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A mother’s legacy: good financial role-modeling

Our parents role-model how to earn, spend and save money. Brooks C. Sackett, a Spokane financial planner and advisor, recently shared his Mother's Day message in an email to his workout friends. I asked his permission to share it with our blog readers. Here it is. Thanks Brooks!

My Mother wanted a baby and she had me. My Father had no interest in children and my parents divorced when I was eight. Until her death in 1991 at age 81 she taught me all she knew by example. I never knew how really modest our circumstances were until I was out of school and in my own professional practice. Why? My Mother handled her time, energy, and the little money she had prudently and cheerfully.

My Mother had small envelopes that she filled with cash each time she was paid for her work as a clerk-typist at the Health Department in Long Beach, California. These envelopes held what money was needed to cover our bills. The money was always there and waiting to be retrieved when we went grocery shopping, or when other bills arrived. We were never short. My Mother never uttered a word of worry about money. Everything was always handled and we never lacked for anything as well as I could tell.

The envelopes were always placed in order and all leaned against a beautiful red plastic clock radio in our kitchen. This was the radio that announced the death of Stalin on March 5, 1953 (yes, I know, this is all ancient history). I asked my Mother if it was good that Stalin had died. Even then I knew he was a Russian Communist and therefore a bad man. She explained that it’s always sad when someone dies. Today, I still feel that way.

In grades seven through nine my Mother always gave me a few dimes or a quarter each Tuesday so I could buy U.S. Savings Bond stamps from the school nurse who pasted them into my book. Eventually these could be turned in for a bond. At the end of the school term my name was announced over the PA system as having saved $17.80 during the year. There was an audible gasp in my homeroom and at recess two girls a grade ahead of me asked if I really had saved that much.

My Mother had no real investment skill and her “portfolio” never consisted of more than real estate that was paid off, cash in the bank, and some life insurance policies. This seemingly modest financial foundation gave me a happy, secure, and fun life as a young boy. I learned that hard work was its own reward, learning was more fun than spending, and planning was better than not. These were all precious lessons that I honor my Mother by sharing with others. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you and hope I still make you proud.

 (Illustration from S-R archives)

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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