My Financial Journey: Part 1 - Childhood

This is part one in a series of posts describing my Financial Journey. Inspiration for this came from the Road to Financial Armageddon series over at The Simple Dollar.

"The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing." ~ John Powell

My financial journey began back when I just a child. The furthest back I can remember having money is when I used to receive a weekly allowance from my parents. I don't remember what dollar value it started out at, but I do remember when it was $5 and $10. This allowance was "payment" for doing chores and generally being good. My chores mostly consisted of doing work around the house, including dusting, vacuuming, raking leaves, etc. I also got paid specifically by my father when I helped him with his photography or load his car for his big band events. At that point in my life, I remember that I was motivated mostly by the urge to please my parents and not by the money I was earning.

I got my first job when I was twelve. I worked for a family friend that owned an adventure park. They had go-karts, batting cages, miniature golf, and a driving range. My job consisted of driving a tractor or walking the range to pick up golf balls for two or three hours. I was paid either $2 or $3 a basket depending on how full it was.

I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life while picking up golf balls. The harder I worked, the faster I went and the more golf balls I picked up, the more I got paid that day. I learned about myself through the job. Some days I would be really motivated and get five or six baskets filled. Other days I wouldn't be as motivated and would head back to the main office with only a few baskets. I might then spend some of that money immediately on a soda or on playing an arcade game. Oddly enough I had similar habits in my life for the next ten years.

So what is the problem with all of this money I got? I didn't save any of it. The money that I made was quickly squandered on video games, basketball cards, magazines, going to movies and whatever else middle school students spend money on (yo-yo's!). I had a savings account, but I didn't have goals for reaching a certain level or saving it for college. I was young and did not save any of my income.

I had seen my mother use a program called Quicken from time to time. I watched her balance her checkbook often. I would go on trips to the bank with her, but mostly to get my coins counted (which was free back then!) and because I got a free Dum-Dum sucker. Even with math being my favorite subject back then, I never asked many questions about money.

Alas, the only money that is tangible from this time in my life is the U.S. Savings Bonds purchased each year at Christmas for me by my Grandparents. At the time I would much rather have had the newest toy of the season and wondered when I would get to use the savings bonds, but now I realize how good an investment it was for them to purchase these bonds for us. I have started doing this for my nieces and nephews also.

Check back tomorrow when I will discuss my financial woes through high school.