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Personal Finance DeathMatch: You Vs. Your Parents – who Wins?

Last updated by on 18 Comments

How much of your personal finance savvy can you chalk up to what you learned from your parents? Are you a better saver than they are? Were you motivated by their personal finance behaviors?

It’s an interesting topic that I don’t think gets enough play these days. But it SHOULD.

Different Times Lead to Different Personal Finance Habits

Having lived through the Great Depression, most of our grandparents were downright ‘hide it in a 5,000 pound welded shut steel safe 20 feet underground savers’. And they had cushy pensions, to boot. Not to mention annualized stocks gains in the range of 12% (if they ventured beyond a savings account).

Our parents, on the other hand, are mostly known for their high debt levels. They lived through some great stock return and high intereset years in the 70’s and 80’s, but have been hit hard by the dismal returns of the last decade.

Sadly, those in their twenties or lower thirties who just started investing have seen nothing but a rocky stock market and an S&P 500 that has netted zero over the last decade. Kind of de-motivating when it comes to saving towards a brighter tomorrow, isn’t it?

Who Wins the Personal Finance Deathmatch – you or your Parents?

So, I’m curious. Now that you’re all grown up and have learned from your parents (or in spite of them). Share your opinion on how you were raised and what you learned about your parents in the area of personal finance in the comments and take the poll!

Who would be victorious in a Personal Finance Deathmatch: you or your parents?

View Results

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I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.

  • Katharine says:

    My parents suck at PF. 2 houses, with mortgages and HELOCs, and credit card debt out of their asses.

  • Alan Chen says:

    My parents started with Stagflation in the late 70s and fought through the LAST recession (~’90-’93). The frugality tips in the newspaper? We already do those things.

  • Marie Curie says:

    My parents will win :D

  • FruGal says:

    I learnt a lot from my parents when it comes to money. In a battle my dad would kick my ass, money sense-wise – but he does have the slight advantage of having worked in investment banking for over thirty years!

  • julie says:

    My mom wins because she makes way more than me and has had several years (10 or so) more than I have in the labor force. Apart from that though, we have similar spending habits. Interestingly, I was never exposed to my mothers finances, I was always treated like a child and matters of money were not “of my concern”, and yet I still grew up understanding the value of a dollar. I went to business school and majored in Finance and I’m doing pretty well. However, my mother is making 6 figures, almost done paying off her home, has no debt and plenty of money for retirement/emergencies. Give me a another decade or so, and hopefully I’ll be right there.

  • Daniel @ Sweating The Big Stuff says:

    I’m in my early 20s, but I think I’m set up to beat him. He’s not so concerned about interest rates and doesn’t take advantage of changes in the market. He likes sticking to his plan, even if that means his financial adviser makes more money. Also, I’m afraid to ask how much he’s given up by going the financial adviser route vs. index funds. And apparently he hasn’t saved enough for retirement, although my parents will be just fine.

    Maybe they made some decisions (like sending 3 boys to private school for 13 years each) that affected their finances, but I’ve started my retirement savings at age 22 and with steady investments, should win. Plus, I’m not really afraid of the market, I see right now as the best time to invest. Honestly, I hope it stays low for another year so I can build up some savings and invest before everything rebounds.

  • Honey says:

    I’d’ve voted for a tossup option if there was one…on the one hand, my dad has no debt (not even a mortgage, as he rents) but he also didn’t start saving for retirement until maybe 5-10 years ago (so he started when he was in his 50s) and like the 20- and 30-somethings, has been pretty decimated in his retirement accounts by the recent economic downturn.

    OTOH, I am 30 and have been saving for a 403(b) through my work for the past year and a half (this is my first real job), BUT I am still paying off grad school debt to the tune of $100K. On $40K a year. Yikes!

  • Craig says:

    I have learned a lot from my parents but I am more into the latest gadgets than they are, that is something not as important to them so they are willing to save more and have no gadgets.

  • AndyA says:

    My parents, especially my father, are financially smart, but I would not go so far as to call them savvy. The three difference areas are debt, savings, and investing. My father was very debt averse, paying for the home I grew up in with a check for about $70K. That was money he had worked hard to save and he chose to literally “buy” the house. My wife and I use a mortgage, but I got his debt aversion, which is why we just paid off the 20 of our 80/20 loan. He was more of a saver, where as I’m more of an investor. We invest about 20% of our income in a diverse set of mutual funds. He saved using Government Bonds, CDs and some company stock. Luckily that stock was GE through the 70s, 80s, and 90s. He was successful, and smart, with his money and a very good saver. The basics he taught me still hold true today. Debt is not usually a good thing. Spend less than you earn and save the difference. I have simply taken those basics and built on them and hopefully my daughter can do the same some day.

  • Execter says:

    i vote for my parent because today i was so young i think experience is important to live in this world. but i not have experience enough.

  • HealthyOne says:

    I voted that I would win out – but that’s really only because of the good start they gave me by helping me buy my first condo (and letting me have my full 1/3 even though for the last at least half year I didn’t send in my share of the mortgage). Now I am in charge of mom’s money and am so thankful that we do not have to pay out of pocket for her expenses. I wish I had more nerve and felt more comfortable with investing money – am using the principle as the interest rates are so low.

  • Waldo says:

    I needed the option for “tie”. My dad is more meticulous (although that might be changing as I’ve grown interested in the details more recently, and he certainly has had more time to gain his experience), but I think I save more. On the other hand, I probably spend a little more easily on occasion — but I also have more money left over after my non-negotiable obligations (and I have a smaller amount of negotiable obligation as well due to different living circumstances), and those occasions are generally pretty rare, so easier spending at times may not mean I spend more easily overall.

  • Stephen Settle says:

    I have learnt a lot from my parents and i think they are more experienced in this field rather than i am. So, i would vote for them.

  • Waldo says:

    Well, in that case I’m going to win, but that doesn’t have anything to do with how successfully either of us manages money. :-)

  • FinanciallySmart says:

    My mother was a saver but my father he was one that gives away. So I would say that their personal finance wasn’t one that is well balance. But still some of it rub off on me. Some of the giving and some of the saving. I certainly will.

  • Aubrey Olson says:

    I would win thanks to them


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