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Mar 19, 2014

Money Lessons From Mommy


Today I wish to honor my mother Josefa Guerrero Maquera Fres. It’s not Mother’s Day today but it is my mother’s day as she celebrates her 84th birthday today.


Mamang has a strong personality and yet she manages to be a very sweet and loving wife to my father. While growing up, we knew and felt that she really loved us and would sacrifice for us if she had to. She is also the favorite aunt among most of our cousins and the favorite sister among her siblings. She speaks with gentle authority and up to this day I’ve never heard her curse or say a bad word. Ever! Not even just a tiny bad word to express frustration. But we definitely know when she is angry.


Pepay (her nickname) is the third among seven children of Domingo and Cristina Maquera from Laoag, Ilocos Norte. She used to be called “Chief” because of her strong personality and tomboy ways when she was a young girl. (Well, up to now I still hear some of her siblings and cousins call her that.) When she blossomed into a young lady she was crowned as the town beauty queen by the heartthrobs of Philippine cinema during her time, Leopoldo Salcedo and Rogelio de la Rosa.


Despite Pepay’s katapangan and academic excellence, she was the only one among the seven children who opted not to come to Manila to study. All her siblings studied in Manila for college – Ateneo de Manila, University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas. When I asked her why, she said she still wanted to live with her parents even during college. Then she said in jest, “I felt I might get lost in Manila because of my poor sense of direction.” Unfortunately, I inherited that sense of direction. But I’m not complaining because that’s not the only thing I got from her. She is a great influence in my life and I will forever be thankful for having her as my mother, a great role model.


She was my first teacher about money. Here are some of the money lessons I learned from my mom:


1.    Live within your means but enjoy the fruits of your labor. She was our model of living the lifestyle that you can afford. It was only when I was a bit older that I realized how smoothly she transitioned from a more comfortable lifestyle back in Ilocos with her parents to their life in Manila when they started their family on my father’s income. She learned how to sew dresses so she could make our terno-terno Christmas and New Year’s dresses.


When we, her children, started working she would remind us to save but to also enjoy the fruits of our labor. I liken it to a diet. If one always feels that she’s deprived, chances are she won’t be able to sustain the healthy diet. So once in a while it’s okay to splurge a bit. This has made me sustain my habit of saving, which I developed as early as kindergarten.


2.    There is joy in giving. When we were very young, my sisters and I would mind how some of our aunts would just say, “Hey Chief, I already packed your yellow blouse. It’s mine! Thank you.” Then my mom would just say, “Welcome with a smile as if she was thrilled that her sister found her blouse really nice and worth the “arbor” or in today’s lingo “dibs.”  Our lola once did the same to her packing this really beautiful and delicate figurine that we all loved. It was a lady made of different kinds of shell – face, hair, arms, fan, skirt, small bag and everything intricately crafted together. My sisters and I (our brother was still too young to care) all raised our eyebrows questioning her why she allowed them to just take those nice things. Now I understand. It was in giving those things away that made her feel more abundant.


3.    Beware of “hulugans/gives.” When I started working there were ladies who would come to the office to sell different kinds of jewelry – rings, earrings, necklaces, watches. One time a watch really caught my fancy when the lady showed me how pretty it was on my wrist while a few officemates and I were in the ladies’ room. (I wonder if this is still being practiced – just a few ladies at a time; lest, the boss would wonder why all the girls are gone.) When my mom fetched me from the office that day I told her that I’m planning to buy this wristwatch by paying only x amount per payday. On that day itself, she brought me to a watch store and showed me how big the mark-up was. Then she explained, “Of course the “CR lady” has to put a big mark-up. Do you realize what a big risk she’s taking on those who will not pay the items in full? She has to cover those losses somehow!”


More than the principles on present value of money, credit risk, cost of money, this was the most tangible lesson for me to always ask, “Magkano pag cash?”  (How much if I pay in cash?) My mom further explained, “Only buy on credit if you’re purchasing big ticket items like a house if you don’t have the entire amount up front. It’s okay to pay interest on the loan, anyway the value of your house will most likely appreciate.”


4.    When should you buy/build a house? This is where my mom is a bit aggressive. She said, “Don’t wait for the time when you can say I have enough money to buy a house, for that may never come. Take a leap of faith. Just build what you can afford that’s livable enough, then improve on it later on.” They have built twice and I saw how she and my dad took those leaps of faith. They even said building a house is a test of marriage.


I totally agree. Based on our experience, the stress that goes into house building tests your character and trains you how to conquer future challenges together as husband and wife. Furthermore, I can now say that unnecessarily delaying the construction of your house will waste a lot of precious years that your growing family could have deposited wonderful family memories in your dream home. If my husband and I waited too long, we would be finding ourselves empty-nesting right away in our dream home.


5.    Lend only what you’re willing to “lose.” My mom saw (even I did) how my lolo and lola were taken advantage of by relatives who would borrow money, land, etc. complete with their sad stories worth an episode in Maalaala Mo Kaya. My lola was soft-hearted in this area that she easily gave in to such requests. A lot of these people even named their daughters/nieces/granddaughters after her in order to make a connection. They would bring girls named Cristina when they would come visit again with their new requests, “O kiss the hand of your Auntie/Lola Cristina. You were named after her!”


My mom did not receive that many requests but her guiding principle is “Lend only what you’re willing to ‘lose.’” At least when you’re not able to collect, you won’t feel so bad plus you don’t compromise your own financial condition.


6.    Full disclosure about money in marriage. On top of the many lessons she taught me about how to deal with in-laws she also taught me that it’s best for each party to disclose if he/she gives money to his/her side of the family. That way no party can accuse anyone of siphoning family money to undisclosed recipients.


7.    It’s good to celebrate family milestones. Even if she’s frugal she finds a way to hold a party to celebrate family milestones – birthdays, anniversaries, etc. She and my dad have renewed their vows many times – silver, ruby, golden; and of course we get together on their annual anniversary minus the gowns. She holds these parties because that is her expression of thanksgiving for the milestones being celebrated.


8.    Being rich or poor is primarily a mindset. She raised us to value ourselves regardless of our net asset value. How she lived her life knowing her priorities and always coming out a “winner” has been my inspiration. She started as a housewife and embarked on her career only after she nursed our youngest and still managed to do well. Before she retired, she formed her new circle of friends in church. All through these stages, despite the simplicity of her life, she has always felt abundant.



I continue to apply the above lessons from my mom. Parents are indeed the best teachers of money to their children. If Robert Kiyosaki has a rich dad and poor dad to thank for his money lessons, I have a simple mom and rich mom rolled into one to thank for. Happy birthday Mother Dear!



(Rose Fres Fausto is the author of the book Raising Pinoy Boys. Click this link to download free book sample To read her other articles go to or Author Archive. Send your questions and comments via email to or text to 0917-5395770.)


This article is also published in


Attribution: Photo from my mom’s 80th birthday celebration four years ago.


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