A Money-Savvy Daughter Looks Back on the Finance Lessons That Stuck With Her

Children selling lemonade in front of their home
When I was growing up, no one ever called me a princess. My parents told me I was smart, funny, powerful and kind, but never "princess." Mom handed me a Nerf gun and dad taught me how to shoot a layup. I'd wander into my parent's room to see my father ironing his suit pants for work while my mother sat at her desk paying the bills. There were no bedtime stories about helpless girls who needed to be rescued.

Instead, there were lessons about how I could rescue myself through education and financial literacy.

The first lesson came in the summer of 1996, when my father took money right out of my 7-year-old hands. My jaw dropped in indignation and my Pocahontas sneakers stamped the ground. I demanded he hand over my fairly earned cash. After all, I had been the one who woke up at 6 a.m. to set up my Fisher-Price table to sell Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Embracing the entrepreneurial spirit young, I had seized upon my mother's yard sale as the perfect opportunity to venture into the business world and hone my sales technique. My 4-year-old sister and I sold doughnuts at the marked-up price of 50 cents apiece to the bargain hunters while my mom peddled our old goods. I felt I'd earned my $18.

With a chuckle over my childish rage, my dad told me I owed my sister $2 in wages for helping me sell those doughnuts. Then, he took his cut. As he counted out the quarters I owed him, he explained that he had staked me the money to buy the doughnuts. Because he made the initial investment, I owed him his money back, but I could keep the rest. This, he explained, was my "net profit."

That simple lesson become the cornerstone of my relationship with money -- though it was hardly the last. My father continued my fiscal education with various "sneak attacks," notably requiring me to pay for 50 percent of my college education, which cultivated in me a deep appreciation of the value of money.

But it worked: When I graduated college, I felt empowered instead of intimidated at the prospect of handling my own financial affairs. At no point did I feel I needed to get married in order to stay afloat financially. Never did I wish for a Prince Charming to ride up on horseback to my little New York City apartment and whisk me away. (OK, so maybe that would be nice -- but I don't need Prince Charming.)

Unfortunately, my story is far from the norm. Around the world, young women (and men) are being raised without much financial education, and only realizing how badly they need it after they've accumulated crushing debt, taken out too many loans, misused credit cards or missed paying bills. And even in our modern, egalitarian era, some young women are still being raised with the idea that they should rely on a husband to provide them with a financially sound future.

According to Plan's International's "Because I am a Girl" campaign, each extra year a girl spends in secondary education increases her salary by between 15 percent and 25 percent. But encouraging girls to finish high school, go to college, and find good jobs is not enough. It's equally important that they gain a level of fiscal understanding. These young women need to feel confident handling their paychecks, saving for their futures, and stepping into the role of breadwinner for their families.

It's time parents and educators placed the same level of importance on financial literacy as we do an understanding of literature, math and science. Both boys and girls should be raised to feel comfortable asking questions about money, beyond "how much is allowance?" Just as we're now coming around to teaching young men that the tasks of raising children aren't "women's work," we need to be sure we're not teaching girls to, one day, just rely on their husbands to handle the money.

Just imagine: We could live in a society where teens made informed decisions about student loans, young adults used their credit cards for responsible purchases they could pay off, and the awful cycle of unnecessary debt was just a parable told to children at bedtime.

Erin Lowry writes for DailyFinance on issues relating to Millennials, money and personal finance. She also writes her own blog, Broke Millennial. Visit her there, or follow her on Twitter, @BrokeMillennial.

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I was taught by my parents when I was a kid to plan for my future and taught me the value of money and self responsibility. That was many years ago. Today at 64 I am happily retired with my Wife who also learned about planning for the future. Financially, we did ok. We are not rich by any means but we are living ok without any handouts from others. We where well taught.

November 23 2013 at 5:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Akinola Aboderin

money not major reason for marriage.
I feel compelled to contribute to this piece as i (fearfully) read male reactions all the way from Africa.
Last time i checked with God, Ish 4,verses 1 to 11 (The Bible),says " the millenial woman would desire to be cuddly with a mate " just like her female counterpart needed it more than two thousand years ago.
It also said the modern woman would be prosperous more than ever before.
Therefore,"Love,mutual Respect & understanding are the bedrock of a modern God ordained marriage "
Princess,you need to understand "Love" to know there is a missing part of you.(Where i in your city,would have asked you out for dinner)

October 08 2013 at 11:19 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

for the girl of the world:

October 08 2013 at 4:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

...and all the while, in the U.S., boys continue to lag behind girls in academic performance, are more likely to drop out of school, are less likely to be enrolled in college, have no college "men's centers" like the college" women's centers" so prevalent across the nation, have far fewer male-only colleges to attend compared to women-only colleges, have access to approximately 1/3 the college grant monies made available to their female counterparts and, unlike their female counterparts, face loss of federal funding for college funding (including federal Pell grants), as well as five years imprisonment, for failing to register their bodies for a potential military draft under the federal Selectvie Service Act. It's time for AOL to finally raise its hand in favor of gender equity in education for boys.

October 08 2013 at 3:44 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Sorry, every possible thing has been done to cater to girls. Classrooms are so pro-girl they are anti-boy. Boys are considered 'problems' simply for being male and young and I see no further reason to keep celebrating one gender at the expense of the other.

October 08 2013 at 3:36 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Leroy Barlow

Your parents paid for half of your education. Why didn't they make you take out loans like the rest of America? You led a clearly affluent childhood. Affluence begets affluence. Never called princess, but certainly treated like one.

October 08 2013 at 1:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd be willing to bet most young people today have no clue how to manage money (probably don't care either). They're too busy with "gimme, gimme, gimme". And a lot of parents just give it to them. There's probably no learning of the value of a dollar. Sad. They get into financial trouble...can't get out....can't pay their bills.....companies don't get paid. Vicious cycle.

October 08 2013 at 1:22 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

"Day of The Girl???"
I prefer ... "Girl of the Day!!!"

October 08 2013 at 12:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Iklex is correct with his writing. In this country it is all about woman. A protected group legislated by the government also known as the great divider. We are no longer one people the melting pot more likely it turned into Caesar Salad. Sexual harassment became the great undisputed weapon against men it became a lottery ticket for disgruntle employees and low life’s. Seven times more men die of prostate cancer than woman die of breast cancer, why because far more funds are funneled into breast cancer research. It seems there is a movement the feminization of men perpetuated by the entertainment industry. Men are portrait as clumsy, stupid, helpless and woman know everything. So to all of your parents having boys beware their future it will not be bright.

October 08 2013 at 10:03 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

These unassailable truths (which include institutional, de jure sex discrimination) about the U.S. are, of course, utterly ignored by AOL in its unending mission to portray girls and women as virtuous victims of sex discrimination: compared to female Americans, male Americans are more likely to drop out of school; compared to female Americans, male Americans are much less likely to be enrolled in college; there are far more female-only colleges than male-only colleges; there is far more (approximately 3.5 times as much) grant money available for female college students than for male college students; and, unlike their female counterparts, if a college-age male American does not register his body under the federal military Selective Service Act for a possible military draft, in addition to facing five years imprisonment, he is ineligible for federal funding for college tuition, including Pell grants. Well girls, how's that for gender equity? When will AOL be "raising its hand" for boys' education and for ending de jure sex discrimination against men and boys right here in America? I guess, when pigs fly.

October 08 2013 at 9:18 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply