When You Realize Your baby Boomer Parents are Not as Investing Savvy as Previously Thought
My baby boomer parents are not as investing savvy as I previously thought. I put them on a pedestal when I grew up (as all children seem to do). It wasn’t until a few years after I started investing myself in my early 20’s that I realized maybe the didn’t know as much as I thought they did.
My parents have different investing styles, and my mom has more assets invested into the stock market compared to my dad. My parents are divorced for many years (over 15 years) and had separate finances before they got divorced.
mom’s investing style
Growing up, my mom seemed so knowledgable with investing. She is independent and had her own investments separate from my father’s even when she became a stay at home mom after the age of 37. She keeps track of her investments in a little book (just like I do now! I learned this from her I suppose). She saved up a bit of money for us that we received as gifts as children and put them in laddered GIC’s and would continually buy more GIC’s when they expired.
I realized that my mom’s investing style is mainly speculation and there is no such thing as asset allocation in her investment portfolio. She doesn’t know her rate of return for the year. I didn’t realize that she knew less than I did about investing until I was in my late 20’s. When I started investing in my early 20’s, I would talk to my mom about the potential equities that I was interested in. She has a BMO Investorline brokerage account. I remember when she used to call in to the BMO Investorline number to place a trade for $29.99 (YES can you believe this is pre-Internet discount brokerage era? How times have changed). My mom and I bought a stock together because I didn’t have a brokerage account yet (e.g. I gave her $1250 and she placed the trade in her account). It was Intrepid Potash (IPI). We also bought Visa (NYSE: V) close to the IPO period. My mom still holds Visa to this day and it is one of my investing mistakes since I sold too early.
the rose coloured lenses came off
Years later, I realize that my mom isn’t as investment savvy that I previously thought. My mom hasn’t maximized her Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA). I think most of her TFSA is invested with a financial adviser charging high annual fees (she pays thousands annually, likes the Christmas cards she gets from them every year, and likes to go to the bank and chat them up). She still keeps a lot of her money in laddered GIC’s. My mom says she wants to get out of investing with this financial adviser but she doesn’t really know how. She isn’t interested in DIY investing like I am.
That being said, she’s doing absolutely fine! She has enough money for retirement- which is a relief since it’s one less thing to worry about come sandwich generation time.
dad’s investing style
I always thought my dad was an investing guru. He never talks much about the stock market, he seemed very savvy with his money. He is very savvy with tax minimization strategies. His earnings stretched to raise four children.
On a family gathering about a year ago, I chatted with my dad about his investments. I found out that my dad only has one stock. It is Manulife Financial (MFC.TO). He didn’t have very much in Manulife either (I think it was under $10,000). His main investments are real estate and is heavily invested in that. I suppose he’s not very diversified if he only has one stock and the rest in real estate.
Despite this, my dad is also doing fine and has his retirement ready even though he’s still working, managing his properties. I’m not sure when he will stop working though.
the invincibility cloak is removed
Realizing that I know more than my parents do in terms of investing was a little jarring. The invincibility cloak that my parents had is now removed. Even though they do not have Warren Buffett super-powers in terms of investing, they have done well for themselves.
The important things I learned from my parents is to spend less than you earn and to practice frugality. I did take a few things away from my mom’s investing style, like keeping track of things in a little book (so old school I know!). Hopefully I will be able to impart these money lessons to my child(ren) when he (they) get older. Maybe they will grow up to be more investing savvy than me, and I will be so proud!
Readers, when did you realize that you might know more than your parents in terms of investing? What is their investing style like?
GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates, a free dividend yield spreadsheet, and the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse.
43 thoughts on “When You Realize Your Boomer Parents are Not as Investing Savvy as Previously Thought”
I love this, because it’s so true about seeing your parents more clearly through your adult eyes! As for money…someday my kids will be writing this same post about me, hahaha! I realized just two days ago that over 90% of my net worth is in real estate! But I still wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂
@CashflowKat- Hah, yes, I wonder what my child will be saying about me. Real estate has worked well for many! My dad wouldn’t have it any other way too. Charlie Munger made his big break from real estate too!
Very interesting topic. My parents live in a village in China. They save, but don’t invest. The stock market in China is only decades old, and is not mature enough. They always lived under the means, and tried to save as much as possible. I got that simple lifestyle from them, but with some revisions.
@Helen- It’s interesting to read all the comments and how everyone’s parents raised them. I like your comment “I got that simple lifestyle from them, but with some revisions” that’s how I feel about myself too! My mother in law leads a simple life and my husband also leads a simple life. My mom leads a simple life and so do I.
My parents never invested money – except in their home – and wouldn’t have known where to start to invest in the stock market!
They managed to raise four kids with no debts but never saved anything.
Can’t wait to see what my kids have to say when they get older!:)
@Caroline- You’ve done so well, your daughter has $30K saved up which is astounding for a new university graduate! Haha, I hope your kids know and appreciate all that you do for them and how investing savvy you are!
My parents aren’t very good with investing. My dad is very speculative. He always want to borrow $50,000 or something like that to buy a condo in Thailand. He could renovate and rent it out, then sell it later for a profit. The problem is if I send him money, he’ll keep asking. And I don’t know when he sell or take profit. He’ll use the profit to go out drinking or whatever. I’d rather send $500/month to help with cost of living. Anyway, your parents did pretty well. Good job.
@Joe- That sounds like my dad except he doesn’t sell it and just keeps it. It’s hard to draw the line to loan money with family, so good idea not to start it. Your father is very lucky to have a supportive son like you to support him financially.
Ha, I’ve always known more than my mom on investing matters! I wanted to move my mom’s old 401k money into some less aggressive index funds, but she was wary, so she moved the $ into a local bank’s IRA CD. I had never even heard of an IRA CD. Anyway, it makes maybe $1,000 per year. Big whoop! Anyway, if she ever hands over the money to me, you bet I’ll do my best to grow it as safely as possible. Anyway, she doesn’t even think she needs this IRA money. She has her own savings in her bank account plus Social Security, so she thinks she’ll be fine with just those two money sources. I don’t doubt she’ll be fine in terms of day-to-day living, but she’s not accounting for healthcare costs. She already avoids going to the doctor now because she doesn’t want to pay for it.
@The Luxe Strategist- Thanks for sharing you and your mom’s experience. It’s so interesting seeing how different our Boomer parents all are. Awe, hopefully, your mom will hand over the reigns to you soon. I already worry about who will help with Power of Attorney for my mom if she is unable to go to the bank or speak for herself with her financial matters. Here in Canada healthcare is included (my mom pays a flat fee for MSP payments monthly) but my mom STILL doesn’t go to the doctor.
Hi GYM, my parents aren’t very savvy investors either. Fortunately they had some savings, a paid off house and a defined pension plan. (not many of those anymore)
@Steve- I wonder who are these people who invested in the stock market in the 1960-70’s and beyond then, sounds like none of our parents really got into the stock market.
One of my parents recently let me take over their account management. They’ve been all bonds since 2008. Agh! The other I haven’t seems account but I don’t imagine is much better. Then again I learned most of what I know about money from taking the opposite action they do so not surprised. Yet another reason I believe financial education should be a mandatory high school class.
@FullTimeFinance- Thanks for visiting! Oh gosh, 100% bonds since 2008!??!! Your eyes must have widened a bit when you saw that. That’s great that one of your parents lets you help out.
My mom has been investing in the market for about 20 years now but picks out individual stocks for her portfolio instead of getting into funds. I tried to advise her into getting into safer investments like index funds or bonds but she insists that her strategy on buying individual stocks from up and coming companies is good for her.
My dad on the other hand isn’t all into investing in the market and lets my mom handle it. He’s more into rental properties where they have one in SF and going to have another one, a condo over in Asia.
@Kris- Hey, your mom sounds like she’s the only investor here (other than my mom). My mom doesn’t have funds either but she has high priced mutual funds. Sounds like our parents are pretty similar.
Its true and something I notice myself. Used to look up to my mum massively in terms of her ability to run a family but as I grew older I realised she isn’t best prepared for emergencies – has little to no savings, debt ect. Its a strange but good feeling to be in a better position than her.
@Martin- It IS a strange feeling. I feel kind of sad about it though, but I know that parents ideally want their children to be better than them.
Lol I’m sure you already heard me say this in one of your posts, but I’ll say it again. My parents never really invested. They had a period where they invested in mutual funds for no more than 6 years and they stopped. They never invested again.
As a child, I always looked up to them and thought they were always right about everything. But after graduating from university, I started to think for myself and questioned the things my parents did. They never invested, and they aren’t spendthrifts but they never try to find the best value when they shopped for things, and they always pay full price for whatever they see. It boggles my mind because low-income people are usually frugal…….. but my parents aren’t, lol.
It sounds like even though your parents didn’t take advantage of some things (e.g. your mother with the TFSA), at the very least they still invested and are good for retirement. That’s the most important part.
BTW, maybe your kid will become similar to Warren Buffett. Start hustling and buy their first stock at age 11 😀
@fin$avvypanda- Haha, we will try and make sure our child learns to hustle and has the motivation to earn money and know the value of a dollar. When you don’t earn your own money you don’t realize how valuable a dollar is! (I know I took it for granted until I started working full time). That’s interesting about your parents 🙂 My mom is quite the opposite and likes to spend time finding a good deal. My mom used to drive across town for cheaper gas to fill up, and I think I calculated the cost for her one time (that it wasn’t worth it) and she still does it.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten to appreciate how much MORE my dad knows than I ever realized. He’s still the one I can go to for investing advice, which I completely appreciate (and realize now how rare this is).
@Angela- Oh wow!! Yes that seems rare. I would love to read more about your dad!
The key thing I’ve noticed as the son of successful parents and as the parent of three millennials is that investment strategy is of minor importance. I mean there are incredibly stupid strategies (100% Bitcoin and penny stocks) that will absolutely destroy your future wealth but within reason how you invest doesn’t matter much. What matters is how much and how early you invest and how consistently. Maximizing income and controlling lifestyle inflation are hugely important compared to whether you buy a high cost mutual fund versus a low cost Vanguard index. I’m kind of proud but not surprised my kids still come to us for investment advice because when I retired early and showed them how big our portfolio was they were pretty impressed.
@Steveark- Awe yes, it’s something to be proud of. Thanks for sharing that, you have summarized it very nicely. That’s fantastic your millennial kids are investing. Among my millennial girl friends I think I am one of the only one who invests.
When I started working in finance and learning more and more about investing I started talking to my parents about it and realized that my parents were not nearly as knowledgeable as I thought. When I was a kid I remember my Dad sitting down every Monday night to do the ‘money stuff’ which made it seem like he was on top of everything. I now realize that he was basically doing everything in the most inefficient ways possible.
My parents are both comfortably retired but that is in a large part due to my Dad having a big pension, it certainly wasn’t from their investing prowess. Now they come to me with money questions instead of the other way around.
@Sarah- Awe that must be a good feeling to have your parents come to you! That’s great that your dad sat you down every Monday night to talk about money. It is a great habit to have nonetheless, to set out time to talk about money as a family.
I love the titles of your posts so much. I read this one, and did a palm to forehead moment and nodded in agreement.
Yeah, my parents aren’t who we go to for investing/money advice either. They were great savers! But, were more like squirrels hoarding nuts for the winter…the frugal mentality and cheap living theme was key to building your retirement dream!
I think I have a draft article somewhere on it, but, agree- sometimes you need to step in and advise your parents on what to do. In my personal situation, my parents didn’t micromanage their parents enough…and we have 1 grandma who is almost 90, but, is now going through the start of Alzheimers and what she has done with her finances with BAD suggestions from people who we feel were taking advantage of her, is becoming a nightmare. More palm to forehead moments!!
@Mrs. DS- It would be awesome if squirreling and cheap living worked as well as it did for our parents but I think in order to get ahead a little more ‘umph’ must be added for us millennials. Oh I’m sorry that your grandmother is being financially taken advantage of/ abused. It is unfortunately very common especially when dementia is setting in or exists. It’s important to get things in place or let your loved ones know what you want.
Interesting. I’m a little older and my parents were 36 when they brought me into the world. They were born right before the great depression and are nothing like baby boomers. They grew up poor and every penny was watched very closely. Having no children, I will never know what Junior would have thought. Tom
@Tom- It’s so interesting how each generation handles money/finances and how each generation has a bit of a different ‘culture’. I can imagine that people who went through the great depression must have a very different outlook on wealth because there was such a scarcity of it during those times.
Nice write up!
It is easy to idolize those that raised us. Why wouldn’t we trust them!
Yet we have to figure out what will work best for us individually when investing. Nothing personal to those that came before me but I will make my own decisions and live with them down the road.
@Damn Millennial- Ahh I always enjoy your short and sweet comments- no words are wasted but it is so to the point. Are you sure you are 20-something because you write with so much maturity!
I said in passing we invest and my mom told me to not do it because the people on TV all jumped off a building after they lost all their money.
Yes because that’s why I should never invest -_-
She’s not enlightened or financially educated so I just have to swallow the feelings of failure for her. Jared’s father’s pretty smart and has made his money in stocks and strong pensions. Typical upper middle class story.
@Lily- Oh gosh, you know what I think I remember hearing about that (that people commit suicide from losing it all in the stock market and hence you should not invest in the stock market because it is too risky).
How right you are about parents! Your parents did better than my parents and I worry about their financial future. I knew my parents didn’t have much growing up, they’re both immigrants from the Philippines. I don’t think they had any guide to how they should handle money. But long story short, I learned not to make the same mistakes they did and because of that, I am better off financially. Too bad I can’t say the same for my siblings. No matter how much I try to guide them, they just have to learn things on their own.
@Melanie- My siblings are the same- they’re not interested in my unsolicited advice! Thanks for sharing your experience Melanie!
I don’t think my parents think too much about investing. They’ve always put their money where their financial advisor tells them to, which is usually GICs and mutual funds. My father had a well-paying job with a pension plan, so they’re doing very well in retirement. But I remember the disconcerted looks I always got when I first talked about getting into the stock market! One thing I did learn from my parents was to pay attention to what I was spending my money on. We were a single income household (my mother was a stay-at-home parent) and we definitely didn’t have as much stuff as my friends from double-income households did. So I thought more about money, how I could save it, and how I could grow it through investments. That’s probably what led me to the stock market.
@Five More Years- Have you told your parents about how you’re on track to receive $11K in dividend income this year? They must have switched their disconcerted looks for glances of pride now!!
I think they could have been more agressive with their investments, especially with a pension plan.
With unstable wages and no possibility for a pension, I would have agreed that it’s better to play safe and not risk losing out on investments when retirement get close. But with a good pension plan that covers the necessities and a few riskier investments, they would have the opportunity to live a bit larger when the markets are good, while affording to stay fully invested in case of a crash.
My goal for retirement is to still be able to invest during bad times for the stock markets, while taking money off the table in good times.
@RE- Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂 Hopefully you were able to invest during the bad time last week!
I remember going to the nice lady at the bank with my Dad to deposit cheques and walk into the little closed door room to talk “investments” which were basically sales pitch for high MER bank products. L O L . Also remembered the compaq computer desktop at the bank and Dad would show me how to enter ticker symbols. We eventually migrated over to online discount brokerage, and we’d continue entering trades from home. The only time I ever saw my Dad looked worried was probably in these situations because he was buying on a hunch with no rational behind the decision. But at least he involved me in it. There really wasn’t much explanation on the why for any of the trades. Thankfully, that will be part of the financial education with my kid.
Mom was the real estate aggressive one, but didn’t involve me in it at all.
Man talk about the 90s and high interest rates. It definitely paid handsomely to be a saver throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s.
@Financial Orchid- Awe that’s so nice your dad involved you and showed you how to execute the trade. Maybe he had a rationale but he couldn’t explain it to you when you were younger? My husband’s father actually involved him and wanted him involved with learning about investing, but he wasn’t interested in it until he started making his own money.