“Tough times never last, but tough people do.” Robert H. Schuller
My grandmother was born in 1925 in the Soviet Union, a very young country, created just two years before my grandmother was born. My grandmother lived through Stalin’s regime, World War II, the Cold War, perestroika, and, finally, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The effects of such historical turmoil are usually very profound on people.
My grandmother’s life was not easy. Her family constantly struggled with money, the absence of it. She grew up having three dresses and one pair of shoes for spring and summer and one pair of boots for winter. When she got married and started her own family, she was always careful with money. You would think that because of all the difficulties with money, we were very open about finances. It was, however, quite the opposite.
There was always an unwritten rule – never discuss money unless there is no money left. In that case the discussion would start between my grandmother and my mother from whom to borrow the needed amount to make it to the payday. Very often I would heard my grandmother on a phone talking to her friends or colleagues, asking to borrow some money “till the next pay day.”
Obviously, my grandmother and I never talked about finances until this September when Beaker and I went back to Lithuania to see her. One morning my grandmother started a conversation with an odd observation that I always put my handbag on the floor in public places. It was a bizarre beginning to a very long conversation. From there she proceeded to give me some financial lessons.
– Never put your handbag containing your wallet below your butt because you’ll never have money.
I am not a superstitious person, but believe it or not, I suddenly started wondering that maybe this habit of mine (and definitely NOT my shopping binges) prevents me from saving money. Maybe if I hang on to my handbag for dear life, I will start saving money. You never know, right?
– Never tell your spouse your real salary.
My grandmother was outraged when she found out that Beaker knows exactly how much I make. She was convinced all her life that men were not supposed to know all the truth about their wives’ finances. According to her, I was supposed to tell Beaker only 75% of my salary, and stash away 25% in a separate account. Just in case something goes wrong. “And something always goes wrong,” my grandmother said, nodding her head.
– No one in your family ever needs to know how much money you have.
I have to admit that I never knew how much money my grandmother was bringing home as a teacher. I had no clue what my mother was making.
I am pretty sure that I will never follow any of the financial advice my grandmother shared with me. I believe that without mutual trust, you cannot build a successful marriage. I am honest with my family about our financial condition. My mother knows about our debt, our bills and absence of savings. I am not hiding from any one my shopping trips. I am still putting my handbag on the floor if it is convenient. Sometimes I hang it on the side of a chair. Right below my butt!