What Was the First Piece of Financial Advice You Ever Received?

by Ryan Guina

Yesterday I made the announcement that my wife and I are expecting our first child. I know this will be a major life change for us, but it is one that we are both looking forward to. The idea of helping to shape the life of another person is both exciting and humbling. I know that for the first few years of our child’s life, my wife and I will be the largest influence on his or her life. That alone is reason for pause ~ to think about how you want your children to grow up and what you want to teach them.

Sharing your wisdom with your children

With that train of thought I started thinking about my childhood, and the things I learned, and then I thought about money (because I think about money and personal finance topics all the time!). Then I remembered an article I wrote shortly after I started this site. The article was about some financial advice my grandmother gave me, and it was the first bit of financial advice I ever received.

The first piece of financial advice I ever received.

Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. One day I was telling my grandmother how much my baseball card collection was worth and she told me that something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. At the time it broke my heart because I was sure my baseball card collection was worth a lot of money because the cards were listed that way in the price guides.

But now I realize how valuable that bit of financial advice was. At an early age I was able to realize that not every price tag is black and white, and I have used that information to negotiate several major purchases. This comes in handy for items that have a variable price tag, such as cars, houses, and many other items that are negotiable.

With that topic running through my mind, I thought it would be interesting and fun to know what other people learned first about money. So I solicited the first bits of financial advice from different personal finance bloggers. I think you will all enjoy these – they are a lot of fun to read!

The first piece of financial advice from personal finance bloggers

FFB from Free From Broke:

Pay your credit card in full. When I was first able to get a credit card my Dad told me to be careful and make sure to pay off my balances every month.  Well, you can guess that I didn’t listen and I paid for, oh I paid, for that mistake a long time afterward.  But he was right and it’s something I make sure to follow today.

FR from Financial Reflections:

Buy low and sell high. A friend of mine knew an older man who was involved in banking and was known to have some money. The older man and my friend were talking one day about money and the man says “Let me give you some financial advice.” My friend eagerly leaned over to hear this pearl of wisdom. The man leaned over and whispered “Buy low, sell high,” with a smile on his face. My friend just laughed, but it’s a lesson neither of us forgot.

Frugal Trader from Million Dollar Journey:

You need to save money. Frugal Trader’s parent’s taught him to save money from an early age and he opened his first savings account at age 7. You can read more about how he learned from his parents’ examples.

J. Money from Budgets are Sexy:

Use credit cards wisely. The first (and best) advice I ever got as a kid was when my dad told me to “never put anything on a credit card i couldn’t pay off” – which, at that time, since I had $0 in my pocket, really meant “Don’t ever put anything on a credit card!” haha…nowadays i put everything i possibly can on the card to get rewards and to budget easier, but i make sure to pay it all off in full each month.  (Ya hear that Dad?!  I still remember!)

Jeff from My Super-Charged Life:

Protect your money. My grandmother used to tell me, “Boy, keep your money in your pocket!”  She wanted me to be careful with my money and to protect it from getting lost.  Her advice was simple and straightforward, but smart.  She knew, that as a child, I didn’t really understand the value of a dollar.  However, through my grandmother’s urgings and as I watched her, I began to learn.  I like to think that these early lessons in money management have contributed significantly to my present-day attitude toward my finances.

My grandmother was a business owner along Historic Route 66 so she knew firsthand the effort it took to earn a living.  The lessons in how to handle money continued throughout my childhood and early adulthood.  I truly admired my grandmother’s confidence, business saavy and keen sense of people.  She was a no-nonsense person and her advice was rooted in commonsense and practical wisdom.  I am forever indebted to her for what she taught me about how to handle money!

Kevin from No Debt Plan:

Save 10% of your earnings. The first piece of financial advice I ever received (of any substance that I can remember) is my Dad telling me to save 10% of everything I earned. This was even while I worked at a movie theater in high school. Doing this in high school and throughout college gave me the opportunity to buy my wife’s engagement ring while I was still in college.  It made an impact because I wasn’t sure of how much of my money I should be saving. If he hadn’t told me that I would have likely have blown all of my money on car parts and hanging out with friends. It started a habit that I have continued to this day (although we save a much larger percentage of that currently).

Lazy Man from Lazy Man and Money:

Money for nothing and the chicks for free. When I was a child, my mom took me to the bank to open up a savings account with some of the money that I had been given for my birthday.  I didn’t really understand why I would go put money there, but when you were as young as I was, you don’t really ask questions.  I got my passport savings account.  The next time my mom had to go to the bank, she pulled out the records of my account and it was a few cents higher than what I had put in.  I asked my mom if the bank made a mistake.  She then explained the concept of interest to me.

“You mean I can make money by doing nothing?!?!”  She said “yes.”  Is it a surprise that some 25 years later I would start a website called Lazy Man and Money?

Lynnae from BeingFrugal.net:

You need to build your credit history. Sometimes the first piece of advice isn’t enough – you should read about the first piece of financial advice Lynnae received to find out what she was missing!

Madison from My Dollar Plan:

Start investing for retirement as soon as possible. Madison began investing in an IRA at age 16 when her Mom urged her to do so. It was one of the most important financial decisions she ever made and allowed her to become a stay at home mom at a young age – without it becoming a financial strain. You can read more about her personal story including her first IRA.

Miranda from Yielding Wealth:

Have a Spending Plan. My first allowance in hand, I eagerly asked to go to the store so I could buy something. Anything. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I really wanted. I just wanted to spend the money. My mom told me that just spending money without a plan pretty much equaled throwing it away. She encouraged me to think about what I wanted — short-term and in the future — and then to use my money within a plan. Now, before I buy something, I stop and think about whether it will help me accomplish one my goals.

MGL from Money Grubbing Lawyer:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Good advice, but I can’t say that I have followed it, nor do I know of many people (maybe 1) who do. For most people who want to live any sort of modern lifestyle, a total avoidance of debt isn’t really feasible. I’m not sure if the problem is with the advice or our modern expectations…

Mr. Tough Money Love from Tough Money Love:

If it’s worth buying, it’s worth saving for. When I was a teenager and lusted after something pricey, my father would remind me that “if it’s worth buying, it’s worth saving for.” He said this as he declined to give or lend me money to buy it. Using that simple principle, I either decided not to buy some fad item or would save like crazy for something that I really valued. As a result, I was able to buy a new electric guitar, a used top-of-the-line guitar amp, and a bunch of used amateur radio equipment, all with my own money and most purchased before I could even drive. I suppose you could say that my Dad’s short piece of advice taught me that instant gratification leads to bad money habits.

Pinyo from Moolanomy:

The value of opportunity cost. I guess the first real financial advice I received was from my mortgage broker in 1998. We discussed a 30-year mortgage versus a 15-year mortgage, and we also talked about prepayment. She told me that at the mortgage rate I was getting, I’d be better off taking out a 30-year mortgage and investing the difference in the stock market. What I got out from the conversation was the concept of opportunity cost. When making financial decisions, it’s not enough to look at one thing and judge it by itself. You need to look at what else you can do with the money and see what you could be missing out on.

Plonkee from Plonkee.com:

Credit cards are fine, as long as you always pay them off in full. Plonkee writes that her mother once told her that credit cards are fine when paid in full, and even though she didn’t realize it as financial advice at the time, it stuck with her – and she does it to this day. You can read more at her article about the first piece of financial advice she ever received.

PT from Prime Time Money:

Track your savings. I learned early on that it was important to track my savings balance. I was encouraged by my Dad to get a savings account and little black passbook where I recorded my deposits and withdrawals. This is well before online banking or detailed statements and so it was important to keep records yourself. I’ve since dropped the savings passbook but the idea of tracking my financial situation is has stayed with me.

Silicon Valley Blogger for The Digerati Life:

Money is second to faith, family and community. SVB grew up in a family where money wasn’t discussed often, and when it was mentioned, it was often said that “money isn’t everything.” You can read more about the best financial advice she ever received.

Stephanie from Poorer Than You:

Be an entrepreneur.My mother taught me how to start my own business. I wanted to write a newspaper for kids to sell around town. She taught me how to make the software do what I wanted it to, and took me around to local stores to ask if they would put copies of it and a change jar on their counters. She made me do all of the asking… I was six years old. She also taught me to put aside money to make future issues of the paper, and eventually how to hire employees and how to pay them. I ran that paper until I was nearly thirteen years old.

Tarabor from Pragmatic Sage Weekly:

Pay yourself First. After a day of shoveling snow, my friend and I age 10 and 11 at the time came home with about $60 each. (This was the early eighties so $60 for a kid was pretty good). His father heard how we did and told us something that stuck with me. He said whenever you make some money you should take some 10-20% and just put it away and forget about it for a while. He stated that is all he did and he retired in his early fifties. Basically save some, but for some reason it stuck with me put that way.

Thanks to all the bloggers for participating! 🙂

What was the first piece of financial advice you received?

Published or updated March 20, 2014.
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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ryan

Thank you, Manshu.

I wasn’t much of an investor during the dotcom crash and had only begun investing after 9-11, so this is my first big bubble. It has certainly opened my eyes to how I want to invest. Thanks for sharing. 🙂


2 Million Dollar Journey

Great list Ryan! Thanks for including my article.


3 Manshu


My dad told me that there is no limit on how much a stock can fall.

The very first bust that I saw was the dot com crash and my whole approach to investing changed after that.


4 Writer's Coin

My dad didn’t say a word, he led by example. He was frugal with his money, didn’t buy flashy things, and always paid his credit card in full.

’nuff said.


5 Ryan

WC, My Dad was the same way. Thanks for sharing. 🙂



Thanks for including me! Man, if I only knew then what I know now…

But the key is not crying over lost opportunities and mistakes. It’s learning from them and making sure you listen now.

Great article and thanks for sharing all of the wonderful tips!


7 familybalancesheet

I don’t really remember my parents talking about money with me and my brother. What they did stress to us was the importance of an education and hard work. We had no choice but to do well in school and go to college. To them education=financial success. Whether that is right or wrong I do appreciate my degree.


8 Miranda

I love reading everyone’s great advice! And thanks for including mine 🙂


9 Hank

The first piece of money/investing advice I ever got was to start investing as soon as possible in order to capture the magic of compounding interest.

Great list!


10 The Digerati Life

Nice roundup here, thank you! I loved the one from Lazy Man: money for nothing…for being lazy. What else could I have expected from him? lol. Great advice all around!


11 Steve

I don’t know if I necessarily remember my first piece of financial advice. I know my parents told me to pay off my credit card in full every month and to never buy anything on credit that I didn’t have the funds to pay off immediately. I just kind of did like my parents did and that’s what made me a saver and frugal.


12 MoneyGrubbingLawyer

This is a great collection. Thanks for including me!


13 Jeff@MySuperChargedLife

This was a great idea! I love reading everyone’s advice. Isn’t it amazing how simple, yet profound all these tidbits are?

Thanks for including me!


14 Ryan

Ouch, Kristy! Talk about trial by fire! I bet you’ll be sure to pass along a few words of wisdom when you have children. 😉


15 Kristy @ Master Your Card

My parents never talked to me about finances and never gave me advice. My first piece of financial advice came from the bank I opened my first account with and had overdrafted almost $1000. Yeah, I’ve had some fun times. But basically, my advice amounted to “Don’t spend more than you have!”


16 J. Money

These are awesome my man! It’s always cool to see what sticks in our minds after all these years 🙂 Keep doing your thang bro.


17 Gerrry Q

My stepfather told me that you have to be a crook to get ahead in life. Seems to be true if you watch the news about our politicians!


18 Ryan

LOL. Good for a laugh, but there are certainly a lot of people who got ahead by old fashioned hard work and ingenuity. 😉


19 Gerrry Q

I agree. My last comment was meant for a laugh. I didn’t follow his advice, worked hard, and have a good life.


20 threadbndr

My grandfather was a true Scotsman. He was a rather terrifying white-haired crag-faced figure to a 4 year old. But I can remember him giving me pennies out of his change purse that were green with oxidation, they’d been in there so long. “Watch your pennies, girl, and the dollars will take care of themselves!”


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