Our third America Saves Week spotlight is Deborah Frazier, Liz Frazier Peck’s mother. She shares the influence that having a family who owned their own businesses had on her, and how being cut-off from any financial support two years into college made her take charge of her financial life.
All in the family
Deborah Frazier grew up in a hardworking family. Her father and his six brothers and sisters all owned their own businesses: Four of them owned the family grocery stores, one an insurance agency, and the last a group of successful sporting goods stores.
“My father felt that being in control of your work life and not being at the whim of a boss were important for your financial security. Him, my aunts, and uncles were all a big influence and great role models” she shared.
Her mother managed the household budget. “She grew up terribly poor in foster homes. She and dad fought often about how much she spent. All of us children had to be dressed to the nines because I think she grew up with only hand me downs.”
First grade savings, early earnings
The elementary school she attended had a savings account program which started in first grade. Connected to the town’s local bank, students had a passbook where they recorded their deposits. “My parents gave me a dollar each week [for the program]. Because there were no withdrawals allowed, I learned the power of compound interest. It was a great program, but [it] ended after elementary school.”
As kids, she and her siblings started working from an early age in her father’s grocery store. Because the money they earned was their own, they used if they wanted things like clothes. “At the age of twelve, I started working in the produce department bagging fruit. I earned minimum wage at the time, but I was thrilled with it,” she shared. “I think I worked on weekends, first in my grandfather’s store. It was a lot of fun because I was the oldest grandchild and he doted on me.”
Although she doesn’t remember saving any of the money she earned, she does remember her father taking her to open a savings account when she got her social security number. “[M]y dad took me to our local bank, Marine Midland, and opened a savings account with me. Sadly, I don’t remember much discussion or checking on me to see if I was saving.”
Girls don’t need college
Deborah’s father thought it unnecessary for a girl to go to college, because he believed that they only went there to meet a guy and get married. Despite that, she still attended Corning, a small community college to study nursing. He gave her a monthly allowance of $100, and she felt “totally confident” managing it; until he cut her off completely.
“We lived in an apartment and were the only ones with a phone, so we would let others use it and pay their share when the bill came,” she said. “One month, the phone bill was $90. He blew his stack.”
“My father cut me off after a fight over the phone bill. I got a little cocky and said I didn’t need him. Two days later I got a letter saying ‘It warms a father’s heart when his child finally becomes independent.’ I never got another dime,” she shared.
Let kids solve their own problems
To get through college, she worked for a research company entering numbers on a spreadsheet and cleaned and cooked for a frat house. “It never occurred to me to quit school, even though I knew I could go home and have a job. I learned that I was goal oriented, which is one of the most important factors in managing your money.”
“Putting myself through college after he cut me off gave me the confidence that I could take care of myself no matter what happened. I still think that at the age of 70,” she said.
“It is important to give your children that confidence by letting them solve their own problems. As a parent, it is so hard to do. We want them to always be happy, but if we solve all problems for them, it takes away their confidence in themselves,” she advised.
Budgeting to not bounce checks
Deborah was married after her first four years of nursing. Her husband was still in his residency, so they were just getting by. “I had always been in charge of my finances, even after marriage. The reason was that I had to [be], and my husband wasn’t.”
She saved through work, mostly in savings type accounts in that day. “[There were] no computers or online auto drafts. I had a budget and kept track of what I was spending so I didn’t bounce a check. I don’t remember saving beyond that, mostly because I tried to help my sister, who was still in college and I was a young woman who liked clothes,” she shared.
Deborah graduated with a degree in nursing in 1969 and got a job in a large teaching hospital. “I earned $9,000 a year and felt that I was rich. It was sometime after that, the I felt I could always take care of myself,” she said.
Motherhood and the quest for a new career
After ten years working in the nursing profession, she got pregnant with her daughter Liz. She initially thought she would go back to work after she was born, but after the first time she kicked, she knew she couldn’t leave her. “I decided to put a 10-year plan in place to find another profession. Like I said… goals. I did lots of volunteer work, and [my son] Rich was born two years later,” she shared.
In order to teach her kids about money, Deborah used games like Monopoly or made up her own that had to do with venture capital. Her son especially loved the latter. “Rich was more interested in playing money type games. He was and still is family champ in most games, sorry Liz!”
Walk away from the deal
When her father passed away, he left her a very small inheritance which she invested without understand what she was buying.“I bought a limited partnership in Hardee’s from a broker at E.F Hutton. He never asked me one question, not whether I was married, what my goals were, or what risk was acceptable. It was not liquid so I couldn’t get money out. It wasn’t a terrible product, but the experience got me interested in learning about investing.”
“You have to be educated on money. My dad told me one thing that I passed on to kids: If someone is trying to sell you something, always say you need to think about it. If the ‘deal’ is only available today, walk away,” she shared. “Most young people are not equipped to deal with a good salesman. I have had many clients fall prey to this prior to coming to [our firm].”
Deborah’s husband retired early due to illness at a time that her business was still young. “I had to use home equity loans to get through that time. Once my business took off, I was happily able to save. The company, of course, has value that will support retirement on its own.”
“I still love my work and feel so lucky that my kids have joined the firm. We all work really well together, and they spent the time to get their CFPs and learn the business,” she shared. Her daughter, Liz, worked for her out of college; after three years, she said she wanted to quit. “She told me, ‘I love everything about the business except the finance part.’ I laughed when in the next breath she said she wanted to get her MBA.”
Investing and saving advice
Deborah advises to start investing early, even with a small amount. “Be conservative with your first investment after having saved cash. There are lots of wonderful sites and books that can help find that first investment. Explore dividend investing programs that many large companies support. Learn about dollar cost averaging, and always invest in your company’s retirement plans, if they match your contributions, invest enough to get the maximum match,” she shared. “Above all, pay yourself first, meaning saving.”