My Finances Look A Lot Like Ariel's And Why I Have to Teach My Imaginary Daughter Better

I was encouraged to be a dreamer like Ariel. To believe that whosits and whatsits and thingamabobs were just as important as knives and forks.

Jul 3, 2012 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

"Look at this stuff, isn't it neat. Wouldn't you think my collection complete? Wouldn't you think I'm the girl, the girl who has--everything?" I didn't even have to look that up on Google, guys. Like Lesley, "I can recite most of [The Little Mermaid] from memory, and not because I watch it regularly as an adult." It's because TLM rocked my 9-year-old world so hard, I've still got the shakes. 

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Ariel not reading one of Suze Orman's books.

So it didn't come as a huge surprise when after taking LearnVest's "Which Disney Princess is Your Financial Twin" quiz that my fiscal doppelganger is Ariel, the dreamer-slash-hoarder who famously put all her chips into one basket.

We admire Ariel for her single-minded focus on what she wants most out of life: Prince Eric, and the humanity he requires. But it has to be said that she enters into some bad deals. The girl was in some serious debt! Your voice is a high price to pay for … well, legs. Ok, maybe not that high.

That's what the site told me after I answered a set of questions like, "Do you have credit card debt" (Um, doy) and "Where would we find you at the department meeting?" (Hiding out in the ladies). There was another question about whether or not I'd be willing to start as an administrative assistant at my dream job and my answer was a resounding "probably." All that, plus my apparent hatred for eco-friendly business practices, led me to the only Disney princess who gambled with a loan shark and got what she wanted at the end. 

Hopefully, you resemble Ariel more in terms of focusing on your goals than the whole taking superfluous risks and incurring debt thing.

If only. 

Funny thing is I can trace (blame?) a lot of my financial missteps to my childhood. My mom was the type to take risks she probably couldn't afford in the name of living life to the fullest and showing me that no matter our temporary circumstances we could still have "everything" like Ariel. So I got to ride my own pony when I was six, had been on an airplane, spent summers at sleep-a-way camp and learned to ski. 

But obviously we couldn't have it all without some serious blow back in the budget department. Right alongside the rich memories of living "high on the hog" are those of lean times, when I got pulled out of the middle of class to speak to the dean of my private school about our overdue bill. Yes, that actually happened.

In the end, though, a lot of our creative budgeting worked. She figured out a way to send me to college across the country and I somehow paid for my first apartment. Learning how to juggle food and rent while playing twister with two entry-level jobs is a life skill that's come in pretty handy. But could it've been different? And would different have been better? 

According to another LearnVest article featured on Forbes.com, "7 Ways You're Hurting Your Daughter's Future," there are a lot of seemingly innocent mistakes moms make when rearing the next generation of would-be Hillary Clintons and Paris Hiltons. Namely buying gender-specific toys, telling your kid she's pretty way too much, dieting in front of her and letting your husband mow the lawn instead of making dinner.

I was surprised the list didn't include anything about teaching girls about money. In 2010, more than 4 million more women than men lived in poverty, according to the National Center For Law and Economic Justice. The numbers are related to several factors like equal pay, the low-paying "pink collar" jobs women are traditionally tracked into, the cost of raising children disproportionately falling on women, etc.

None of the other stuff mentioned on the list went down in our house. I had GI Joes and Tonka trucks. Despite hating on principle alone I was forced to do extra work during the summer. My mother never dieted and she played in an adult softball league because it was fun not because, like the other moms, she wanted to lose ten pounds. She did a whole lot of stuff right, stuff that stuck with me into adulthood. 

Then there's my credit score.

My mother encouraged to be a dreamer like Ariel. To believe that whosits and whatsits and thingamabobs were just as important as knives and forks. What that meant for my future was obvious--I became a thinker upper of stuff.  That was my Happily Ever After, but no one told me sock away some of that left over fairy dust.

Sure it's nobody's responsibility but my own but if we're talking Shit My Moms Says and how it affects your daughter in the future, some like "I'll just pay that next month" is just as influential as "I just need to lose ten pounds."