Do right by others and stand on your own two feet
How often do you think about what you learned from your mum and dad? And how many of their words do you still heed today?
Like it or not, our work ethic, attitude to money, family and to other people, have been shaped in part by the grown ups we looked up to as kids and now it’s our turn to help to shape the values of the next generation.
It doesn’t matter how much the world changes (and boy has it changed over the last 30 years!), looking out for the people we love is as important today as it’s always been. Okay, so the days of leaving an envelope on the mantelpiece are long gone, but we still save what we can and insure ourselves for the same reasons our parents did. All that’s changed is how we do it.
What our parents taught us
Mums and dads drummed a sense of responsibility into their kids and insisted the family got by without relying on anyone else, particularly for money. The threat of the workhouse may have passed but the memories still lingered.
As soon as we could stand on our own two feet, we were expected to! Doing chores and looking after younger siblings were a given and pulling our weight and helping others has been in our DNA ever since.
Values born of hard times
Our parents’ self-reliance and pride now so much a part of us too, may well have grown out of the hardships endured by their own parents. Hard to imagine now we have the NHS, but only a century or so ago a working class family could expect to lose at least one child if not more.
A funeral was a huge expense that could leave a family destitute, but the shame of a pauper’s burial was unbearable. It’s a stigma so deeply ingrained that it lives on to this day and is one reason why people want to help fund their own funeral while they can.
The arrival of life insurance without the need for a medical, offered for the first time by SunLife in 1900, and so-called ‘penny policies’ meant ordinary folk could put a penny a week aside for funeral expenses. Parents took out a policy for every new born child and a tuppence policy for Dad if they could stretch to it.
Millions of penny policies were taken out and thousands are yet to be claimed. So if you find a yellowing, old official looking document in the loft with your name on it, don’t throw it away - it could be worth a few bob!
Doing the right thing can be tough
Dad the breadwinner and mum the housewife was the norm. It was mum’s job to work out how to make dad’s wage last the week and for many families that was a challenge.
A penny a week per child from a salary of just a few pounds was a big outlay, especially as it was the brood not the wage packet, that usually grew. Mums divvied out coins between compartments in a special tin, having to decide what could be sacrificed that week so the rent and insurance premiums could be paid. Heating, even food sometimes, came second to protecting the family’s future.
For us kids, going without wasn’t fun but we certainly learned how to prioritise what really matters.
Embracing change is what we do…
Time marches on and so do we. Life’s taught us that change is there to be embraced, however fond our memories.
Take the insurance man. For children, there was something exciting about the regular visit from the smart man in the fedora, who collected the envelope from the mantelpiece and made a note of the payment in his book. For our parents faced with stumping up the money, probably less so!
You can’t help but mourn the personal touch - transacting online will never feel the same as on the doorstep - but progress has its benefits.
These days, if you want to help with funeral costs or leave a little something behind for the kids, it takes minutes to sort out. Getting a life insurance quote online is easy as is applying and you don’t have to get dressed to do it! No more probing interview with the bank manager either.
No middle man helps keep things affordable too – what was a penny a week back in the day is a pound or more a week today.
Paying by direct debit means no worries about missing a payment or leaving the front door on the latch and tighter regulation means you can be confident your money’s safe.
…but that doesn’t mean we have to change
Yes, smartphones and tablets have changed how we do things and progress is showing no sign of slowing down, but technology can’t touch the values we hold dear.
Taking responsibility, standing on our own two feet, looking out for others and the many other principles we’ve inherited from previous generations still drive us today and thanks to us, are alive and well in the next generation, even if they don’t know it yet and we can’t quite see it. Our parents probably weren’t convinced either!
What wise words from your upbringing still ring in your ears today? Do you embrace change or wish you could go back in time? We’d love to hear your thoughts.