Many of us probably heard the saying as kids that money doesn't grow on trees. For Sarina Haryanto, 23, that point was illustrated with a fake tree, complete with paper money.
These types of lessons were the start of a solid financial education Haryanto learned from her mother, Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner and CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. Life after college can be difficult for many people, from navigating new responsibilities like paying off student loan debt and the demands of working full-time to more personal goals like finding a career path that's gratifying.
Haryanto says her postgraduation journey has been less stressful thanks to years of advice from her mom—and she continues to benefit from their "pretty open dialogue about money" as she navigates career or financial challenges.
Here are three of the most valuable lessons Haryanto learned growing up with a financial planner for a mom:
Since graduating in 2018, Haryanto completed a short fellowship with an overseas language and cultural immersion program and now is juggling two part-time jobs while paying down her student loans. Rather than taking a less satisfying full-time job right away, Haryanto says she's still figuring out "how I can earn money where I really benefit society."
And she credits her mother for inspiring her to stay true to herself: "That's something I learned from my mom: Don't compromise for a job," Haryanto says.
While some parents may push their recent grad toward a corporate job, Cheng understood that that wasn't best for her daughter.
"Yes, money is important, but if you do a good job managing your resources, you can work in a job that aligns with your values," Cheng says. "A mom could not ask for a more responsible child. I know she's so responsible with money that I support her vision for her future."
Haryanto's current work arrangement allows her flexibility: She has time to volunteer, for example, while exploring full-time job opportunities that will align with her interests, values, and passions. In the meantime, Haryanto says some other lessons her mom taught her—like how to budget, how to live within her means and how to prioritize spending on what matters most—also make this transitional period feasible.
Haryanto has held an impressive array of jobs over the years: She's been a babysitter, a tutor, an accompanist at piano recitals, a camp counselor, a lifeguard, a swim instructor, a teaching assistant, and a resident assistant in a dorm.
That's in part because her mom "really cared about me earning my own money," Haryanto recalls.
Cheng, who was the first person in her family to go to college, says she learned the value of working at a young age, in part from her father's work ethic. The lesson she absorbed, she says, is that "it doesn't matter if you're 14 or 24 or 44, you can use your talent, skills, and passions to earn money."
Haryanto says she can be efficient and organized now, postcollege, partly because she learned at a young age to make the most of her time. In the lull between extracurricular activities, she and her mother went to a coffee shop and while her mother worked, Haryanto did assignments for school. Every moment can count, she realized: Even if she were away from home, she could still be productive.
In college, Haryanto continued to find ways to maximize her time by working multiple part-time jobs while taking a full course load. "I learned through observation to make the most of the time that I have," she recalls. "Time is money. I think my mom did a great job of instilling that lesson in me."
Teaching her kids about balance was important to Cheng. That meant lessons about the more positive or exciting aspects of money, like investing, along with the more mundane parts: why it's important to have insurance, for example, and how to file your taxes and protect yourself financially in case of unfortunate events.
While Cheng instilled all "the important stuff" core to her profession—saving up for a rainy day, avoiding credit card debt, and why it's important to start investing as early as possible—she also wanted her kids to appreciate that the money they earn should be used for things they enjoy.
"You have to decide what's important for you and what you want your kids to learn," she says. For Cheng, that was spending on experiences, like family vacations. The overarching theme of her advice, though, she says, is to be mindful of trade-offs and be ready to prioritize.
Overall, she says, "if you're careful with your money—if you can manage your time, health, money, and emotions—there's no limit to what you can accomplish."
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