June 18, 2024

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Research shows that grandparents are great personal finance teachers. Here’s what my poppa who became an accountant during the Great Depression tried to teach me about money

2 min read

Poppa once took me to a deli for dinner. I was a boy of about 10. We went to the cash register to pay, only for him to find he lacked exact change.

“I’ll owe you the nickel,” he told the cashier, who refused the offer. My grandfather fished out a dollar bill and collected 95 cents in change. “I’ll remember this,” he warned the cashier with a menacing scowl.    

Benjamin Sheft never took anything in life for granted, least of all money. Any time we ate in a restaurant, he studied the check as if it were a sacred text. Paying cash, he peeled currency off his billfold as if stripping away a sheet of his own skin.

As I grew up, no one tried harder to teach me about money–earning it, saving it, and losing it–than my poppa. Nor with less success.

This year, the British financial services company Legal & General conducted a wide-ranging survey of 2,000 grandparents and 2,000 grandchildren. Among the questions it asked grandchildren was, “What are the most important life lessons your grandparents have taught you? As it turned out, almost a third of grandchildren (30%) cited grandparents for passing down “financial and money-saving advice.” 

Similarly, Charles Schwab last year issued a guide to grandparents about teaching financial literacy to grandchildren The Role of a Grandparent | Over 50s | Legal and General.  It counseled “talking about money in everyday situations” with grandchildren and even learning to prepare a budget. “Starting these conversations at a young age,” it said, “can help ensure your grandchildren grow up to become responsible money managers.” 

My poppa came to the United States from a village in Russia at age two in 1909, his father a tailor who barely spoke English. He married at 20 and became a father at 21, his daughter – later my mother – stricken profoundly deaf in infancy. He graduated from the City University of New York with a degree in accounting, the first member of his family…

Bob Brody

2023-11-23 12:29:52

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