In the summer of 1996 a glazed Krispy Kreme donut changed my life. My sister and I had two boxes of donuts set up on our Fisher Price yellow-and-blue picnic table right at the edge of our driveway. Our mother’s garage sale lured folks in while my sister’s big blue eyes and my charming sales pitch secured the purchase of our Krispy Kreme donuts. We charged a horrifically marked-up price of fifty-cents apiece.
In reality it probably only took an hour for us to sell all our donuts, but at the time it felt like eons. Handing over those donuts to die-hard garage sale enthusiasts was grueling work in the heat of a North Carolina summer morning. Looking in my teal fanny pack I counted out $12 and proudly told my father I’d made a lot of money that day.
He asked to see the earnings. After being subjected to seven years of “candy tax” at Halloween I clutched the pouch to my chest, refusing to show him. Feeling the weight of all those quarters I imagined what this money could buy at Toys-R-Us.
My dad scooped up the fanny pack and carefully counted out the money on our picnic table and proceeded to give me my first lesson in economics.
“You have twelve dollars here,” he said.
“Yes,” I said. “I am going to Toys-R-Us.” “Well, it cost me three dollars to buy the donuts you sold,” he said while he picked up three dollars worth of quarters.
“Then, you had your sister help you sell them so you need to pay her.” he rationalized while handing my four-year-old sister $2.00. “So, after expenses, your total profit was seven dollars.”
He smiled while pushing the remaining piles of quarters towards me.
At that moment I had never felt so cheated in my life.
Now, looking back, I see the beautiful gift my father bestowed upon me. I understand and respect money.
The parable from my childhood always elicits interesting responses. Many of my peers seem to view my father as a heartless Scrooge snatching away petty cash, while others nod their heads in approval.
If you fall into the first category, don’t fear. My sister and I received plenty of Christmas presents and never had to chip-in on the cost of my birthday parties. My father simply chose to teach me lessons about money from an early age, lessons that have greatly benefited me as a millennial.
The millennial generation is portrayed in popular media as whiny, over-indulgent brats who feel entitled to live off their parents well into adulthood. Hence the moniker “Generation Me.” I’d like to give my fellow “Generation Me” members a break.
Sure, some of my fellow millennials still live off of parental welfare. But often times I find that it’s because they simply have not been given the tools, or the shove out of the nest, to survive without it. How are we supposed to know how to survive, and thrive, financially if we were never taught the skills to do so?
I’m embarking on a quest to continue my education about finances. Shortly after graduating college I moved to New York City. It has proven a great struggle to financially survive living in the Big Apple on funds that, initially, placed me barely above the poverty line. My main goal at the time: keep my balance sheet out of the red.
The basics of finances I understand, the importance of savings, developing good credit and how to balance a checkbook. Other things like IRAs, stock market investments and consolidating debt are outside of my scope of knowledge. Hopefully, sharing my own stories and what I learn along the way will help some other broke millennials who aren’t enjoying the stark reality of living without the Bank of Mom and Dad.
You can also follow the journey on Twitter: @BrokeMillennial