From Kid to Baby Boomer

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What Happened to My Money in Between?

If you’re a baby boomer, you’ll identify with my story. If you’re not, you’ve probably seen the 60s through classic television. It was a different time.
When I was a kid in the 60s, I remember having a piggy bank. It was a blue plastic pig given to me by grandfather and I named him “Charlie” after my granddad. I stored my coins in Charlie, and remembered what a big deal it was to collect five dollars’ worth of quarters. It was the world’s biggest accomplishment in my young eyes. Early on, at my first “job”, I picked raspberries and they paid me two dollars a day. Two dollars a day! I was living large … for the two weeks it lasted.

But despite all the high financial adventures of my youth, I had no real idea how much a pair of shoes cost or what you paid for school supplies. Groceries might as well have been free considering what I knew about the cost. Our family never talked about money, and they weren’t teaching personal finance in school. My dad went to work and made the money, my mom was a homemaker who bought the groceries, and we kids went to school and remained oblivious to the family finances.

Ten cents could get a kid a lot in those days. Penny candy was in every corner store. A bag of chips would only cost you that one thin dime. And Orange Crush and Coca-Cola were about a quarter and all came in glass bottles with metal caps. Ice cream cones cost about the same, and they didn’t fill those cones with that soft serve stuff. These cones held real ice cream – the kind you buy for $8.95 a pint for today.

This was time when the economy was good and families seemed more stable. Shows like “I Love Lucy”, “Leave it to Beaver”, “The Mickey Mouse Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” were a reflection of strong family values and the cultural focus was on wholesome family life. Getting a loan from the bank was a major event and people used cash for everything. There were no ATMs so you had to go into a bank and talk to someone when you needed money. Credit cards were just beginning to appear menacingly in the background, but people tended not to use them outside of business. Cash was king. Family and financial matters were all direct and simple when you compare them to today.

The Times, They were A-changing

On February 9, 1964, the Beatles appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show”. For many, this event represents the beginning of changes that would shake our worlds with a tsunami of cultural change. Suddenly, there were the flower children, the hippies and the yippies having “love-ins” in the park everywhere and protesting everything. Women began to leave the home for the workplace in greater numbers. June Cleaver was becoming extinct. The advent of the pill offered a gateway for the Sexual Revolution. The assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy made the world seem a bit more cynical. Everything in our culture changed during those turbulent years. It also changed how we viewed money and spending. Things were no longer as simple and predictable as they were during the early 60s.

There’s much we can learn by Boomers looking back on their childhood:

  • Saving money is good
  • Spending prudently leads to a healthy bank account
  • Cash is king
  • Credit is expensive and often leads to bad judgment resulting in overwhelming debt
  • Working hard to earn money for what we need is satisfying

Fast forward to now

If you talk about personal finances today, it’s like opening Pandora’s Box. Few people have avoided the stress of going through some crisis around their money. Stories of people rebuilding after a bankruptcy are common and sound much like the tale of an addict recovering.

A family’s stability offered a structure around which you could build some financial stability in earlier times.Recent studies have shown the more often a 21st Century couple disagrees about money, the more unavoidable the divorce. No matter whose statistics you look at, the divorce rates are somewhere between 40% and 50% in the first marriage, and they rise sharply for second and third marriages.

Wouldn’t it be better to take the stress and disagreement out of the marriage by having a clear and simple idea on how money is handled as a family? Makes you wonder how many marriage could be saved by having a simple plan that everyone could agree on. To make matters worse, a failed marriage is expensive. As it stands, the people who are making out the best financially in these marriage and divorce cycles are the wedding planners and the divorce lawyers. They get you coming and going.

I’ve never met anyone who grew up in the 60s who remembers being educated about money either at school or in the home. And now we look around and wonder how we got in such a place where our countries are trillions of dollars in debt. We wonder how so many smart people can handle their money so badly. In part it’s because our teachers and parents cast us into the “real” world as financial illiterates. It’s no surprise that so many of us have had difficulty handling the money.

As boomers enter retirement age, many find that their personal finances are weak. They realize that they don’t have the money they need for their post-work years. Many are working part-time jobs in retirement just to survive. The danger is that we boomers are passing on our lack of money education to our children and grandchildren and not teaching them good money habits any more than our parents taught us.

So what now?

There are plenty of blogs and websites out there that can give you an advice on how to handle your money. But if you don’t have the right appreciation for money and healthy attitude about it, those sites won’t help you in the long run. It’s like trying to take an advanced course before you get the basics down.

I’m not a financial planner, a banker, or an expert by any measure. I’m just a work in progress who has rediscovered some of those things I understood when I put quarters in my piggy bank in the 60s as a late bloomer. It’s all about getting back to financial and work basics and passing these values on as a legacy to our children and grandchildren. I wrote 101 Money Tips for Kids and Parents from my experience in order to help you and your families find your way back to the solid money basics. I hope you’ll join me in this adventure.

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