Written by Sara Jane Breault
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
About 10 years ago, when I was 17, my adolescence was coming to an end, and I was about to enter CEGEP in Quebec.
At the time, I was just excited about leaving the nest, studying a subject that fascinated me and having my own car. Today, from my perspective as an adult, I can admit that I owe a large part of my current success to my parents. From everything they gave me, I remember the best life advice and 5 key lessons that shaped my student life.
Lesson 1: Nobody Owes You Anything, You'll Have to Work Hard
In their infinite love and wisdom, my parents often reminded me that life is not always fair, or easy. Equipped with this lesson, I avoided a serious reality check once I entered the adult world.
“You'll have to work hard to get what you want," they said. For me, working hard meant getting my diploma, which was a major life goal I saved for. Now I know that if I have a financial goal in mind, I'll have to work for it in order for it to become reality.
Lesson 2: Your Wants Aren't Necessarily Your Needs
At 16, I was convinced that I needed a cell phone. My parents and I went shopping together to find the best package. That was enough for me. I was astounded by the astronomical prices of all the packages, and I came back home empty-handed. My father had just taught me a valuable lesson: wanting something doesn't mean you'll get it.
When I finally did get my first cell phone, it was because I really needed it—and even now at 26, I still have just a basic package. I must be the only one among my friends without a data plan for my cell, but the truth is that I don't need it!
Lesson 3: You Can't Always Rely on Your Parents, So Establish Your Own Credit
When I turned 14, I got my first job. That's when I had to start paying for my personal expenses. My parents let me know that they'd never let me starve, but that I was responsible for my extra expenses. After all, money doesn't grow on trees, and we can appreciate its value only when we earn it ourselves.
“Your credit score is important." My mother took the time to explain to me that establishing good credit can be an important stepping stone to adulthood.
With that simple advice, I was able to maintain a good credit history at an age when most young people are just starting out.
I followed the major rule of establishing good credit by paying my credit card bill in full every month and on time. That made it possible for me to avoid the worst possible trap for young university students: excessive debt.
I don't think I'll ever be able to thank my mom enough.
Lesson 4: Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes
In my family, the phrase “It's not my fault" was never an acceptable excuse. My parents always said that they would be there for me if I ever needed help, but they would never bail me out financially. I got the message.
The only person responsible for my life is me. If I make mistakes, like buying something I don't need or missing a payment, I don't beat myself up, but I do take responsibility and try to come up with solutions, like cutting spending where I can or putting aside more money for a rainy day.
Lesson 5: Saving Is Crucial, Even During Your Studies
My father once said: “When you think you have no money to save up, look again, but this time, with your eyes open."
I opened my first TFSA in 2009. My father also taught me to avoid bank fees that would eat away at my savings. I haven't regretted it to this day—and I converted all my friends to the virtues of no-fee savings accounts.
Thanks, Mom and Dad!