America Saves Week Spotlight: Holly Parker


March 1, 2017

For America Saves Week (ASW), I wanted to bring you personal insights and experiences from real women in my life. They are all at different stages of their journey to financial freedom and have great insights and tips. I was also fortunate to be able to interview a mom and dad who played a huge role in influencing their relationship with money and shaping their money story. I hope you find them as fascinating as I did!

Tell us about your relationship with money growing up: Did you and your family talk about it? 

My dad always spoke to us about the importance of saving and investing. He was pretty proactive about it. For example, when my grandma gave me $11 for my birthday, he took me to the bank and deposited it in my savings account, telling me that someday it would grow to be $15 or $20.

At one point, grandma gave us kids a decent amount of money as a gift. Of course, dad took the opportunity to teach us something, and being a wealth manager, he decided to use our money to buy us stocks and chose some of them that I could relate to like Disney. He gathered us to see what their quarterly “report card” told us about their performance. We would go through the numbers, and he would tell us, “The whole game in life is like the ant and the grasshopper: The ant saves food for the winter so it doesn’t starve, but the grasshopper doesn’t, so it remains hungry begging for food. If you prepare for your future, you can grow your nuts.” He used to call savings “nuts.”

Dad insisted that my mom keep her own separate bank account. She worked part time, and whatever money she saved she used to plan our vacations. He always encouraged me to make it on my own and not depend on anyone.

What did you learn about money growing up?
From that time that I was six years old, every time my dad gave me money, he would say, “Accepting any money from me is a responsibility because every dollar that you’re accepting from me, you’re making me a promise to give at least as much to every one of your child. Otherwise, you should only live off the interest and not touch the amount.”  He would always caution that one generation builds up a family’s fortune and then next generation takes it down.

Since I was the youngest, dad was more involved with me: He took me out with his clients, we traveled for his work trips, and I had the chance to live in multiple countries because of his career. What frustrated him the most is to see how his clients’ kids blew away and spent their hard earned and long built wealth over the years. When you don’t build it, you don’t value it.

I grew to be fascinated by the concept of money. I always had a summer job from when I was five years old when I sold Brussel sprouts and vegetables. At the age of eight, I baked and sold French bread, and by the time I was twelve, I started running a summer daycare camp which I called “Camp Sunshine” until my lawyer uncle came around one day and shut it down because of the many liabilities that I as a child, wasn’t aware of.

As a teenager, I worked as a nanny during the summers. I lived in beautiful stunning homes in the best places to summer, my room and board were free, and I rarely had to spend much money since all activities andparties were mostly hosted in people’s homes.

Though my dad had loved that I learned the importance of saving, there came a point he wasn’t: I was a junior in college and dad and I had a big fight a day before my trip to France. He handed me a big fat check for the trip, but I tore it up. That was the first time I felt that money truly equals freedom. I felt so powerful! He hated that I had the ability to go to another country and pay for it on my own. I took him a little bit of time, but he was proud of me.

When you went to college, how confident did you feel about money? What were your plans?

By the time I was off to college, I had already been exposed to massive amounts of wealth and I knew that was what I wanted myself. I was obsessed with hotels and beautiful houses. I was in love with a book called “Places to Kiss” which was filled with beautiful Bed & Breakfasts and my dream was to travel and stay at all those amazing homes.

My parents were paying for my tuition, books, housing, food and they were giving me $20 a week for any other spending. They had signed me up for an $1,800 per semester meal plan; on my second day, I sold it and began preparing my own meals, which was much cheaper. I started cooking for a family four nights a week and during lunchtime, I worked at the Student Union building making sandwiches earning a minimum wage.

With the help of my grandmother’s investments, I managed to save $42,000 by the time I graduated.

When did you first take charge of your own finances and how?

My passion was to grow wealth and have fun. I saved all the money I could over the years, probably around 80% of it.

I started investing in real estate with $56,000 of my savings which thankfully grew into a large successful portfolio that my husband and I continually invest in for our kids’ and our future.

Where are you with your saving habits? What do you do well, and how might you want to improve?

It’s important to have a goal of how much you want to save. I knew I wanted to have $3,000,000 saved by the time I was 40. I start out the year conserving. I know exactly how much money I will make every month and make a budget, and I always pay myself first. I manually transfer money into a separate account for my yearly goal each month and I forget about it.

I was so focused on my financial investments alongside my own career that I exceeded all my goals and benchmarks. We have our dream home here in New York City and our dream farm in the countryside, and we get to travel extensively and comfortably with our whole family. We started saving for the boys and my father started their 529 program for them when they were just two and urged us to continuously contribute to them.

If you were to have a daughter, what is the first thing would you want her to know?

Money equals freedom. Once a woman becomes successful, many people won’t like that and she will face jealousy and envy. Money is the freedom to choose to work or not; it is also the freedom to do what you love, because it gives you the chance to explore what that is.

My dad always advised me to have an Emergency Fund, an A**hole Fund and a Business Fund. Being on your own can be painful, but that painfulness is about walking into adulthood, figuring out who you are and what you’re made of. You only know what you are capable of when you face and tackle your fears.

I would tell her, “I want you to fall in love someday, I want you to get married; but I want you to live an independent life before you do that, to find a career that you’re passionate about and to do it to your absolute capability. Marrying my husband and my kids’ birth were the most important days in my life, but a close runner up were the moments in my career where I had the exhilaration of meeting my highest capabilities. Those were some of the best moments in my life, and you potentially skipping that would be such a sad thing for me.”

Share your #1 savings tip.

People who accrue and save the most think about it and plan the most. Be involved with your finances, always know your net worth, and know where you are in terms of your annual goals. It’s not good enough to think that someday things will change for you, it doesn’t work that way; you need to be proactive and not expect things to just change by themselves.

Article by Dina Shoman

Dina Shoman Dina Shoman is a banking veteran who comes from a long family history in banking. Having built a successful career in the industry while still in her 20s, she became the youngest and first woman Executive Vice President at Arab Bank, holding board seats on the boards of multiple bank and nonprofit entities. By 2012, she was listed as the 3rd most powerful Arab business women in publicly owned companies in 2012 by Forbes Middle East and was nominated as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in the same year.

Dina is the founder of inherQuests, a company that creates fun financial education products for kids. The company’s first products (Financial Fun Boxes) are focused on teaching girls as young as 5 years old financial literacy through money games for girls built as a curriculum of educational standards aligned to Common Core and which uses the experiential education and game-based learning models.

Dina served as Executive Vice President and Head of Branding at Arab Bank from 2006 to 2012 and served as a Member of its Board of Arab Bank plc in addition to other related entities such as Arab Bank Switzerland and Arab Bank Australia, as well as several reputable NGOs in Jordan like the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation, the Jordan River Foundation and INJAZ. She currently holds advisory positions to startups, and volunteers with nonprofit organizations such Junior Achievement, Global Teacher Prize Award, and the International Youth Foundation.

Dina was born and raised in Jordan and educated in the United States. She holds a BS in Finance, and an MBA from Bentley University, as well as a Professional Certificate from Georgetown University in Organizational Consulting and Change Leadership.

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