Old-School Tips for Better Finances

Mixing Dad's advice with sound financial planning can help us regain stability.

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So all of the hopeful and important conversations about learning to invest wisely and teaching your children how to save as early as age 3, according to Morris, were great but did not address the shame, fear and floundering of the newly broke. I wanted to know, what bridge can be erected to draw these folks over to the highly skilled financial planners who may be able to help them? Or what hope can be presented to them concretely to help them believe that it is even possible for them to turn the corner toward economic stability and potential growth?

Naturally, one answer was to save something, anything, now — preferably using savings instruments that are designed to yield more than the cost of living. A little can add up to a lot if you save it consistently. That is a worthwhile point, and one that many do not believe they can afford to do during these lean times — even though they must if they expect to change their fortune, or so the experts say. Another point Morial made is that trust has to be developed between adviser and client in order for the relationship to stand a chance at blossoming.

Helpful Tips From the Depression

As Morial pondered my questions, he reflected on something else that just may resonate in a realistic and tangible way. He spoke about his parents, who were Depression-era babies — just like mine. He suggested that we might take a page out of their book. He said his mother considered it a sin to waste food. Not a morsel of food was ever to find its way into the trash can. Something creative needed to happen in the kitchen so that the hambone or extra bit of vegetables was turned into a meal that could warm hungry bellies.

Morial later told me that he was at a fancy restaurant the other day where a fried ball of something yummy was being served. He learned that it was fried grits — a dish his mother had made all the time when the dry, extra bits of grits in the pan no longer worked so well as breakfast but transformed perfectly into a snack!

We sat riveted listening to Morial’s stories, like how his father and mother never threw out any bag that came in the house. Each was carefully saved and repurposed later. Same for fabric. You did not throw out clothes, sheets, towels or string. Everything could be reused. He said that his daddy had a big ole bag of string that he had collected over time that was used for a variety of purposes.

As I listened to Morial speak with such passion about the ways in which his New Orleans family had honored every single thing that crossed their family threshold, I thought about the way that most of us live now. First of all, we are bombarded by advertisements luring us to purchase something, anything and everything in order to make us more beautiful, lovable, worthy.