How wealthy was your upbringing? How has it affected you?

I like to think I was average to above average in terms of my parent’s income, but I think I always thought I was lower income for almost my whole life compared to my peers. I think we lived in a more upper class neighborhood and my parents worked hard to live there. My mom earned around 40 - 60k a year and my dad around 30k a year. She’s a lab tech, and he has had a variety of business / advertising jobs, but nothing requiring an education. I was probably solidly middle class growing up.

I just had this realization last night at a party when we were talking about our parent’s careers. Almost everyone in the room had a parent who was a professor! Then I started to think about some of the other friends I know. A good friend of mine’s parents are a pharmacist and an architect. Another is a big wig real estate agent. Another has a doctor for a mom, and a very successful businessman for a father. I think I have been surrounded by high income friends for a long time, without even realizing it. I think it’s shaped some of our attitudes differently.

I’ve always wondered why I have seemed somewhat different than most of my friends, now I think I know. I think I’m a bit more of a go getter because I know I have no money to fall back on. While I had all the things I needed growing up, I think maybe I valued them a bit more. It continues to this day, I keep working hard, and my friends question why I do it. Well in hopes one day I won’t have to work as hard, and perhaps I will have achieved some of my dreams.

Well that was rantish. Thanks for listening. One day I will start a mundane thread I promise.

It is hard to really answer this. I think my dad was paid pretty well, tho I have no idea of the specific numbers. But we did not live at all lavishly.

I was born in 1960, the youngest of 4 kids. 6 of us lived in a bungalow on the NW side of Chicago that my dad had moved into in 1927 when he was 7 years old. He bought the house from his parents before he got married, so he never had a mortgage. 1 bathroom until they remodelled and added a 1/2 bath, and my 3 sisters shared a bedroom. And he always had a company car - which none of us kids were allowed to drive. So even if his salary was only slightly above average, he was able to save a greater percentage of it than most.

We took a lot of family vacations - but nearly all of them had the 6 of us driving in that car, eating breakfasts and lunches out of an ice chest.

As a family every Sunday we went to a museum, zoo, play, concert or something, and then out for dinner. Bought our clothes at Sears, my mom sewed others, and hand-me-downs were the rule. But we always had plenty to eat, and never wanted for anything I was aware of.

1 TV set, 1 wall-mounted phone in the kitchen. Attended Chicago Public Schools and state university.

When I was older, my parents started to travel extensively. And when they died they left some money and no debt. So I think he earned considerably more than many - if not most - of the blue collar folk in my neighborhood. But I never considered my upbringing to be overly “wealthy.”

I think the way it influenced me most was to make me pretty frugal and fiscally conservative. Took me a long time and a lot of effort to enjoy spending money instead of instinctively saying “no” to any potential expenditure that could possibly be avoided.

My upbringing was lower-middle class, and the only reason it got to stay in “middle class” at all was because my mom had siblings who had some money and no spouses/children to spend it on. My dancing lessons (totally wasted; I couldn’t keep the beat to Kiss’s Rock and Roll (All Night)) and singing lessons were paid for by her sister. Once I was grown, it was pretty much understood that many months, our mortgage payment was subsidized by my mom’s siblings. And the only reason we had such a large house so affordably was because of the ‘GI Bill’, my dad was retired Army.

We always had enough to eat. We always had Christmas presents. OTOH, well, this is very dark, so I’ll Spoiler it for those who’d just as soon not go there)

For years, my parents had a ‘boarder’, a middle-to-late-age man, who sexually molested all three of their youngest daughters, myself included, for years; my parents knew the abuse was taking place. But my mother, who called the shots in the family, considered the money he brought in to be more important than our well-being. So a lot of the material possessions we had-for instance, he bought our first microwave-was really payment for my parents to turn a blind eye to the abuse

In short, for those who chose not to read the spoiler, our material possessions often came at a very high emotional price.

How has it affected me? Well, during the lean years (and we certainly have had them), the kids just did without. First priority: roof over the heads; second priority: food; next, everything else. There were years when there was precious little ‘everything else’. But there was love, and my kids always knew they were protected, and I would stand up for them no matter what. That’s worth more than money.

Now that things are better, our kids are a little spoiled. I’ll be the first to admit it. But I also try to instill in them the importance of doing good for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Hopefully, it’s a lesson that will stick with them in the future.

My parents were doing okay when I was younger. We had a fairly nice two story house out in the western suburbs of Chicago (Woodridge, for those keeping score), sister went to Catholic school (I went public because they had a gifted program), shiny new 1979 Ford Thunderbird in the driveway, etc.

Then my parents divorced when I was about nine years old. Mom got the house and the car but had to work three jobs to keep them. My sister and I learned a lot about keeping the house clean, fixing our own meals and putting ourselves to bed because my mother was bartending until 1am. Friendly reminders from the utility companies in jaunty red-lined envelopes weren’t uncommon. I got my own first job when I was 14 in order to have some spending money.

I suppose I learned how to do some grown-up things from a younger age than some people. I learned that sometimes not having money didn’t mean you were a bad person or lazy, it just meant that times were hard. On the other hand, I learned that not having money was a good reason to go work and get some. Take care of yourself and your family and get yourself to a more comfortable place.

When I was born, my dad was a high school teacher and made just about 11K, if I recall correctly. By the time I was 4, he started selling World Book encyclopedias and started to do better. But I know that my mom worked really hard to keep the budget stretched. Teachers got paid once a month during the school year - and some times there was more month than money. And encyclopedia salesmen were 100% commission. And he had to pay for his supplies out of his salary.

So sometimes I saw him deposit checks for over $1,000.00 and sometimes I saw him deposit checks for $18.58.

We were a family of 6 growing up (my sister was adopted when my brothers were in high school/college).

We never had things like allowances or stuff. About the only extra thing my mom seemed to pay for was piano lessons. My brothers and I all had after school jobs - mowing lawns, babysitting, paper routes, etc.

I think it taught us respect for the dollar, and for work. Not that I’m the best money manager now, but I at least know how to use coupons to my advantage.

I do have a hard time valuing quality in items. I have had to re-train myself to save for the better thing vs. buying the cheap thing. It’s a constant struggle.

I started out upper middle class, until I was about 4 and my parents got divorced. Then we spent several years just struggling to get by. We had watered down milk and worried if the electricity would be turned off.

Then my mother married my step-father who is a wonderful, kind man who also had a good job which allowed us to regain the upper-middle class lifestyle.

I think the main result is that I’m very grateful for even a basic middle-class existence. I know how miserable it is to be poor, so I was determined to avoid it.

I now live much as I grew up, a solid upper-middle class lifestyle. And I don’t want more. I don’t crave wealth, I’ve never understood people who want to be rich and famous. I feel luxurious and decadent if I buy named brand diced tomatoes instead of store brand.

My family was middle class in an upper middle/ rich suburb so I felt dirt poor most of my life. My dad was the only one working for my childhood. I believe he made ~$40k in the 80’s for a family of 4. I had to go without and was told “We can’t afford X.” I had a cabbage patch doll because my grandmother took pity on me (it was a $60 doll back then!)

I think my upbringing affected me two ways: I’m not materialistic. I don’t care about having the latest thing or high end brand names. Also, I’d prefer any husband to be to spare me a ring and just use the money towards a house (ditto for a big wedding). The second way I was effected is that I saw my mother, a grown woman, receive an allowance and that was horrifying to me. So money to me is power, control, and independence. I’ve had a job ever since age 11 (babysitting) and the times when I have been laid off were harder on my pride and identity than my checking account.

Grew up in a lower-middle working class neighborhood in the city. I felt poor when I was growing up, but that was in comparison to my fellow schoolmates. While I lived in a cramped rowhome and only had enough (hand-me-down) clothes to last a week (a fact that didn’t escape notice at an all-girls school), we still had food to eat for every meal. I heard from people with childhoods where they only had Mom’s booze in the fridge, so I consider myself lucky. I did get snotty comments about the limited wardrobe and lack of allowance money, but they certainly didn’t scar me for life.

I’m pretty frugal with my money now, I think, because of how I grew up. I don’t spend money on big-ticket items or the latest gadgets. I still maintain a love for the public library (studying to become a librarian now) with its free access to books and films, and I only recently (thanks to YouTube) broke my habit of buying greatest hits albums because it’s cheaper than buying the artist’s whole collection. But for a while, I bought a ton of clothes (albeit cheap ones from thrift stores and clearance racks) because I would hate wearing the same shirt twice in a month, overcompensating for those lean high school years. But now I’ve gotten over that and have seriously simplified my wardrobe.

I think my family is fairly wealthy, on my father’s side. His parents and two of his siblings have mansions, if that’s any judge. They used to run a family business, sold it in 2000 right before the market bottomed out, and that turned out pretty good for them. I’m not quite sure what they do now, but I think it involves managing a fund of some sort.

So, yeah, I’ve had it easy. Not exactly born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but maybe a fancy spoon, with little curlicues around the handle. I do wonder if I’ll be ready to handle the “real world” when I’m on my own. Probbably in reaction to that, I’ve developed a sort of frugality. Even when I have money on hand, I try to be thrifty. Not a big enough difference between a one dollar roll of toilet paper and a four dollar roll to justify buying the four dollar one. I’ve also been managing my hypothetical future finance, setting aside percentages for necessities, charity, and books.

I had a weird hybrid upbringing. I was born to the 16-year-old eldest daughter of a well-off radiologist, so I never really wanted for anything as a very young child. When my mother and her younger siblings were in college (I was about 4 or 5) my grandfather bought them all a house out in the suburbs (or as suburbs as you can get in Huntington, WV). At first it had 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths, but when I was 6-7 they added on another two bedrooms and another full bath, to accommodate all five of his children and me. But on the weekends, I often went down to my mom’s boyfriend’s (later to become my stepfather) house, where there were holes in the floor and we had to use kerosene heaters because the house was kept ridiculously cold. I slept on a mattress on the floor, they slept on a bed that was where the dining room would be if the house was populated by someone remotely normal. When I was in the 6th grade, he sold that house and they rented a very small house (probably 700 sq ft) while my mom finished up the last year of medical school. The house was in a strange neighborhood in which half the area was one step up from projects-level poverty, and the other half were gorgeous estates lining a park. My school had kids on food stamps and kids attending cotillion.

When my mom matched for residency here in Columbus, we had a relatively normal suburban lifestyle. We were solidly middle class all through middle and high school. Once I was in college, my mom’s jobs got her to the point of solidly upper-middle class. Currently she lives in Brooklyn (just bought a place), works in Manhattan, and makes mid-six figures and gets yearly bonuses in the tens of thousands of dollars. But by the time she hit that point, I was moved out and fending for myself.

So I’ve never had to go hungry, but until I was in high school I wore clothes from K-Mart (including the tied-together shoes Chris Rock joked about) and definitely spent more than a few nights huddled under blankets and wishing we could turn up the heat…but then I got to go home to my semi-normal house. And my stepfather still leaves the heat way too low to this day. One of the signs I’ve made a decent living for myself is the fact that I never have to care about what the thermostat says–if it’s cold, I turn the damned thing up; if it’s hot, I turn it down.

I think I’ve shared this before - I was raised lower-middle class. My dad worked really long hours in RR construction and we barely made ends meet. We never went hungry but I remember a lot of french toast dinners. We kids got one pair of “dress” shoes and one pair of tennis shoes (we had to have them for gym) a year and we wore them all year.

I’m now an adult and probably what would be considered upper-middle class, I guess. I like buying gifts for people just because I can and have a serious shoe thing going on. I’ve only recently realized that I’m being pretty silly about it and have started to cut back…

The short answer is, we were poor, but it’s a little more complicated then that. My mother had me at 18 years old and she was a single parent while she earned her B.S. in mechanical engineering. She was a recipient of AFDC and food stamps to keep us afloat. We were poor enough that we had cockroaches running around everywhere in our apartment and she had to feed me cheese for protein rather than expensive meat.

When I was 7, she finally graduated and went into management at General Motors. For a year or two she made good money and had a company car. We still lived pretty modestly, but I began to get a lot more toys. I estimate she was making around $50k.

The thing is, she quit after less than two years, and married a guy who ran a small business. She basically took over the business. So between the ages of 10 and 17 I lived in a tiny house (actually a summer rental cottage) in an 8x9 bedroom I shared with his three kids on weekends and during the summer. It was a crappy enough house that I was embarrassed to have friends over.

However, my stepdad spent beyond his means, so we had a color TV, and three cars and some other toys. I got new clothes every year before starting school, mostly because of my mother’s exceptional money-management skills. And we were fed. I didn’t think of myself as all that poor because most of the people in my neighborhood were worse off, and I ended up getting a lot of shit that I wanted. Also, things were wildly divergent from year-to-year, that’s the way of a small business. Feast or famine.

Then, when I moved out of the house at 17, I was damn poor for a little over a year, paying for gasoline with rolls of nickels poor. Then I got into college and lived pretty comfortably considering how little money I actually had. Things have gotten progressively better since that time.

It affected me pretty profoundly. I’m very class-conscious, very resentful of class prejudice (particularly the myth that poor=dumb), and when I met my husband’s extraordinarily wealthy family it took me a long time to get used to all that luxury. (My husband is not extraordinarily wealthy. His grandparents are, and by wealthy I mean they have a helicopter and a live-in butler.) I also find money management quite difficult. There was a time in my life where overdrafts were a common theme in my life, and I almost had to declare bankruptcy. It has taken a lot of painful lessons to get to the relatively stable place I am today.

My perception of most people on this board is that they are a lot wealthier than me and assign more value to wealth than I do. Last year my husband I made a combined income of $50k and we were happy. As long as I can pay my bills, go to the movies and save for retirement, I really don’t care.

Pretty poor. No indoor-plumbing, developing world “middle” class, although relatively well-off compared with my peers. Four walls and a roof, at least, and never hungry.

My first job was cleaning the family’s sit toilet containers.

Two or three jobs most of the time; worked my own way through college 32 hrs/wk.

I have less sympathy for those who want to blame their childhood circumstances for their present circumstance, and more appreciation for everything I have now. And I have never grown attached to stuff, perhaps because I am pretty sure I’m OK with having none, even though I like my current creature comforts and gadgets.

We were really poor. My mother took care of us on very little money she made at Goldsmith’s department store. Rarely my father would send a little money, but never regularly and nothing at all after I was around eight.

We spent most afternoons at my grandparents’ house until she got off work, sometimes until ten at night.

I am just as poor now if not worse but I really don’t care much most of the time. I’m happy. Something that mattered more to me was when my baby was born five years ago I didn’t want to work if at all possible. We made lots of sacrifices but I’ve managed five years now.

I’d say lower middle class. We always ate, we always had a roof over our heads, but my dad didn’t always work, and my mom was raising five (then four after my sister died) young kids. We ate a lot of baloney, we always had a big garden that we ate out of (both my parents were raised on a farm), my mom canned a lot, we had a lot of hand-me-downs, and there wasn’t any money for extras like music lessons. My oldest sister is the only one of us with a university degree, and she put herself through working as a waitress. The rest of us did some schooling, and either worked or got student loans (I paid mine off about 11 years ago, hallelujah). We are all home-owners now, and doing fairly well financially - we’re all middle-class, and I’m good with that.

As most people who have struggled for a dollar, I appreciate the value of things. I still have a tendency towards cheapness that I try to catch myself at. I spent most of last year not working (my husband’s salary is high enough to support us both now), and spent my time packing and moving us, then taking a course, and it was hard to get over the guilt - I have it in my head that adults are supposed to work, even though I was spending 40 hours plus every week on household stuff, and all the bills were getting paid on time. I also have a tendency to wait for the other shoe to drop - we’re doing good now, but what if he loses his job? What if the economy craps out again? What if we get too accustomed to the good life, and it’s too hard to go back to scrimping and saving and doing without? I’d say I’m not taking it for granted; I’m not sure I ever will.

I grew up middle class. My dad managed an auto parts store and my mom, once she went back to work when I was 6, was a government worker (various jobs, from school lunch lady to accountant for the park board).

Money was tight, vacations very rare. I do remember going to California once and to Mt Rushmore once. When I little we went up to my grandparents cabin one a month for a long weekend, but when I was nine they bought their own cabin closer to the cities. Who needed a vacation when you had a cabin?

I rarely wanted for anything - had dance classes, music lessons, music camps. I remember when Guess? jeans were all the rage and Mom bought me a pair. I was over the moon. However, I also wore hand-me-downs and clothes my grandma made.

We had one new car bought for the purpose of driving to Virginia to see my sister after she married. Until then we had a 1967 Galaxie 500, but I remember how luxurious the 1979 Ford LTD was to ride in. Any other vehicle my dad had for getting to work would be a beater he fixed up.

Of course I now know how much they scrimped and saved to give my sister and I a nice upbringing. The main difference between how I was raised and how TheKid is that if I asked for something and Mom or Dad said NO, that was it. No more asking. TheKid continues to ask, which almost always leads to problems.

I am now lower/middle class. I live in the same type of neighborhood I grew up in - no fancy houses or cars, all blue collar or lower level white collar people. Because it’s just me footing the bills, I find that I am a pennypincher. I’ve had to be. TheKid has had her music lessons, she has name brand clothing (albeit from used stores or super sales), she has decent electronics - but my rule is I will pay for basics, she has to pay for “upgrades”. For example, I agreed to pay $120 towards an iPod for confirmation - that’s how much a nano was going for. She wanted the huge 120 gig one - she had to pay the difference.

Like my parents did to me, I will not allow her to get a job unless her grades are up to par. They aren’t, so she doesn’t have a job. If she wants spending money there is a list of odd jobs she can do on the fridge.

When I was growing up I never thought our family was different than those in our 'hood. Yes, one family down the block obviously had money issues and were frequently on welfare (when the dad left on a bender), but another had a new car every year and remodeled their home. We were smack in the middle. Where I am now I know I’m on a run lower than my neighbors, but I’m okay with that because I’m doing it on my own. Anything we need will be scrimped and saved for.

A little odd. I was raised by highly educated, peripatetic political activists, which somewhat precluded careers ( outside of political activism ). Tallying the varous jobs my parents/step-parents held when I was growing up, they would include: highly technical white-collar/teaching ( photographic film design, grad student physics instructor ); blue-collar industrial ( auto line, plant operations ); clerical ( profreading, typesetting, secretarial ); craft/retail ( sewing piecework, picture framing ); service ( waitressing ); and of course full-time political activism ( salaried actually, but as a labor of love, very poorly ).

As a consequence our economic stability was often in a bit of flux and mine in particular depending ( after divorce when I was young ) to which set of parents I was attached to. I went from welfare/food stamps at lower points, to working poor, to reasonably comfortable middle class. But even when pretty poor I never came close to going hungry, the household milieu was always intellectually-orientated ( lots of books in the house ) and I pretty consistently got a small allowance in my teens. We also usually lived in rented houses or large flats inside of houses, rather than apartment complexes.

As a younger college student I lived at home with free ( later heavily subsidized, as I started paying just a little rent ) room and board, while I worked part-time at various jobs and paid my own tuition, books, transportation and entertainment expenses. I wasn’t fully on my own until ~21.

How did that affect me? I dunno. I can’t say I’m not materialistic - I inherited a love of gadgetry like stereo components/computers/optics/whatnot from my father, I much prefer buying books to checking them out from the library and I’ll pay extra for quality goods of any sort. While I do usually take a strong “bang-for-the-buck” approach to my materialism, I can’t deny an enjoyment of stuff generally.

But one definite influence from my upbringing that I can point to, is that I never developed the impulse towards careerism common to most educated families*. We weren’t pushed or even encouraged to develop professional careers. Jobs were for paying for your hobbies/interests off the job, not an end in of itself. Cllege was to get an education, not necessarily ( or at least not primarily) to develop job skills. I get paid enough at my current job to make the top quintile household-income-wise, but I really don’t give a shit about it in the abstract - it’s just a means to an end. I don’t consider it my “career” even though I’ve been doing it for nearly 20 years and will likely retire from it ;).

  • I should probably add a disclaimer here, noting that I have no aversion to the professional ambitions of others or think that my own experience is superior. If anything the opposite is probably the case.

My parents were entrepreneurs for 25-30 years. When it was good, it was VERY good. (Three cars, two motor cycles, an airplane - later converted to a boat) When it was bad, it was pretty crappy. (Nearly got pulled out of college. They nearly lost everything.)

It’s made me cautious. I work for State government. I expect to finish my career with Government. I’ve done very well for myself, as has my wife. We’ve taken a good 25% cut in useable funding due to the kids and the economy, and we’re still really well off. It’s just hard to see that sometimes.

Lower middle class. 5 kids, mom stayed at home, dad was non-com career navy. Thanks to cheap food at the commissary and navy hospital we didn’t suffer noticably, although anything beyond basics came from my grandparent and as second daughter, I was in hand-me-downs up through high school. There wasn’t much formal education in my family and it was not encouraged. Boys would go into the military and girls would get married - who needs more for your kids, right?

As a result I ended up largely aimless for several years, including some time spent homeless, but eventually got it together after I married a man with a similar background. Somewhere along the way we decided that we did not want to become our parents, so we are now in good careers and have a solidly middle-class income with a reasonable expectation of retiring with some grace.

I think I take a lot of things in stride because I’ve been broke most of my life, including while growing up.

Let me amend that: we had just enough, which is a miracle with 4 kids and only one skilled laborer job. (Thank gods for IBEW, or we’d never have had insurance!)

One of my now-favorite realizations is that we went for a whole summer, about 6 months in total, without a working refrigerator. We simply didn’t have the money to replace it when it conked out. We did have a big freezer in the basement, and I remember ‘changing the ice’ 3 times daily. We simply used empty plastic milk containers <thank goodness those were around then; wouldn’t have worked as well with cardboard!> and filled them with water, froze them, and lived with a perfectly functional ‘icebox’ during all that time.

I have no idea why we finally got a fridge again; it worked really well as it was!

Things like that give me an attitude towards ‘problems’ that irritates the hell out of my boyfriend. He’ll get depressed, and I’ll get creative.

I think I prefer the creative approach. =p