I should tell you … none of the lessons I am about to discuss were direct lectures to me about money. They are simply the knowledge I gain by listening and watching one joyful and determined black girl from Mobile, Alabama make lemonade even when all she had lemons. The lessons handed down from our parents often come without fanfare. They love us so they advise us to “do as they say, not as they do” but the reality the lessons that stick with us the longest are the ones we learn from watching the “doing”. And for better or worse, these are the lessons that keep circling back as cautionary tales or legends of triumph. When it comes to money, there are a few lessons I learned from my mother that I want to share.
Women should always have their own money. I think this is the lesson that all mothers born in the 60’s teach their daughters. Whether you are married or dating, be sure to have a pot of cash to pull from should things go south. Divorce is ugly. I have heard it said that the person you divorce is not the person you married. People are hurt in ways they never imagined and act out accordingly. So as women we have to be prepared to save ourselves and often times, our children. Have your own money so you are not holding on to a bad situation so that you can eat and have a roof over your head. We all remember when Porsche Williams (from Real Housewives of Atlanta) was married to Kordell Stewart. She was his doll and it came to light that she would often be completely broke, only driving the car and wearing the dress he bought her. I wonder how long she was miserable, knowing she lost herself and her voice but had to stick it out because she did not have the means to leave.
For single women, this lesson rings true as well. It’s 2017, we are online dating, swiping and it’s going down in the DMs. We can date more often and with great abandonment for discretion (if we choose). It’s not smart to show up to dates with strangers with no money. I am not saying you should go dutch but when those red flags go up you should have no problem paying for yourself and getting yourself home. Even before the online stuff, I can remember being on a date or two with a person who seemed to feel like his picking up the check meant more than picking up the check. Thanks but no thanks!
Know how to survive the lean times. My mother is a southern girl who knows how to “make it work” and going off to college she taught me how to be the same. Life happens to all of us and sometimes you have less this year than last year. Learn how to survive either way. I learned early on how to do my own hair, nails, mix and match outfits and how to feed myself on a dime (Not eating trash either). Being on a budget does not mean looking/feeling poor and eating noodles. Be creative and find ways to sustain yourself even when the belt is tighter.
Let your partner be a partner. I was once the reigning queen of doing it all. As an independent woman, I prided myself on bringing home the bacon, cooking it up and cleaning up after. It was not out of doubt that the other person could not do it but it was pride and some would say fear of letting go. Allowing your partner to take care of you as much as you take care of them is a shared love for one another. If he feels like as a man, he should do XYZ..let him and say thank you (even when you would have done it differently). Don’t carry the weight alone just so you can say you carried the weight alone.
Learn to be Selfish. Women give a lot of themselves in relationships. We give a whole lot more when kids are involved – always make sure you are checking in with yourself and doing things to make you feel good. Lots of women feel like it’s a sign of valor to neglect themselves and devote their lives to partners and kiddos. In truth, this is not a badge of honor. It is not sustainable and when you fall apart you take everyone with you. So make some room in your wallet and schedule for a new dress and a pedicure.
Pay Attention. We hear stories all the time of women putting their head in the sand while their husbands are running them into the ground financially. Just because you do not handle the bills does not mean you get to check out of the cash flow in your house. Make sure you are checking on things and making sure you are involved in the decisions being made for you as a unit. Your mate determines your fate in a lot of ways but financially is the biggest. This person is essentially a business partner to your life and it’s not fair to put the pressure on another person and it’s not smart to assume someone else will always make the best choices for you.
I always think about how our mothers and grandmothers handled money when they were my age. The reality of it escapes me because my mother had 4 kids when she was my age and I have more resources than she had at this age. Even with the resources … HOW SWAY?! Thank you, mama. And thank you to all the mothers and grandmothers raising smart, savvy and tenacious daughters. Share your best lessons learned about money from your mother in the comments below.