Money Lessons from Mama

It has been a year since. I arrived in Manila less than 10 hours before my mother breathe her last. After about 8 months of fighting cancer like the amazing warrior she was, the world took a twisted, devastating turn. You know how some lessons resonate after a tragedy? How some random memory had more meaning after someone left? Such were the lessons I learned from my mother – about money and life.

For about 30 years, the lessons were taught in fleeting flashes of moments, most were unfiltered, raw, and real. My mother was never the mushy and affectionate kind. I’d imagine she’d be less than thrilled I am writing about her. But I also do know that I wanted to honor her somehow. Writing about her is painful yet liberating.

So indulge me, my dear Investhusiasts, as I share with you, the 3 Money Lessons I learned from my mother.

1. Keeping up with others is EXPENSIVE.

I was in Junior HS, weeks before Prom Night. It will be held in a 5-star hotel in Manila. My classmates were having their gowns custom-made. My mom brought me to a department store to get a basic pink gown. It was spaghetti-strap, no ruffles, no ruching, straight neckline, and shapeless gown. I hated every inch of it. I hated my mom the entire time. She told me we’d just have the waistline adjusted and get a shawl in case it gets cold – and that’s it. She sternly reminded me the dress will only be used for a few hours. The important thing is that I get to experience prom. It is about the experience, not what I was wearing.

My first communion dress had the same story. I remember my mom getting me a basic cotton dress while my classmates had fancy, puffy dresses with lots of ruffles.

I knew we can afford a custom-made gown, but my mother taught me the WISDOM OF CHOOSING WELL. Keeping up with trends and “friends” is wasteful and pointless for there will always be someone “better” who you can compare yourself with. It will be a viscous, unhealthy and costly cycle – one we should choose not to be a part of.

2. Food need not be FANCY

My parents have always had simple taste and preference in food. They’d survive with eating the same meal the entire day – even pushing it the next day. I remember she’d always say that as long as we’d have something to fill our tummies with, we’d survive. They can live with steamed or boiled vegetables and shrimp paste. That early, I have learned the lesson of contentment and simplicity. Meals doesn’t have to be expensive to be delicious.

As I am now surrounded with various and sophisticated food options in Dubai, this lesson still rings true. It is easier to indulge as buffet meals are as common as that Shawarma option in the cafeteria around the corner. Food trends and international restaurant chains are pervasive. What makes us winners is when we are able to practice restraint and discipline. Having a budget for food and eating out always helps.

3. Do more than what is NECESSARY and REQUIRED

I grew up with my mom managing a sari-sari store. My parents decided that she’d stop working when my younger brother was born to manage the household full-time. Being the driven woman that she was, she wanted to do more than cook and take care of us. That early, I have learned the value of choosing to do more than what is necessary and required. Growing up, she was given a percentage of my dad’s salary and she was able to invest them in real-estate properties. She has exceeded our family’s (and society’s) common standards.

In times when resources seem scarce, I am reminded how my mother was able to do so much from the little that she had. She was able to do so by not settling and playing the victim. She took charge and made made things happen – all the while teaching us lessons we will forever cherish.

My mother taught me that we are defined by our choices. We either let circumstances defeat us or we rise above them. She always chose the latter. She is the strongest woman I know. As cancer weakened her, I would see and feel weak moments. But her strength carried her through. I have learned that it is not so much what you are given, but what you chose to do with what you are given that matters.

Hug your moms for me today, dear Investhusiasts. They sure are not perfect but they are irreplaceable. What are the money lessons you got from your mothers? Feel free to comment in, we’d love to chat. 🙂

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