At the tender age of nine, I started my first business by running a vending machine.
Yes, you read that correctly. I skipped right over lemonade stands and into the big leagues, eventually owning 15 vending machines by the time I graduated high school in locations across the city.
Some people are born with an entrepreneurial spirit, and others learn it. Fortunately for me, I had a little of both, but I can honestly say that I owe a debt to my parents for encouraging me to really swing for the fences as a pre-teen mogul.
Owning a small business before you’re even old enough to drive can teach you a lot about money. I learned how to bookkeep, masterfully negotiate a sale, and even face rejection with grace and confidence.
I learned those lessons through trial and error, but my parents also made it a point to teach me about other facets of money like savings and investing. Lessons that I was shocked to realize upon entering college, many other women never learned.
I quickly found myself as the financial guru of my college friends. I was the go-to guide for their questions about investing, the stock market, credit cards, student loans, and more.
Investing and saving were dinner table conversations in my house, and I never realized how out of the norm that was. I consider myself lucky to have parents who prioritized my financial education.
Here are just a few of the lessons I’m so grateful for and still utilize every day.
Negotiation is your best friend
Whether you’re in final interviews for your dream job or on the phone with the cable company, you should always negotiate. Yes, even if you’ve already negotiated with them before.
Every three to six months, I listened in awe as my father negotiated every bill we had. This is a practice I still utilize today, both in conversations with utility companies and as I book branding and affiliate deals for my business.
I’ve never accepted a base offer on anything without negotiating, and it’s saved (and made) me thousands in the long run.
Only spend what you have
I tell a story on the Financial Feminist podcast about begging my parents to see the local production of Annie. My mother wisely told me that if I wanted to see it so badly, I should save up my pennies, and I did — I saved every single one until the day of the show.
So it’s no surprise to you that from then on, whenever I wanted something, I saved for it. The option of financing anything other than a mortgage or maybe a car loan just didn’t exist in my house.
To this day, the only thing I’ve ever financed was my car — and I paid it off as soon as I could.
Read More: The Fundamentals of Building a Savings
Tools like the Personal Capital Dashboard allow you to see all of your financial accounts in one place. You can create a budget, track your expenses, and plan for long-term savings goals like college or retirement. Personal Capital is the tool that I’ve used daily to reach my own saving and investing goals.
The power (and responsibility) of credit cards
I shock everyone when I tell them that I don’t use a debit card, opting instead to use a credit card for all of my purchases throughout the month. It certainly goes against the advice of many financial gurus, but it’s a lesson I took from my dad.
My dad impressed upon me the idea that using a credit card was done only with the knowledge that you had the funds to pay it off every month. So he never spent more than what was in his checking account and paid off his statements in full from month to month.
Because of these healthy practices, he never went into debt and was able to reap the benefits of his credit cards like travel points, cash back, and safer transactions.
P.S. This habit doesn’t work for everyone — I only recommend switching to only credit cards if you know you can and will pay off your balance in full every month.
Don’t throw out those monthly statements
The minute I had my first bank account, my parents sat down with me every month to go over my statement. We did this for a few reasons — to make sure we weren’t double-billed for something and to keep track of recurring subscriptions.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to cancel a subscription service I completely forgot about only because I saw it on my statement and realized I didn’t use it anymore.
If you’re not checking your statements, you could be losing your money to forgotten “free trial” cancellations, billing accidents, or fraud.
Invest early. Invest often.
The finance world, especially when it comes to investing, has been a boys club for far too long. I can not even begin to share how life-changing it was that my parents took the time to sit me down and tell me why investing was so important.
There was never a question in my mind about opening my first high-yield savings account and Roth IRA as soon as possible or matching my employer contributions to my 401k because I had the financial education to know how important these steps were.
With long-term investments, time is on your side. Knowing that is why I was able to set and achieve a norm-busting goal like saving $100,000 by age 25.
My parents changed my life in more ways than one. I’m grateful for the food and the shelter and the sense of humor that’s gotten me pretty far in life — but I’m also grateful that they didn’t play into stereotypes.
When other parents teach girls to focus on finding financial stability through a spouse, mine helped me invest in my first vending machine, told me which stocks to focus my investments, and never told me that my goals were too lofty. They didn’t bat an eyelash when I started trudging through the water to collect lost golf balls and re-sell them (yes, I actually did this), and they have been behind Her First $100K every step of the way.
They raised an independent, entrepreneurial, financial feminist — and they haven’t stopped supporting me (and by proxy, the millions of women I teach to do the same) since.
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