Financial Lessons Learned: Save Up, Set A Budget

May 17, 2011

Part of a series on young people and financial literacy

Budgeting, saving and understanding bills are all important skills for developing money smarts.

A request on NPR's Facebook page asking people to share the most valuable financial lessons of their youth brought more than 1,400 responses. Many wrote about the importance of saving money, starting an early age. Others talked about avoiding debt — especially credit card debt.

Kirk Guadalupe of Dallas recalled growing up in the projects with seven brothers and sisters. His family depended on food stamps and government aid and it was his mom who taught all of them the importance of a budget.

"Mom would often bring us together and explain to us, 'This is how much money we have and this is how much we need to spend on different items and this is what we have left.' That's where I learned from Mom what it meant to save and also to set a goal, save up, and enjoy the fruits of your goal," Guadalupe says.

Rosalyn Washington, a kindergarten teacher in Decatur, Ga., also learned about finances from her mother.

"My mother was a banker with Citibank and so we literally sat around and talked about stocks and bonds and CDs and all that sort of a thing and so I understood that regular people, even working class people, had these things. These weren't just mysterious things owned by the wealthy."

Stephanie Downs from Concord, Calif., learned her financial lesson the hard way. Almost 20 years ago, she moved away from home and had a job cleaning rooms in a hotel. One month, her rent check bounced, she recounted. The landlord threatened to evict her if she didn't pay up in 24 hours.

Stephanie called her stepfather for help but, while he was sympathetic, he wasn't willing to do much to help her. He suggested she see if her bank would be willing to lend her enough money to get by until her next paycheck came in. Much to her surprise — and relief — the bank gave her the loan. She never bounced another rent check again.

You can read more of the comments from listeners on NPR's Facebook page. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit