THE SOUND AND SMELL of the Pickle will be forever burned into my memory. As a wannabe cool teenager, getting rides to school and soccer practice from my parents in their inherited 1976 green Dodge Aspen coupe with whitewall tires—a.k.a. the Pickle—was beyond embarrassing.
Sometimes, my parents would honk pulling away, just to add insult to injury. Needless to say, it took a bit of humble pie to finally understand the lessons my parents were teaching me, and my sisters, daily.
I didn’t quite grasp what joy my father got from driving old, out-of-style automobiles until one day after soccer practice. On the way home, we took a detour to an affluent part of the small college town I grew up in. He asked me what I thought of these fancy, large houses with beautiful, new cars outside. Like a naive teenager, I remarked that these people must have it all—ultimate happiness and wealth.
That ride home, and several embarrassing Pickle pickups later, I began to understand that perception isn’t always reality. My father pointed out that not every large, beautiful house and expensive car on the block was purchased by someone with sufficient means to pay those bills. My parents didn’t value keeping up with the Joneses. Rather, they had chosen to be conscious spenders. Large expenses were aligned with the values they prioritized for our family—values like adventure, education and a hard work ethic.
On top of Pickle rides, there was Sunday breakfast, which consisted of burned buckwheat pancakes, soccer strategy and a financial lesson. After eating our well-done complex carbohydrates and visualizing our soccer prowess, Dad turned to a financial article or book to explain a new concept. It began with charts of the Nasdaq to explain what the stock market was and what a stock is, followed promptly by why we should care.
He always ensured we had some skin in the game to keep us interested. That skin just happened to come from our farm, manual labor and 4-H earnings. I absolutely despised farm work, but I loved making money. Once I began to understand that money could eventually work far harder on my behalf than I could with my own sweat equity, I was hooked.
In many ways, my parents were way ahead of the curve. They taught us the virtues of frugality, hard work, an unassuming lifestyle and the concept of values-based spending. Perhaps most important, they demonstrated grace in enjoying the ride—no matter how ugly the car might be.
Anika Hedstrom’s previous articles were Getting Schooled and Site Seeing (Part IV). Anika is a financial planner with Vista Capital Partners in Portland, Ore. She loves to nerd-out and, when given a dollar, will save 96 cents.