Financial Lessons I Refused To Learn

“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.

Lesson 1:

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?

Lesson 2:

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.

Lesson 3:

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!

17 thoughts on “Financial Lessons I Refused To Learn”

  1. Lesson number three is definitely true – not so much that your family will take advantage of you, but “loose lips sink ships” and all that jazz. You never know who will look at you differently if they learn something about you financially you don’t want them to know. Don’t expect things to stay in the family – once it’s public, it’s public.

    1. Well, I understand what you are saying. In fact more I think about your comment, more I tend to agree to some extend. It depends on the family and its dynamics. I am pretty sure that whatever my family knows, it stays in the family. 🙂

  2. The time is different now. Her advice was good in the old days, but these days we’ll have to work together. I don’t think hiding your finance from Beaker is good advice at all.

  3. Interesting advice. I agree with you that you shouldn’t follow her advice. Keeping secrets never leads to anything healthy… at least not with your spouse.

    1. I thought her advice was odd. But that’s how she lived all her life, so what was odd to me, was very normal to my grandmother.

  4. You can certainly take her first advice and safeguard your wallet. Not out of superstition but, because of security risks.

    On the contrary my childhood was full of money lessons from my dad. My about page has all that thing..

    1. More I think about the floor, more concerned I get. I really should not be putting my bag on the floor.

  5. Funny this one! There is exactly the same belief in Bulgaria – you never put you handbag on the floor (I don’t know about below your bottom; I think it is the floor). It seems to me that this is a bit like other rituals (turning your shoes over first thing in the morning for muslims, for instance, which is a religious rule but actually is to check there are no scorpions). Putting your handbag on the floor is exposing it to thiefs.

    I never put my handbag on the floor; but this is another story.

    1. I am sure this belief is all over Eastern Europe. But my grandmother was very specific. Not the floor (which makes sense) but don’t hang it on a chair below your butt.

  6. Lisa @ Cents To Save

    Thanks for sharing your grandmother’s money beliefs. Too funny! It is definitely generational… my dad was born in 1922 and he is a bit quirky about his money too!

  7. Couldn’t agree more about keeping mum w/ your extended family on your salary and finances. There’s an old Italian proverb that says your family is the first to count the coins in your pocket….

    1. Actually you mingt be right on this one. But there are no many coins to count in our pockets, so we are okay. 🙂

  8. I don’t know about the purse thing, but her other advice sounds pretty solid to me. Between spouses….if you’re both okay at managing your own money I see the merit in her statement. You never know when something horrific could happen. It’d be nice to live in a perfect world where people always are what we think they are or want them to be, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. And from her life’s story, I can understand her having that take on life.

    1. Yes, my grandmother’s life was not easy ,and you are right saying that it shaped her take on life. However, I do believe in openess in marriage. I don’t want to find out that my husband has a seperate savings account that he never tells about. Or vice versa. It would raise many more questions such as “What else is out there that I don’t know about.”

  9. I have never heard of the “below the butt” reference. That’s kind of humorous, but I can see where some superstitious folks would say that.

    My family wasn’t into talking about money either, unless like yours, we didn’t have any at that moment. I don’t want to have that rule in my future family. I want us to all be open, talk about money and trust each other.

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