We all have a childhood memory.
The question is do you conjure up good memories or bad ones?
Sadly, mine was miserable.
I was an unhappy child.
Couldn’t wait to grow up.
Get out as fast as I could.
I grew up in a very poor family.
My parents struggled. Raising 5 kids in a 2 room house.
I hated my parents were poor.
My teenage years were marred by resentment and anger.
A lot of hand-me-downs. The embarrassing lunch box. The depressing home I couldn’t invite friends over for the fear of humiliation.
Now that I’ve grown up though, I know my parents did the best they could.
But it pains me to imagine how much hardship they must have gone through to support a large family.
The burden they must have carried with them.
Is Education the Key to Escape Poverty?
Since I grew up in such a poor background, you would think that being financially successful would have become my primary goal in life, wouldn’t you?
Well, that’s one way most people would have followed and then there is another way the unfortunate such as myself had taken.
See, I thought I’d all figured it out.
My pretty little brain was convinced education was a clear path to escape the poverty my parents were in.
I didn’t want their life.
My parents didn’t get an education.
I thought not being educated was a culprit to poverty.
Teachers preached about the importance of education, after all.
It had to be the key.
A Whole Different World
Education did help me get a stable and respectful job.
Social encounters at university, workplace and other gatherings opened my eyes.
A lot of people I met were from a middle-class background.
Some had a wiki profile with their ancestors; it was a whole different world from where I came from.
Our contrasting background didn’t matter.
We were having fun.
Still, I secretly envied when a friend nonchalantly talked about his parents.
For example, going to an annual conference for surgeons so we could crash in his parents’ house.
I didn’t talk about mine if I could help it.
None of my friends knew what a meagre family I had come from.
One day, one of my friends asked me straight, “what do your parents do?”
Music was blaring in the background.
I deliberately slurred “farmer”.
When he repeated back to me, I realised the word was transcribed to “pharmacist” by him.
The friend, whose father was a prominent businessman, seemed to have come to the conclusion — it was acceptable.
I let it go.
I was a too proud person to correct him.
Rich Get Richer
My friends didn’t have to be educated about money per se.
They grew up in a wealthy environment.
They only ever knew the luxurious living standard.
Naturally knew how to maintain money to create and support their middle-class lifestyle.
Learned from their parents. Emulated their success.
To expand their wealth, they hired the right people to manage their assets.
They accumulated more money.
So here comes that cycle:
The rich get richer.
When All You Knew is Poverty
On the contrary, all I had known was poverty.
I had witnessed and learned from my parents – how to live with a bare minimum.
After I had got a job, I was content with living above the bare minimum.
Seemed an “achievement” in itself.
My parents had never enjoyed such things, after all.
You know, other than living hand to mouth. Sometimes, not even that.
I spent my surplus income on things I couldn’t have as a kid. The places I couldn’t travel. Food I never tasted before. Presents I couldn’t buy for friends and family.
They all eventually led me to the blaring signs I was in financial trouble which I ignored until I got to the tipping point.
So, Should I Blame My Parents for My Ignorance?
Well, it’s a cop-out.
Is what I tell myself.
A lot of people who came from a poor family background made a financially successful life.
Yes, I wish I had a role model about “how to manage money” when growing up.
I didn’t realise there was a whole lot more to learn about money than earning, spending and living just for now.
Budgeting, planning, saving and investing were alien words in my world, all of which I learned a little too late.
But as they say, better late than never, right?
Here’s a Wise Man’s Answer
If in any doubt, Bill Gates gives us a clear answer on whether we should blame our parents for our financial ignorance:
If you are born poor, it’s not your fault. But if you die poor, it is.
– Bill Gates
What do you think of your own financial situation right now in comparison with your parents’?
Is there any lesson, good or bad, you’ve learned through their choices you’ve witnessed and perhaps inherited?
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