This past Sunday it was my parents’ golden wedding anniversary. They have been married exactly 50 years and 2 days! I think it is a wonderful milestone for them and for our family. Having a stable childhood has certainly contributed to any success my siblings and I enjoy in our adult lives. Back in January, I interviewed my dad about his views on money and how he was able to save up a large portion of his income, buy a home, put three kids through college, buy us each a car upon graduation, and buy a second home. He did all this without a college degree, coming from a poor background, and being fatherless since age 10. In honor of my parents’ anniversary, I thought it would be a nice tribute to interview my mother, as well. Because, although she was not the breadwinner in our family as she was a stay-at-home mom, my family’s financial success was dependent on large part to my mom’s wise spending habits or lack thereof.
Michele: Mom, I want to interview you for my blog. Growing up, did your family have much money?
Mom: No, we lived in public housing. It was nice public housing, but it was a small one-bedroom apartment in NYC. I slept in my parents’ room when I was little. When I was older; I slept in the living room. I never had a bedroom of my own.
M: What kinds of things did you do in your childhood? Did you take vacations?
Mom: We went to the Catskills every year. My mother’s siblings rented bungalows each summer as they were more well-off than my family. They let us stay with them for a month each summer. Otherwise we couldn’t afford to take vacation. My mother paid them for the food we ate.
M: What about school? What type of school did you go to?
Mom: Public school through high school.
M: Then what?
Mom: I took a few college courses at night while I worked during the day as a bookkeeper.
M: So did you finish college?
M: What did you do?
Mom: In 1955 when I graduated from high school, I got a job as a bookkeeper for Chase Manhattan and I made $44.50 per week. I worked there 2 ½ years and then worked in the garment center in NYC as a bookkeeper. While I worked there I met your father and we got married. After I got pregnant I quit. I worked there for 2 1/2 years also. I think I was making $70-$75 per week when I stopped working.
M: Did you save any of the money you made?
Mom: Oh yes. Every week I put $10 into a savings account. And I paid $10 per week to my parents to live in their home.
M: So how much money did you have saved up at the point when you got married?
M: Wow, that’s pretty impressive savings for a meager salary. What did you do with the money?
Mom: When we got married we bought a car ($1500) and the rest we left in the bank. About 5 years later we put money down on a co-op ($2500).
M: Did you ever work again?
Mom: No, I was always a stay-at-home mom after that.
M: How do you think you contributed to our family’s financial success?
Mom: I didn’t shop in high-priced stores. I didn’t have cleaning help like most of our neighbors. I cooked most of our meals from scratch. We ate out maybe once or twice a week, but nothing really fancy – places like the Hot Shoppe. I didn't have expensive hobbies or participate in lots of activities as that wasn't my style.
M: What do you know about investing?
Mom: Not much. I am much more conservative than your father. I would invest 90% of our money in CDs if I were in charge of investing.
M: Have you ever been in debt? Did you ever spend more than you earned?
Mom: We bought furniture on a payout plan, but we didn’t pay interest. We did that a few times when we were young marrieds. Other than that, we didn’t buy things we couldn’t afford. We had a mortgage on our home, but we always paid cash for our cars.
M: What advice do you have for people who are trying to save money?
Mom: Make up your mind that you will save a certain amount of money per week. Pretend that you don’t have that money. That’s the only way to save. But nowadays people don’t live like that. They buy whatever they want and don’t put away money. But you need to save money to make money. If you start when you are young, you will have a lot when you are older.
M: Thank you very much for talking to me today. And happy 50th, Mom and Dad!