The weather has cooled, and the leaves have turned and started to fall, the holidays are upon us once again. This is the time of year that many of us think back on what we are so thankful for in our lives… friends, family, career, home, food on the table and so much more. It has been in the last few years that I have been thankful for something a little different… the experiences that my parents shared with me while growing up and I would like to share that with you.
I grew up in suburban Dallas, Texas, with two entrepreneurial parents. They had started an insurance agency about the time I came into the picture. It worked pretty well for them as they could spend time with me while growing their business. By the time I was 2 or 3, they moved out of the house and into an office, and I was right there in tow. So much so, that I even demanded, with hands on hips, my very own office. It may have been a chalk desk in the supply closest, but I was well on my way up the corporate ladder.
That is where it all started… I was involved!
I grew up in that office. My responsibilities grew with my age. Once I knew my alphabet, I helped do the filing. It may have only been a few drawers since that was all I could reach, but again I was on my way. Around 8 or 9, my best friend and I even started our very own “Insurance Company.” We sat at the secretary’s desks while my parents worked late and typed letters to our clients. My mother was even kind enough to hold onto some of that evidence to later show and embarrass me. I will say, my friend and I had some very high-power Hollywood clients and never mind that we were going to put them in jail if they didn’t pay their auto premiums.
By 14, the only thing I probably had not done in the agency was sell insurance, and I’m sure that was only because it would have been illegal. I was answering phones, talking with clients, cleaning the office and numerous other administrative tasks. What it all came down to was that my parents were giving me real-world experience in the business world, but they didn’t stop there. When it was time to buy a car, they took me along to see the negotiation process, though I was instructed not to say a word. When they would look over their budget and financials, they had me right there with them. They explained the stock market, mortgages, interest rates, credit cards, debt, credit scores, etc. Now, I know I complained constantly as all teenagers do, however, over time I started to ask more questions. I could see the value in the information and wanted to know more. My attitude shifted, and because of that, I left home much more prepared for the real world.
What did this all lead too… money management, something that unfortunately is not taught in our school systems today. While most parents do tend to talk with their kids about money, mine took it to another level. They brought me into the actual experience of life. I saw what worked and what didn’t. Seeing that mistakes are usually more impactful than the successes. For instance, I watched my father suffer through bankruptcy after my parents divorced and he lost his company to some partners. It was a very hard time and he struggled greatly, but never gave up. With time, perseverance, and many lessons learned, he started over. He built another company from the ground up and was even able to buy the house of his dreams. He didn’t try to hide it from me and was very open and honest about the mistakes he had made and because of that, I learned a lot too.
Like many things parents teach their children, I couldn’t appreciate at the time what they were doing for me. I didn’t have the life experience yet to understand how important all of this was going to be. However, speaking decades later, I cannot begin to tell you how invaluable all of that knowledge has been in my life. Buying my first car and home was more comfortable because I wasn’t going in blind. I understood how important it was to start investing early to take advantage of compounding interest to get a head start on my retirement. Don’t be shy about sharing these experiences with your children. They are valuable life lessons. My parents gave me a lot in life, but I will say this is truly something that has kept on giving and will through my entire life.
Thank you, mom and dad! I love and miss you both!