Who taught you about money? I hear a lot of you say “Nobody!” So how do you learn about money? The answer is to find a “money mentor” and learn from him or her. A money mentor is a financially confident person you look up to who can help you sort out your money hopes, dreams – and woes – by offering one money motivation, inspiration and honest feedback.

“Why do I need a money mentor, you may be asking? After all my parents may not be rich, but they pay their debts every month and they seem fine….” Yes they probably DO seem fine, but are they financially secure, and will they be able to retire or will they become dependent on you in their old age? Nobody wants to be a burden on those they love, but without learning appropriate money management skills that could become the reality.

So who can I talk to? A first point of call can be your Employee Wellness Program if you are feeling financial stress and needing a helping hand. The truth is that anyone can be a money mentor but it’s important to find one who speaks your financial language and who understands your goals. It can be very difficult to talk openly about money, especially if your parents never discussed money, or if discussing money always led to arguments in your home.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have family members who are great at managing their money and we needn’t look further than our own dinner table. If we are lucky we will be taught to stay away from debt and put money away towards retirement from our very first paycheck, and to stay at home until we can buy our own property rather than renting and paying off someone else’s bond. But not all of us are lucky enough to have money-savvy family members so we have to look further afield….

Do you have a money smart friend? You know the one who bought his own home before anyone else who has been nagging you to start an emergency fund and pay off your credit card. It is often easier to speak to a friend because they are in your peer group and often experience the same challenges as you. Ask that friend how they manage to save on their salary, how they saved for their own home, and how they stayed out of debt. Your friends probably know you better than your own family does, so will probably be supportive and understanding. They won’t judge you and will encourage you when you feel like giving up. They won’t be that friend who is always trying to convince you to go out partying even when you say you don’t have money.

Your family may have lived in a “feast or famine” environment where money was spent as it was received with no thought towards the future, and no planning. A friend grew up in an environment like that and had run up quite a bit of debt before she got married. She was surprised when she went shopping with her mother-in-law to see that she never bought anything on impulse, worked out a budget and stuck to it. By watching her mother-in-law she managed to “unlearn” most of what she had learnt from her upbringing and was able to pay off her debt and start saving. She sometimes has to remind herself that it’s okay to spend money as long as she has budgeted for it.

I once read about a lady who started work as a cleaner in a bank. She used the opportunity she had to listen to advice given to customers while she was going about her daily business. By using what she heard she managed to start saving and investing, put her children through university and retire comfortably.
You never know where you will find your money mentor, and you are often unaware of the impact your behaviour has on those around you. Your attitude, including towards money, is contagious – make sure yours is worth catching.