleventh (2000) birthday, my grandfather decided to give me a few of his favourite coins. I didn’t even know he had kept old coins. He had gotten wind of my coin collection a while back and probably wanted to wait and see how serious a 6-year-old really could be about collecting coins. Anyways, he gave me amazing Canadian half dollars dating back to the first world war. These coins would be – and remain – the most valuable coins in my entire collection.
Later on, I worked as a lifeguard. This was my first real job. Working weekends and sometimes school nights, I would make $6,25/h. A pretty big bump in salary from my previous job… The cycle was back in action. Saving. Saving. And more saving. After a while, every one started using computers, MSN messenger was the big thing. Unfortunately our family computer, an old IBM, wasn’t up to the task. I decided I would get myself a computer, seeing as it would most likely come in handy later on in my life (with graduation and university a few years ahead) and thus would be a wise purchase.
The notion that investing is always spending, but spending isn’t always investing.
All in all, I guess what I’m trying to say is that money was a lot like eating well and being active to my family. Just a part of a well-balanced lifestyle. It was never a scary subject, never taboo, never frowned upon. My father was always very methodical, like a chess player planning 5 moves ahead. He’s mostly the reason I am the way I am today, always thinking 10-20 years ahead. Maybe, just maybe finding that nickel was the trigger to developping a more financially inclined mindset, who knows…
Soon, maybe very soon even, I will have children of my own. I will try to teach them as much as my father taught me about money. But most importantly, much like my father did, I will try to make the most out of every situation in my children’s lives so that they can extract the financial knowledge and mindset they need to thrive as young adults. Even letting them makes financial mistakes once in a while.
Lastly, I came across an awesome TED Talk that touches this exact subject and highly suggest every one watch it! Link It talks about a man carrying out a game of Monopoly with his family, using actual cash.
I recently got married and traded in my coin collection. All of it… Except a certain nickel, two pennies, and a few half dollars 🙂 These are priceless!
Sorry for the lenght, but I hope you appreciated my story. It sure felt good to write 🙂
Pictures from: numicanada.com, coinsandcanada.com and amazon.com
Money Lover, Dividend Growth Investor, Youtuber, and Blogger!