Today we are pleased to share the childhood money memories of Suzanne Siracuse. Suzanne is the CEO and Founder of Suzanne Siracuse Consulting Services, LLC, a firm she recently started that specializes in the creation of innovative business and marketing strategies and launching advocacy initiatives within the financial advice industry.
Suzanne’s name may be familiar to many as she was the former CEO and Publisher of InvestmentNews for over 21 years. She is a graduate of Rider University and is active on many boards including The Invest in Others Charitable Foundation, The American College ‘s Women’s Center and Savvy Ladies, a non profit dedicated to helping women become financially independent.
Now in her own words, Suzanne’s responses to a variety of questions on her childhood money memories and financial literacy.
I grew up in New Jersey, right outside of Philadelphia, in a pretty typical middle class household. My grandparents were all immigrants from Ireland and Poland. My dad worked in procurement and my mom worked part time as a secretary.
MONEY MEMORIES – SUZANNE’S BIG BARBIE BANK BALANCE SURPRISE!
One of my first money memories was my Bank Book. I had received money for my Holy Communion and my dad took me to our local bank to open up an account. It was the early 70s and there was no such thing as ATMs. You had to physically go into the bank! The branch manager gave me a little book and my dad allowed me to customize it with my name, date, birthday etc. He then showed me how to make my first deposit from the checks I received and how to log my deposits. I think I had about $50. My dad then said, when you want to buy yourself something, you subtract it from your balance. He asked me what I wanted to buy. It was a new Barbie doll. We started talking about how much the Barbie would cost and how much I would have left in my bank account if I bought the Barbie doll. I actually really loved seeing the balance in my bank account. I was more excited about that than actually buying the Barbie doll. I don’t know what that means, but I think it meant I was predisposed to being conservative with my money!
A MAGIC MYSTERY ENVELOPE STUFFED WITH CASH
As I mentioned, I grew up in the 1970s and 80s. Another memory about savings, had to do with The Christmas Club program. The Christmas Club was a saving vehicle that banks came up with to help families put money away for presents at Christmas time so that they wouldn’t have to withdraw a large sum of money all at one time. I remember seeing an envelope that had Christmas tree wreaths on it in my mom’s dresser drawer. My mother would put a portion of the money she made each week into the envelope. By Christmas time, the envelope would be stuffed with cash (at least that was how I remember it!) This is a visual I never forgot. It showed me the importance of saving money for something special (like the holidays).
EARNING MONEY IS FUN TO DO!
My first informal job was being a babysitter. I actually didn’t enjoy it, but I loved the reward at the end….getting paid. I worked all through high school and college doing various types of jobs…cleaning houses, working at the local convenience store, waitressing, etc. The job I liked the most, by far, was being a waitress. I loved interacting with people, how each night it was different and anticipating how much of a tip I would receive if they enjoyed themselves. I always tried to make their experience special. I guess I was always pretty comfortable with variable compensation based on good service and high performance!
I will always remember this one night when an older woman came in by herself. She ordered dessert first, before her entrée. She left me $50 on a $100 check. I was ecstatic! I thought she must be incredibly wealthy in order to do that.
MODELING AND MENTORING MONEY
I would have to say my dad was my main money mentor growing up. He would sit in his favorite chair paying bills and managing the checkbook every Saturday afternoon. He had an entire drawer filled with folders and envelopes tied with rubber bands. He kept meticulous notes and records.
I REALIZED MONEY HAD VALUE WHEN…
When I got my first bank book and learned if you kept your money in there for a period of time, you would be rewarded with interest without really doing anything. So if I had $100, I could earn another $1 if I didn’t touch it! I loved the concept of getting money for essentially responsible money management!
MY SMARTEST MONEY CHOICES
I was always a bit of a saver. But the two smartest money choices I made when I was younger were paying off my college loan early and investing in a condominium when I was 25.
Also, I hired my first financial advisor when I was 28. My friend’s husband had one and I was curious what they did and how they could help me increase my money through the market. I called him the next day and have used an advisor ever since.
‘ONE’ MONEY HABIT
If I could only teach a child one money habit, it would be – don’t spend more than you have.
WHEN TO START TEACHING KIDS ABOUT MONEY
I think by the time a child is in school at age 5 or 6 is a perfect time to start to show and tell and help them establish good habits around spending and saving. Bad and good habits form early. They leave an indelible impression on the mind. I would hope all parents would want their kids to have the best chance to be financially savvy and responsible.
PERSONAL FINANCE – SHOULD IT BE TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS?
Absolutely. It should be a mandate at the State level and a unified curriculum should be employed. I launched several projects around financial literacy while I was at InvestmentNews and I am now working on a project with a non-profit started by a financial advisor around this as well. Stay tuned for more! This is an area I am incredibly passionate about!
COLLEGE STUDENT DEBT
I think attending college is wonderful! However, the costs involved in attending college now versus when I went are astronomical. There’s got to be a better way to educate our students and not have them be in so much debt by the time they graduate. It is not motivating them. And it sets them up for never being able to actively participate in investing in the market or in real estate.
I didn’t have a credit card until I had a full time job and after graduating from college. So, I was never in a position to overspend in college because I only could use cash. While credit cards are so convenient, and trust me I use them exclusively now, I believe it is harder to learn the lessons of saving when you can just virtually buy anything and put it on a card and you don’t actually see the money or touch the money you are spending.
FINANCIAL PET PEEVES
Borrowing against your 401K.
Anyone who is self made. And those individuals who give a significant portion of their income back to charity.
I remember when I was in 8th grade. I lived down the street from a lake that all the kids would go to swim in during the summer. To get to the lake, we had to walk directly past a boy named Glenn’s house. Glenn had the brilliant idea of using his convenient location and capitalizing on it. He would buy boxes of candy in bulk and then sell the candy individually to all of us on our way to the lake for a significant increase. I always respected that. I am sure he went on to become a millionaire entrepreneur
LEARN MORE ABOUT SUZANNE
MORE CHILDHOOD MONEY MEMORIES
Sheryl Garrett, CFP, Founder – Garrett Financial Planning Network, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Brian Dorcy, CEO, Excite Credit Union, San Jose, California