3 Financial Lessons I'm Thankful For

by Maurie Backman | Published on Nov. 23, 2021

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These lessons have served me well throughout adulthood.

Growing up, my family didn't shy away from talking about money. My parents felt it was important for me to understand how savings accounts work and why it's important to stick to a budget. I carried many of those key lessons into adulthood, where they've helped me be more financially responsible. Here are three specific lessons I'm especially grateful for.

1. Always have an emergency fund

You never know when an unplanned expense might pop up out of nowhere, or when you might lose your job -- even if you're a solid employee with a great performance record. I've experienced all of that in my day. In my early 20s, I let a dental issue go untreated and it led to a costly root canal. I've also had a car get totaled during a minor accident (it was a really old car), and an air conditioner break in my home smack in the middle of summer.

In addition, I've been the victim of layoffs. When I worked as a toy designer years back, budget cuts came through and my job, like many others at my company, landed on the chopping block.

Thankfully, my parents taught me to always have money in an emergency fund, and that's what got me through these various challenges. Not only do I have money earmarked for emergencies in savings, but I also make a point to replenish my emergency fund when I'm forced to use it.

2. Use credit cards carefully

Credit cards can be a helpful and rewarding financial tool, but only if you use them responsibly. One thing my parents always taught me was to never carry a balance on a credit card, but rather, to only charge what I could afford to pay off by the time my bills came due.

Because I've had an emergency fund for many years, I haven't needed to use my credit cards to cover unplanned expenses. I've been able to avoid carrying a balance and paying interest on my purchases.

Avoiding credit card balances has also helped my credit score stay strong. In fact, at one point, I actually had a perfect credit score, and smart credit card usage contributed to that.

3. Borrow when it makes sense

While borrowing money in the form of a credit card balance can be costly, there are times when it does make sense to borrow. It's for this reason that I continue to carry a mortgage on my home, even though I can technically pay it off if I wanted to.

For the past year, mortgage rates have been extremely competitive. Last summer, I refinanced my mortgage to a really low rate, so it makes sense to pay interest on that home loan because it frees up my money for other things, like buying stocks in my brokerage account.

Some people don't learn about money management until they've already made costly mistakes. I'm very thankful to have been taught these lessons early on. They've really made a difference in my finances through the years.

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