Vanessa McGrady


Financial Lessons From My Parents—And What I Had To Learn Myself

My parents taught me two important things about money—the rest I learned on my own

Here’s what I learned about money from my dad, an underemployed writer turned cancer-treatment-bounty-hunter who would help hopeless patients find treatments all over the world: Money is a control tool. Any time I’d ask for it, there was a cost that seemed greater than the cash value. So before he’d hand over my allowance after a week of regularly scheduled chores, he’d have me do something like clean the entire garage before I went to see my friends on a Saturday—while they were waiting for me in the driveway. So I got a job bussing tables that paid 10 times my allowance. But Dad also once wrote a best-selling book that made a lot of money, so I knew it was possible for someone like us to hit it big.

Here’s what I learned about money from my mother, an artist, who at one time had a stellar career as a prima ballerina and clothing designer, but burned out and was never able to make much of a living after the ’80s: Money is elusive. This is a woman who would survive by finding an apartment, stop paying rent, then get evicted and play it out long enough to get money together for another place. And the process would repeat itself. She was always running, until she was able to buy a place when she was in her 60s. But also, sometimes, she’d get a windfall and we’d spend all of it on a fancy dinner at Trader Vic’s.

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