I won’t deny that I was skeptical about the way my parents handled their finance, especially when we were living dapat gaji, makan gaji, repeat back then. I knew nothing about personal finance but I knew that I didn’t like living that way. Ironically, I fell into that cycle in my early career days. And honestly, I kinda blamed my parents for not giving me the much-needed financial education.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t. I just realised that my parents, just like me, were trying to figure it out too. And to think about it, they did give me valuable money lessons along the way.
Ada sikit mana pun duit, kena ingat orang lain – belanja, sedekah.
(No matter how little money you have, remember others – treat them, donate some)
Growing up although I could hear my parents whispering with each other about their not-so-good money state, I always see them giving and treating others, from our family members to neighbors and total strangers by the roadside. And this is what they keep reminding us even to this date – to always give and treat others no matter how little it is we give and how little money we have left.
I carry that with me everywhere I go. I try to give and treat others. Sometimes admittedly I’d pause a bit and think – even for myself not enough, how can I treat others – tettt false. Looking back, whenever I have that thought and I still gave, I always had enough. The beautiful thing is I also almost always get back what I give. Not necessarily in the form of money, but the universe will pay it back, in one way or another.
Kalau keluar makan, jangan bayar diri sendiri saja – bayarkan untuk yang lain.
(Going out to eat, don’t pay for yourself only – pay for others)
My parents don’t believe in going dutch. They don’t/rarely split the bills when we’re out eating with other people, they would pay for the food. Granted, we don’t eat at fancy expensive places and rarely go out in big groups which was the reason they could afford to pay for others.
So that’s what my mom always reminds me – if I eat out with a person or two and I can afford to pay for the food, then don’t berkira. Pay for others as well. I couldn’t afford this before, but since last year, I started to make this a personal habit of mine. If it’s just me eating out with one or two, I would belanja. And this somehow turned into my circle’s new habit, we would gilir gilir belanja. Again granted, we rarely go out! Hello, pandemic?
Kalau tak mampu bagi orang makanan, jangan makan depan orang.
(If you can’t afford give others your food, don’t eat in front of people)
And this one is gold. My siblings and I always got scolded back then. My mom so pantang if we had food and ate in front of our friends. Alah you know when you were a kid and your mom got you ice cream so you went outside to eat, this is a no-no in my family. If we couldn’t give and share with others, don’t show. So eat at home.
Even to these days with people posting their food on social media, my parents who are both on Facebook won’t do that. “Kita tak bagi buat apa nak tunjuk.“
There’s a beauty in this seemingly little thing. My parents were actually teaching us empathy. We don’t know what’s the state of other people who see us with those blessings, i.e., food, so if we can’t share, don’t show.
Simpan duit sikit sikit untuk kalau sakit nanti.
(Save a little bit of money for when you’re sick)
My parents might be living paycheck to paycheck, but I knew they did have emergency money for when we’re sick. It’s not a big sum but a hundred or two that they would use to take us the kids to the clinic when we’re sick. Another thing that I observe about my parents is if it’s just cold and flu, they would directly take us to the private clinic instead of the government hospital or clinic because it’s more convenient we won’t have to queue up in that sickly conditions. And as a sick child, I was grateful for that. It’s not fun having to wait in the hospital with a cold and flu. (Nothing against the government hospitals, it’s more for convenience reason)
However, their emergency money was limited for that purpose and I could see them scrambling for money when our car broke down etc. So I learned the importance of having medical card and emergency fund, not just for when we’re sick but when other kind of emergencies come up because you know… life.
Kalau nak makan, jangan tahan sebab duit – mesti makan.
(If you want to eat, don’t restrain yourself because of money – must eat)
Yes, the main theme of my parents’ advice has always been about food. This is one of my mom’s favourite advice – buy and eat what you want to eat. Don’t restrain yourself. Because when you’re sick, you won’t have the appetite to eat. So eat what you want to eat. Don’t berkira with yourself (and others) when it comes to food. A caveat here, we rarely eat anything expensive, so this is reasonable advice.
My mom has to be thankful though that none of us become obese because of this advice.
Tak boleh simpan duit, beli emas.
(Can’t save money, buy gold)
As I discussed in my dapat gaji, makan gaji, repeat post, most of my parents’ money would be gone the moment the next gaji came. I knew they acknowledged that they had difficulty saving money (raising kids requires a lot of money
so does that make me expensive?). So their solution? Buying gold jewelry. Because gold is valuable and has high trade-in value.
Of course back then, they were not able to pay lumpsum. So they paid in a few months’ installments. CCM emas as they call it (for the life of me, I can’t figure out what CCM stands for, please anyone enlighten me). After a couple of months, once the full payment was made, they would collect the gold. So that’s how they collected gold jewelry over time. And as I shared before, whenever they need money, they would gadai the gold.
What I learned from this is that there is no one-fit-all solution. Saving money may be the ideal financial strategy but not everyone can adopt it. So people do improvise and find ways that can fit their life circumstances. When my parents figured out they have trouble saving cash, they keep gold.
Jangan risau pasal belajar, kita akan cari duit.
(Don’t worry about studies, we will find the money)
If not because of this solid mindset that my parents have – that education is important – I won’t be where I am today. They always prioritize (food and) our studies. They would work hard to ensure they can support us with whatever necessary to have a good education. My parents always reminded me to just tell them if I needed anything for my studies at school, and then university, because they would get it for me.
I’m forever grateful for that and, that’s a huge motivation factor that pushed me in my studies. So yes, I will ensure my future kids have the same support in their studies as I received from my parents back then.
WHAT YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR PARENTS?
It’s not until I sit down and think about this that I realised how much my parents have taught me about money. Their lessons may not be the same as what Rich Dad, Poor Dad taught me – their lessons go beyond that.
My parents taught me that money is not about just making and saving money. It’s not about enriching only ourselves. It’s about sharing what we have with others. It’s about providing and sacrificing for your family. It’s about being grateful for our blessings. It’s about continuing to figure things out along the way.
I am eternally grateful for my parents and their gold life lessons.
How about you? What have your learned about money from your parents?