How Mom’s Words of Wisdom Can Help Your Finances

by Emily Guy Birken · 2 comments

Whether she intended to or not, your mother spent your entire childhood imparting crucial financial wisdom to you — if only you’d listened to her.

Yes, she may not have specifically taught you about managing money. But even her words of wisdom that seemed to have nothing to do with finance were laying the groundwork for you to have a good handle on your money.

If you ever heard your mother tell you one of these old sayings, make you sure you thank her. Without even knowing it, she gave you an excellent financial education.

1. It’s No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk

This is the ultimate maternal lesson in recognizing when to let go. Mom probably told you this when you were beating yourself up for failing the driving test or dropping your math textbook in a puddle. Rather than focus on something in the past that can’t be changed, she wanted you to look to the future.

In fact, your mother was giving you an excellent primer on the dangers of the sunk cost fallacy when she repeated this adage. A sunk cost is an amount of money (or time or experience) that has already been spent and cannot be recovered.

For instance, if you paid $100 for an eight-week fitness class, the Benjamin you dropped when you signed up is a sunk cost. If you realize two weeks in that you hate the class, the sunk cost fallacy might convince you to keep going so you don’t waste money you’ve already spent.

But Mom’s words of wisdom should remind you that there’s no use making a decision based on something that can’t be changed. Your $100 is gone whether you go to the class or not, so you might as well do what will make you happiest.

2. If Your Friends Jumped Off a Bridge, Would You Jump Too?

This gem was always Mom’s response to your assurance that all of your friends were doing whatever activity she disapproved of — like staying up until 11 on a weeknight or going to the party of the year.

As much as hearing this rhetorical question may cause spontaneous eye-rolling, Mom was actually giving you an excellent lesson on investing: don’t follow the crowd when it comes to investments.

Average investors get dollar signs in their eyes when the market is trending up, and they panic when the market dives. Because of this, they buy when they should stay out, and sell when they should hold. Warren Buffett states it pretty succinctly:

“Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”

3. “I Don’t Know” Is NOT an Answer

Hearing this statement from Mom generally meant you were about to get in serious trouble. When you were unable to give a reason for why you were decorating the dining room walls with permanent markers, this statement (along with Mom’s raised eyebrow of doom) let you know that doing something without thinking was unacceptable.

This is also excellent financial advice. We often tend to go on autopilot with our money, spending it without thinking. Would your mom approve of the fact that you don’t know where your money has gone or why you spent what you did? Of course not. She made it clear from the beginning that you need to understand what you are spending money on, and why.

Mom Really Does Know Best

Much of the advice your mother (and her mother) imparted to you was much more complex than you may have realized. With every piece of motherly wisdom, your mom was helping you to learn better habits and better attitudes for your life, and your finances.

What’s another piece of wisdom you grew up hearing your mother say? How does this advice affect your financial views today?

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  • Judith says:

    One my own to my children and their friends: “Be good, be kind and be careful”. Meaning: Think about what you do or say always.
    Do good for all, including yourself, or at very least ‘do no harm’. Make good choices; make honest choices. Your investment in good deeds benefits more than you.

    Be kind to self and others in words and actions. A kindness is frequently repaid in double. Investing in good things with the intention of firstly, helping others. In time, you may be rewarded and you will sleep at night.

    Be careful about whatever you do. Everything in life is risky. Think about the risk and calculate the possible or likely outcome before accepting the risk. Ensure you are aware of the risks. Do not risk what you can’t afford to lose.

    All three qualities are inextricably linked.

  • Mario says:

    These become even more important when you hit adulthood. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that others’ dreams are our own when we’re adults simply because we tell ourselves that there are certain things that adults have to do.

    This is a great reminder of how important it is to stay true to ourselves

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