7 Things I Learned About Money and Wealth Building From My Mom

When I think of who influenced me the most in regards to money, I’d have to say hands down, it was my mom. Her actions taught me good habits and concepts about money.

Mom recently passed away and left an estate worth a few million dollars. She outlived my dad by 28 years. It was directly from her investments and business savvy that she was so financially well-off.

A lot of our family life growing up involved active participation in our parents’ investments. When I was young, they saved and invested and eventually worked their way up to buy a 25-unit apartment building. As children we were paid to paint and clean the units for the next tenants. That’s how we earned our spending money. It taught me that in order to have money, I had to work; “work = money”.

Eight years later, when dad was diagnosed with melanoma cancer, they sold the building. Dad wanted to spend the time left in his life enjoying it more and working less, but mom wanted to be smart with money and reduce our taxes, so she singlehandedly undertook the construction and management of a 10-unit apartment building!  She managed it herself (for 38 years) until four years ago when she broke her hip, and our family took over managing it for her.

It provided her with a great supplemental income for years. Although she had a small pension from my dad and Social Security, that wouldn’t have been much money in retirement. The apartment gave her a very nice monthly income. Yes, she had to do some work and it was a business, but she showed me that you don’t have to “retire” at age 65.

In many cases, you may not want to fully retire, especially if you have a business or real estate investments that only require part-time to operate. They can provide a good income without having a job and really “working”. Since we still own the apartment building, we are still earning the income even after her death. This reinforced to me the importance of creating additional income streams in retirement and not relying on Social Security or a pension.

Over the years, she talked about how to reduce taxes. She was always conscious of learning legal ways to reduce income taxes. It helped me learn at a young age that taxes can be adjusted depending on what actions you take. It can save you thousands of dollars a year to have good tax planning and strategies.

Mom wasn’t only smart about investing, she was smart about how she spent money too. She usually bought things on sale and rarely paid full price. She taught us there’s usually a way to buy at a discount and that stretched each dollar farther. When you have five kids to feed, sometimes you have to get creative about how to make the money last longer every month.

She was also one of the original couponers. I remember her going through newspaper ads and clipping coupons, taking them to the store and buying multiples of items to save more money. She watched every sale and knew the price of each item she bought and which store had the lowest price. (Confession – to this day, I can’t stand coupons!).

Mom had a clear intention to invest for the long-term to build wealth. She favored real estate and was comfortable with it. In addition to providing a great income, the value of the building went up 5x what she paid for it. She taught me that taking a long-term perspective was best.

While she owned the apartment building, the economy had recessions and bubbles and went from one extreme to the other. She was never swayed to change her investment strategy by what the economy was doing. She ignored the ups and downs of real estate and focused on what she could control – the rents.

momlinAm I saying everyone should own an apartment building for a comfortable retirement? Definitely not. What I am saying is:

1. Plan ahead for additional streams of revenue in retirement. Start a side hustle or a business before you retire and plan for it to continue to operate while you’re in retirement. Having an online business, e-commerce store, investment real estate, etc. can provide ongoing income streams for your entire life and provide a comfortable retirement. One good tool to help plan for retirement is Personal Capital’s retirement calculator, which allows you to project your retirement age and keep up to date with all your finances.

2. Be sure to start investing as early as possible. Investing is what is going to create wealth for you long-term, not a job.

3. Educate yourself on how to invest. Ignorance isn’t bliss, it will keep you poor! Learn about investing in stocks, real estate, bonds, precious metals, etc. so you have a good understanding of how they work and you can create a diversified portfolio. Knowledge is power and financial knowledge is the key to wealth.

4. Be mindful of tax planning. Don’t pay more than your fair share of income taxes and do all you can to minimize them. Manage your withholdings so you aren’t giving an interest-free loan to the government.

5. Use debt to your advantage. A mortgage can be a powerful tool to help you finance a home or investment over time. It gives you a tax deduction too. Pay 1/12 extra on your mortgage every month and it’s the equivalent of paying 1 extra payment a year. That will save you thousands of dollars in interest and pay it off several years early.

6. Teach your kids to work for money and they will likely be financially successful. When I was young, I learned I had to work to make money, so I looked for jobs to do around the house instead of asking for handouts or an allowance. It’s an important and life-altering lesson to know the difference between working for money and looking for handouts. One creates financial independence the other creates financial dependence.

7. How your family treats money and teaches you about money when you’re growing up is perhaps the most important, and least talked about, influence on how much financial success you will have. How has your family impacted the way you think about money? What did you learn from them that was positive and want to pass along? What bad habits did you learn that you want to forget and leave behind?

The biggest thing I learned from mom is with a little determination you can learn to be a successful investor. Everyone’s life is too busy to handle learning about investing, but people who make the time to learn and make investing a priority often end up financially secure. Taking positive action toward your investing goals every day will get you closer to financial independence that will last your whole life like it did mom.

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