In grade school, my parents gave us our allowance on a weekly, instead of daily, basis. My dad said we should be able to distribute the sum to last us 7 days, and we were not given any more if we happened to prematurely run short before the end of the week. Years later, in college, our allowance was given monthly, teaching us to live on a fixed quantity for the next 30 days; and I don’t think they did it deliberately, but it was similar to the cycle of a salaried employee. I not only learned how to budget, but also to have discipline toward spending beyond my allowance; as a result, I never uttered the words “wala na akong pera!” (“I have no more money!”) which had become such a common phrase among some of my friends that they might as well have tattooed it on their foreheads.Contrary to the age-old mantra to “live within your means,” our parents taught us to expand our means instead. I had noticed throughout my schooling that my allowance was sizably smaller than that of my classmates’ at P5/day in grade school, P175/week in high school, and roughly P2,000 a month in college. Later on, our parents explained that they tried to give us a sense of deprivation in the hope of developing a drive to earn independently. It must’ve elated them to see that their tactic worked, because I remember constantly finding ways to augment the cash in my wallet.
During summer vacations in grade school, my sister and I made bookmarks out of cartolina and permanent markers, “laminated” by makeshift, ironed plastic wrap. On especially restless days, we also offered to do the chores in exchange for P5/day. There was one time when my brother and I had gotten it into our heads to wash the stairs. My parents left us to finish the job, despite our blundering, and later joked that the gallons and gallons of water and electricity we had consumed probably cost them more than our “payment.” I know it wasn’t their intention, but I felt embarrassed at that, and that also indirectly taught me the value of delivering nothing but excellent results in my work, especially since work meant money.At home, my dad put a bamboo bank for each of us siblings in the study area. The premise was that they would match the amount of whatever we saved by the end of the year; so simply put, they would double our extra change! The sight of it sitting in the room was always a reminder that we had a choice: either we spent all of our money now, or we stashed some into our personal banks and have it multiply later on. At the end of the year, we got to break the little pieces of wood and revel in the sight of the money we had acquired – a very visual and emotional lesson on the value of delayed gratification. It became tradition to make a trip to the bank at the start of the new year to deposit our wealth.
In the sixth grade, after that unforgettable trip to Disneyworld I had mentioned previously, my dad tried to explain the stocks to me in the simplest way he could think of. He said that if I lent some of my money to a group of people, if they earn, I’d earn as well. Come to think of it, that’s all it really is. Maybe it was because it was my father who asked me, or because “stock market = Disneyworld = bliss” was still ringing in my ears, that I willingly pooled my cash in with his to lend to a group of people that went by the name of Petron. Unwittingly, that was my first, big decision, and my very first venture into the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE.) After that, my dad further glamourized the idea by telling me that I had just become part owner of a company. Imagine that: a part owner before I even hit my teenage years – I felt like a success.When my brother graduated from elementary at a private, exclusive boys’ school, he was accepted into the premiere science high school in the country. There is a substantial difference between the tuition fees of both schools, since the science high school is fully subsidized by the government, while the private school cost an easy 6 digits per year. As a pre-pubescent, he was naturally reluctant to accept the change in environment, so our father proposed a deal to help him out: if he transferred to the science high school, he would get to keep a percentage of what would have been his tuition fee for the entire year (on top of the stipend that the scholars were offered by the institution.) It may seem like bribery to some, but it was yet another of his gestures reminding us that money is always a choice. By presenting us with options, they gave us the freedom of decision, and showed us that every decision has a corresponding consequence. As for me, since I never got into any science high schools, my parents had to find other situations where I could flex my decision-making muscles.
At the start of every school year, the hippest place to be was a bookstore. There was just something so exciting about fresh notebooks, colorful pens, and shiny pencil cases all stacked up strategically on rows upon rows of shelves. At the start of high school however, my dad had a new proposition. He gave me P2000 for new school supplies, but the catch was this: if I was willing to use some of my previous years’ materials, I could keep the money as a bonus for other things. In that light, a new uniform, pitted against the top I’d been eyeing for weeks, or going out to the movies with my friends, didn’t seem so fancy anymore.The outcome of their parenting style inadvertently became the foundation to my approach toward money, such that even without their machinated dilemmas or any further prompting, I found myself practicing sound financial judgment later on. In college, as a Statistics major, I tutored fellow students and took on special projects to supplement my allowance. Since handmade bookmarks were not of the times anymore, I innovated and sold whatever there was a demand for, like personalized labels made of acetate and colored glue, just so I could have some extra moolah for going out with friends. At the university, I got into a choir that, aside from having toured me around the world, earned me some additional dough from singing for weddings, corporate shows, and the like. This reinforced something that, I think, everyone must know deep within: we can make something out of nothing. My knowledge, my talents, and other acquired skills, when put to good use, become money. I don’t mean that knowledge, talents, and skills are synonymous to nothing, only that they don’t cost me any extra when I use them. This in itself made me feel rich.