What My Ridiculous Parents Taught Me About Money

[Please welcome one half of the duo from DukeofDollars.com today, as Jack spills his heart here on all things financial he learned from growing up in a helluva toxic household, ugh… As a parent this KILLS ME, and I wish this upbringing on no kids out there! What is wrong with people????]


The first time I rode a four wheeler as a kid, my dad plopped me down on the machine without a helmet and pointed me at the trailhead. This same guy — we’ll call him Ronald, because he’s kind of a clown — then hopped on his mechanical high horse and proceeded to take off down the trail, yelling “Follow me!” behind him. A 90-degree corner immediately greeted me, and with my limited 20 feet experience of riding so far, I was bucked off the machine as it proceeded to climb straight up a tree. I cracked my head, and the four wheeler landed right on top of me.

After waiting a minute or two, I realized I was all on my own with this problem as Ronald was long gone. I mustered the strength to kick off this heavy burden, climbed back on top of that mofo, and then sped passed Ron while flipping him the bird.

That’s pretty much how my financial life started too: flat on my ass with an enormous weight holding me down and no parent in sight.

Lesson #1: Don’t Sell The Shares You Inherited and Blow The Proceeds on Four Wheelers!

Those same ATVs mentioned above? They were purchased from stock my parents inherited. I wasn’t privy to all the details, but the sum I guestimated they received was in the $50k – $100k range: invested in what my parents called “blue chips,” which was the first time I’d heard that phrase before. What I do know, however, is that a $15k chunk started its brief life under the tutelage of my parents as the bluest of blue stocks on the market: IBM.

In 1992, a single share of IBM was worth about $88 unadjusted for splits, meaning my parents possessed roughly 170 shares. Let’s assume that instead of rushing down to Honda Motorsports before the check even cleared, Ron and his wife had the foresight to hold onto this small fraction of their inheritance and just let it ride. They could’ve spent almost $29,000 in dividends to date and still be sitting on a split-adjusted 680 shares, which would now be worth over $95,000; the annual dividend for 2017 and beyond is projected to be > $3,800.

That’s a lot of Power Wheels.

When I draw lessons from this mistake, I look at not only the hypothetical end-result, but also what kind of mindset it would take to ride IBM from 1992 to 2017. Seven years into the experiment, IBM experienced a meteoric rise powered by the turbo booster of the tech bubble. The shares reached a high of roughly $138 in 1999, right about where the price sits today, nearly 20 years down the road. During the ensuing crash, IBM dipped below $60.

Depending on your mindset, it might’ve been tempting to sell at both the high and the low phases: lock in gains in the former, or salve your fear of further losses with the latter. The company was considered the unassailable stalwart of tech during the 90’s, but its waning market position redefined the business in investors’ eyes. Declining revenue and a lack of innovation has transformed the perception of IBM from a shining star to a washed-up has-been.

I try to focus much of my investing efforts on the hold part of buy-and-hold. In the case of IBM, a dividend powerhouse, I’d pool the dividends and invest in a different, more stable sector. Diversify not through selling, but by redirecting the increasingly fat dividend stream into other businesses.

Lesson #2: Maintain Your $hit or It Becomes Worthless

They lasted just two years. No, not my parents’ faltering marriage, still talking about those damn ATVs. It turns out that engines have this weird substance called “oil,” and it needs to be changed every now and then. Three gently-used automobiles later, my parents finally discovered that cars, too, also have this same strange substance in it.

The three cars: 1) Ford Explorer, 2) Mercury Sable, 3) Lincoln Town Car – all bought with < 40k miles, and all dead by 75k miles because of engine problems.

A dear relative of mine gifted me a granny car when I was 16. I loved and appreciated the crap out of that vehicle, old people smell and all. When I scurried off to college, a school that banned freshmen from parking vehicles on campus, my parents decided to reappropriate my car to my older sister for a year. She begrudgingly returned it with a dead inspection sticker soon after the school year ended. Yes, I got a ticket on my ride home.

Surprise, surprise: she too had never learned about oil. Within a week, I heard the familiar sound of a seizing engine. Fortunately, I was able to limp the car to my friend’s house where his girlfriend was palling around with this hot chick in a bikini who happened to be a mechanic’s daughter. Though I’d learned the lesson already, I pretended to be ignorant about checking fluids while she “assisted” me.

She’s now my wife.

The first time I met my future father-in-law, he towered over me, crushed my handshake, and told me, “Boy if you ever hurt my daughter, I’ll rip your head off and cram it up your ass.” The most productive man I ever met, he was always tinkering on something. When he helped me with a plumbing issue, I asked him how he knew what the problem was. He replied, “I had no idea. I just figure out how to take it apart and then figured out how to put it back together.”

That’s perhaps the best repair advice I’ve ever received. Everything comes apart somehow, even if it’s not obvious at first. As far as maintenance tasks go, I rely on reminders. Google calendar is set to nudge me whenever air filters need to be replaced, batteries charged, gutters cleaned, and yes – especially when oil needs changing.

Lesson #3: Cheating and Refusing to Pay Taxes Are – Go Figure – Illegal

Leave it to my parents to find a silver lining in a DIY storm cloud. They ended up donating all four totaled vehicles to a registered charity. Pretty generous, right? Except for the part where they forged the receipts to show that the cars were in pristine condition and worth 4x the correct stated value.

Tax time for ol’ Ronnie was a game he played with TurboTax – fudging every number until the exact moment that the software threw a red flag. It was an endless game of chicken with the IRS. Unclaimed income, fictitious and overstated donations, illegal claiming of dependents, falsified businesses, enormous home offices: if you can think of a way to cheat taxes, my parents did it.

Before I cut ties for good, I learned that they were outraged to have received a thick envelope from Uncle Sam. Those IBM divvy’s probably would’ve come in handy around the time Ronald & Company decided to burn the mysterious contents of that package.

Determined to be their antiprotégé, I once filed an amended return when I realized that tips weren’t automatically included in my pizza delivery summer job W2 to stay on the “good” side.

Lesson #4: Cigarettes and Drugs – A Surefire Path to Financial Ruin and Misery

Legal correspondence wasn’t my family’s favorite fuel. That award would be split between the cigarettes and the drugs. At the age of fourteen, I sneaked one of my parents’ cigs to see what the fuss was about. I ratted myself out with a nasty gagging fit on my first couple draws and was promptly scolded right after: par for the course for teenage mischief.

The next day, however, my parents gave me a pack of my own cigarettes so that I wouldn’t have to steal theirs. I smoked for four formative years until I landed my first office job and realized how much the habit would hold me back in the workplace. And by that time, the free cigarette train had run out of track.

With an hourly pay rate just a smidgen above minimum wage, it didn’t take me long to figure out how expensive it was to roll up and burn a $5 bill every day.

While cigarettes seared a massive hole in the household “budget,” at least they were legal. My drug dabbling experience, getting caught, and the resulting parental guidance all adhered to the same pattern as the tobacco. Drugs, however, were difficult for my parents to find. In me, they saw a budding conduit to the black market.

My relationship with my parents had been strained, to put it kindly, up until the moment they realized that I had nefarious connections. That revelation ushered in a brief golden age between father, mother, and son. They were oh-so-friendly during my mid-teens. Bless their hearts.

Ron was pulling in a solid income by this time frame, helped along by his thievery from the taxman. He approached the drug market much like a soccer mom at Costco – preferring to buy in bulk to secure the discounts. Behind the force of his seed capital, along with the entrepreneurship of the local high school slinger, a small narcotics empire quickly rose in my town. Faster than it had risen, the entire enterprise crashed down hard right after, tossing a few people straight into prison along its demise.

Miraculously, neither Ron nor I emerged with a scratch on our records. He employed me as a delivery driver specializing in felonious interstate transportation, nearly ruining my life before adulthood was even on the horizon. I was a child. His child. For this, forgiveness isn’t in the cards.

Between the ages of 15 and 18, I did glean a few useful money lessons throughout these illicit business ventures though. I learned about cost of goods sold, profit margins, inventory, goodwill with vendors, shrinkage, the compounding power of addictive consumerism, etc. One of my top investments to this day is an alcohol purveyor.

Most of all though, I started to learn about risk. I’ve read that the human brain doesn’t reach its full risk-processing power until age 25, and I know from experience that I was nearly blind to the concepts of probability and consequences as an adolescent. Nearing my mid-twenties, I began to realize just how mind-bogglingly reckless my teenage endeavors were regardless of whether I’d acted at the behest of my parents or not.

The whole clusterf*ck set into motion a deep-set sense of personal responsibility. I learned that I needed to take control of my own life, live up to my own standards, and then reap the rewards of my own hard work, while accepting the consequences of any misdeed that I committed on my own.

The Fallout

I eventually got out of the drug game. The first person that I ever cut out of my life was a young man I considered to be my best friend. He also happened to be the founder and CEO of my parents’ personal apothecary. Little did I know at the time, the night I watched a movie with him, shook his hand, and told him to never contact me again was also the beginning of the end of my parent-child relationship. What precious little of it remained, anyway.

As my underworld connections withered and died, my parents’ addictions grew ravenously. They latched on to as many mind-altering substances they could find to escape from the reality that their house was falling down all around them. And I mean that quite literally, not a metaphor at all.

Their master bathroom had sprung a leak, causing the tub to partially fall through the kitchen ceiling where it remained for a number of years – completely suspended above a mountain of dishes that stared back at the foreign visitor from upstairs, each neglected task accompanied by its own steady drip drip drip of water that seemed to spend all night debating with its counterpart over which quagmire would be resolved first.

I didn’t stick around long enough to find out who won.

One by one, major appliances choked out their last efforts. Water heater, washer, A/C, furnace: all met their demise over a $200 repair bill that Ron refused to pay, instead opting for a $200 baggie in its place. All the while, he pulled in a six figure income.

With financial ruin creeping up from behind, my parents found a frugal alternative to visiting the ghetto: they could manufacture the drugs themselves! I’m not aware of a federally sponsored comeuppance for this crime, but it’s only a matter of time. I still have nightmares of black helicopters and predawn raids.

Lesson #5: Running a Puppy Mill Inside Your House Might Not Be a Good Idea For Side Income

In a last-ditch effort to support their drug habits over their children, my parents turned to exploiting something even more defenseless: dogs.

Because affording a kennel was out of the question, the clown committee determined that the operation should be run indoors. Eventually all manner of canine bodily fluids spread across the floors and down the walls as up to 20 helpless, unvaccinated, creatures were forced to reproduce inside the crumbling confines of my parents’ nightmare.

One poor soul died of a perpetual and untreated kidney infection; he’d bay woefully as he urinated blood behind my father’s overused recliner. They were heartless enough to have named that dog Cash. I’d moved out well before the breeding began, and my bewildered parents wondered why I never came to visit any more.

Lesson #6: “I’ll Just Come Live With My Adult Child” Is Not a Valid Retirement Plan

When the eviction was finally enforced, my parents — considering themselves victims of the gravest injustices — turned to me for help, requiring assistance which absolutely must be delivered in the form of $30,000 cash.

I’ll never forget hearing the words on the phone from my mother, “You have good credit, right?”

Invitations from me to them became exceedingly rare, so they continuously strategized ways to drop in unannounced. Once when I was still under their roof and underage, my father decided to spend an entire year without speaking a single word to me. He returned to this antisocial mechanism later at my own house as he sat on my couch, uninvited and scowling, while his wife tried to coax a few dollars out from my pockets. And if I didn’t have any, then certainly I might have some drugs they could borrow, right?

That day didn’t end pleasantly, and the next time I heard from them, my parents extended an invitation for me to celebrate dear ol’ Dad on Father’s Day.

I didn’t show up. That single inaction, one decision of defiance, was my sole moment when I’d finally had enough. It unleashed a torrent of hatred. He compared my absence — my refusal to fete the fool — to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. My inbox, voicemail, and mailbox overflowed with verbal vomit. I responded with silence.

In the years that followed, I spoke just eight total words to him on two separate occasions: “Never contact me again” and “Leave my wife alone.” I didn’t owe him the time of day, much less an explanation.

Where We Are Today – A Position of Strength

That’s the origin of my quest for financial independence. Ronnie knew that my separation from my parents had something to do with money, but his thoughts on the matter were completely twisted. In his magnum opus on the fantasy of filicide, he wrote,

“I am sorry I didn’t save money for you, blahahahahaha. You did nothing to earn it. Parents owe their children nothing.”

The fact was I wanted nothing from my parents but love and respect. I may as well have asked for the moon. When I was 18, I discovered that I could leverage frugality and a decent income to build a fortress that no person could disturb. Money was my ticket out from under the thumb of an abusive upbringing, and I still get chills when I watch Mr. Collins’ rendition of “F*ck You Money.”

Now, I’m close to that position of ultimate financial strength. I live in my own house with my beautiful, loving wife, and our pets whose healthcare rivals that of a senator’s. All my appliances and vehicles work flawlessly, and I pay gobs of taxes each year. Every single person in my inner circles shares with me a mutual love and respect, and I’m not beholden to any addictive or destructive force whatsoever.

Life is good… And I don’t own any damn four wheelers!


The Master Dukes of Dollars are the dynamic duo from The Duke of Dollars Kingdom. The two bloggers held court frequently, delving into lifestyle and personal finance discussions as they searched for ways to live an optimal life, eventually deciding to invite a global audience into their mindsets by establishing their own blog together. Chris is the younger of the two and recently launched his Great War on Debt soon after achieving a positive net worth, while Jack – the author of this guest post – is further down the road towards FIRE and is seeking a cure for onemoreyearitis. Their primary mission is to help others build their financial kingdoms, providing the world with a road-map that leads to a fortified personal monetary policy.

Want more stories like this? Check out these posts next:

[Photo up top NOT of Jack’s dad – it comes courtesy of zachandlinz on Flickr]

(Visited 29 times, 1 visits today)

Get blog posts automatically emailed to you!


  1. Mr. Tako August 25, 2017 at 5:59 AM

    Alright! Sex, drugs, and money…what more could a budgetsaresexy.com reader want? :)

    Seriously though, that’s a crazy childhood story. As a parent myself, this kind of story makes me want to remain a good upstanding citizen. For my kid’s sake at the very least.

    1. J. Money August 25, 2017 at 7:28 AM

      “Sex, drugs, and money…what more could a budgetsaresexy.com reader want? :)”

      we do try to please, here :)

      1. PaulM August 25, 2017 at 10:58 AM

        How about some Rock and Roll?

      2. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance August 25, 2017 at 11:19 AM

        Your blog does address topics that I don’t see discussed elsewhere. That makes Budgets Are Sexy so bold and unique!

        1. J. Money August 25, 2017 at 2:20 PM

          Thanks! Whatever it takes to get people talking about this $$$$ stuff, right?

    2. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 8:09 AM

      Love to hear that this helped inspire you to remain a good citizen, it sounds like your children are in good hands!

  2. Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle August 25, 2017 at 6:51 AM

    First, I want to say thank you so much for opening up your life so much!

    Now, I am amazed at how you came out of the whole situation, relatively unscathed (financially). To be able to look back and say “these are the lessons I learned from my childhood”, instead of using that childhood as an excuse to do all sorts of dumb things, that’s incredible. I’ve seen many with bad childhoods go down a similar path and it’s not a fun thing to see. Especially when they refuse any type of help.

    I can only imagine what you still go through with them, but you are living a life that you are happy and proud of and that is awesome. Again, thanks for opening up!

    1. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 8:11 AM

      I can’t wait for Jack to see this, thank you for these kind words wow!

      He definitely has lived up to the “adapt and achieve” mindset instead of the “become a victim” rabbit hole.

    2. Jack @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 8:50 AM

      Thank you so much for the kind words! They still flit in and out of my life, like a cold sore. Just have to ignore it for a while and it gets better on its own. :)

  3. Mr. Freaky Frugal August 25, 2017 at 7:11 AM

    Wow,that’s a tough childhood!

    Mine was the opposite. There is not a day that goes by since I FIREd that I’m not thankful for my parents and what they taught me.

    1. J. Money August 25, 2017 at 7:27 AM

      Same here! I can’t even imagine my parents doing ONE of those things listed, no less all half dozen, ugh…. I doubt I would have come out as strong on the other end too – that’s the impressive part w/ the story!

      1. Lance @ My Strategic Dollar August 25, 2017 at 7:49 AM

        My parents taught me the value of money but weren’t equipped to have the conversation about retirement and how to potentially quit working earlier through investments.

        I feel for the people who grow up in situations listed above. It’s truly impressive and inspiring to hear about how they are able to grow up and be productive adults!

        1. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 8:18 AM

          Definitely agree with you on both of these! My parents didn’t have the FIRE mindset and are still working today.

          Learning from people with such great resolve and drive, then incorporating it into our own character really makes a huge difference in who we are. I think Warren Buffet said something to this as well – find people you admire then imitate the qualities you admire about them.

    2. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 8:12 AM

      This is what we call the power of gratitude! The little things truly matter in our lives eh?

  4. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance August 25, 2017 at 7:51 AM

    Thank you for sharing your story! It must have been emotional writing this post, but I’m so glad you have come out wiser and stronger than ever. I learned a lot of financial lessons from my parents too.

    This is probably not too relevant, but your writing is really good. You intro is captivating, and body well thought out and well organized. I loved it!

    1. Jack @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 8:50 AM

      Thanks for the compliment on the writing! It’s definitely a form of relief to express myself, a new avenue for me to explore. I have Chris to thank for dragging it out of me :).

  5. Leo T. Ly August 25, 2017 at 8:09 AM

    As a parent myself, I value the success of my children more than my own. If my kids are more successful than me one day, then I consider myself to be a successful parent. If they fail, then I failed.

    For me I think that it’s important for me to teach them how to earn their own money rather than leaving a pile of money. My philosophy is: “give them a fish, you feed them for a day. Teach them how to fish, you feed them for life.”

    1. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 8:24 AM

      Love that saying! In the Millionaire Next Door they talk quite a bit about that same philosophy, and how much better kids turn into independent adults when you teach them to fish!

      Sounds like your children will be quite the success :)

  6. Amy @ Life Zemplified August 25, 2017 at 8:10 AM

    Thanks for sharing your story, Jack. Kudos to you for creating a life of love, respect, and security with your wife. Your childhood does remind me of some of my cousins’ upbringings. Like you, some were able to rise above it, but unfortunately, some were not. It’s fascinating how some find the inner strength to make life better and other’s cannot.

    1. Jack @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 8:57 AM

      I may have understated the importance of my wife in this overview of the story. Fodder for future posts! She and her parents taught me was love is, and my undying gratitude is always to be a part of their family.

  7. Money Beagle August 25, 2017 at 8:12 AM

    It’s so natural to emulate our parents that it is truly amazing that this person was able to come out on the other side and still make good solid decisions. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Jack @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 9:00 AM

      I definitely have the opposite of that urge to emulate. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s OK to enjoy a Pink Floyd song even though they were my dad’s favorite band.

  8. Belle August 25, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    Got to say I love the analogy and opening of your first paragraph. Shows that you have to be tough and resourceful in life and also when it comes to your finance.

    I can’t say I had similar parents, but mine too were not the best when it came to money and teaching how to manage it.

    Watching their mistakes is a lesson to be learned and it has taught me to better with my money and to do things different than they did. I plan to teach my daughter good money skills early.

    Thank you for this great post and opening up about your journey to now!

    1. Jack @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 9:26 AM

      Thanks Belle! I always find it heartening to see parents try to improve upon their own upbringing. So few people are good with money that it’d be almost a lottery win to have loving parents that also teach solid financial principles. Sounds like you’re giving your daughter both of those head starts in life.

  9. Rosie Leizrowice August 25, 2017 at 8:32 AM

    I’ll admit I thought my parents had their issues with money but wow, this is next level. Well done for getting past it (and for having the guts to cut ties, so many people don’t manage to do that however toxic the situation is.)

    Also, poor puppies :(((

    1. Jack @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 8:54 AM

      It’s such a powerful tool, to cut someone out of your life entirely. Unfortunately, I’m up to incident #4 so far. The fallout is never pretty in the short term, but when it becomes apparent that a relationship is toxic, I’ve learned to rip the band-aid off sooner rather than later. I’d never be able to establish or maintain that mindset without a core group of supportive loved ones.

      And yeah — the puppies thing was one of the eye openers for me. It accelerated the break away significantly.

  10. Lindsay | Notorious D.E.B.T. August 25, 2017 at 8:50 AM

    Wow! Reminds me of the people I used to hang out with in high school at the trailer park in the little farm town I grew up in.

    Kudos for you to realizing the gravity of the situation, and even more importantly, deciding to make a change. It’s not easy when that’s the world you were brought up in. Excited to see where you go from here!

    1. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 11:59 AM

      We have those people in our town too! This will definitely lead me on a trip down memory lane.

  11. Mrs. Picky Pincher August 25, 2017 at 8:51 AM

    Ugh. I’m glad you were able to escape with lessons learned so you wouldn’t end up just like your parents. Too often the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and you see generations of horrible, horrible decisions.

  12. carlotta August 25, 2017 at 9:05 AM

    wow, how strong you are! I applaud my friend!

  13. Joe August 25, 2017 at 9:53 AM

    Glad to hear you got out. That was a tough situation for a young person to be in.
    I’m with Mr. Tako. This is a good reminder to stay on the straight path for our kid. Taking drugs and feeling good isn’t worth the long term problems that will eventually come.

    1. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 11:57 AM

      Definitely!! Life is adapting and growing!

  14. Dads Dollars Debts August 25, 2017 at 10:07 AM

    Crazy story but all too common in certain rural parts of the country unfortunately. I think as drugs have infiltrated rural settings it is likely worse now.

    Kudos to Jack for making the break. I can imagine it would be quite difficult but definitely the right choice for you and yours. Nice work. Best of luck to all of your future endeavors.

  15. Lily @ The Frugal Gene August 25, 2017 at 10:30 AM

    My parents came to me for money as well but this is much crazier. I don’t want to believe my existence was because they needed me as a retirement plan but to think that’s an accurate depiction of some :(

    If it was painful to write this I double-y thank you for writing. You’ve come an amazingly long way.

    1. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 11:58 AM

      That he has – so proud of him for posting ! Thanks for reading Lily !

  16. EL August 25, 2017 at 10:43 AM

    Wow what a story. It is unbelievable to think a parent would push a kid into the drug business. The choices we make are important for a positive future life later. Getting far away from that toxic relationship was smart.

    1. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 4:17 PM

      Right! Hard to believe parents do things like this – putting themselves before their children.

  17. Stacy August 25, 2017 at 10:57 AM

    I truly hope it was cathartic to write this post. You are proof that the American dream of prosperity exists in defiance of the staggering odds of your upbringing. The story had so many elements of Breaking Bad, while reminding me of individuals that I have met over the years.

  18. Mariana August 25, 2017 at 11:44 AM

    Oh boy. Lot’s going on here, although I have to say some of it (mostly because of good writing) is actually very entertaining to read (first paragraph! )
    What I brought into adulthood from my family home (as far as finances are concerned) was initial thought that no money EVER shall be held at any financial institution. They are all thieves and nothing good will come out from US giving THEM our money (especially long term – such as investing). Till this day my dad does not have a bank account (hard to believe but true). I, on the other hand, am fully invested in Vanguard and very thankful I have an opportunity and the funds to be able to do so.

    1. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 11:56 AM

      That is a very interesting perspective that I hadn’t heard of before.

      What are the reasons for your change in perspective? Good for you – love to hear that your investing and have the funds!

      We really appreciate you taking the time to read it!

    2. J. Money August 25, 2017 at 2:25 PM

      Wowww no bank accounts at all?? I hope no one knows he’s just sitting on cash at his house! (Or maybe he just spends it all before all the thieves can get it?)

  19. Working Optional August 25, 2017 at 12:01 PM

    Wow – what a story! Jack, you’re an awesome writer. It was entertaining and terrifying at the same time, and I kept hanging onto every word. Thank you for sharing.

    I can totally see this being made into a movie! Or maybe a Budgets Are Sexy series on Netflix…

    1. J. Money August 25, 2017 at 2:26 PM

      Haha… That would be something alright :)

  20. Physician on FIRE August 25, 2017 at 12:02 PM

    Holy smokes!

    Duke, you are The Man for having come out of this horrific upbringing with your head squarely on your shoulders and your priorities in the right place. I wish you nothing but the best in your journey.

    As a father to two boys, I simply cannot fathom treating them even 1% as poorly as you were treated by your own parents. It’s downright disgusting.


    1. Jack @ Duke of Dollars February 27, 2018 at 10:39 AM

      PoF – I just now realized you had commented on this story. After exhausting ERE, MMM, and countless other blogs – I stumbled upon your blog and found PF reading nirvana. Your writing, the clarity, and usefulness of the your posts are almost unmatched. I’m a big fan!

  21. Mrs. BITA August 25, 2017 at 12:21 PM

    I’m so angry for past you. F*** those uncaring narcissists, preferably with a rusty pole (J$, I understand if you feel the need to keep this comment tucked away in your unapproved folder). I’m so very glad that this story ended with you having the last laugh having a built a life of security, beauty and grace for yourself.

  22. Dylan | Trail to FI August 25, 2017 at 1:58 PM

    This is very well written. I appreciate you sharing your story, and more power to you for rising above your past.

  23. Jennifer August 25, 2017 at 2:13 PM

    This makes me so sad. I am happy that you survived and thrived, despite being in such a terrible situation. You are awesome! Thanks for sharing.

  24. Dora August 25, 2017 at 3:26 PM

    This is on the level of The Glass Castle. In the book and movie, the gripping moment for me was when the main character, at age 14, tells her siblings that their parents would not be changing their ways and if they wanted a better life, they would have to do it on their own. As each reached adult age, they crawled out of the hole that their parents kept them in.
    Although my parents had their own twisted money misery, it was not as sad as your memories. However, I can relate to the rejection of a forced environment. It makes you want to trade your genes in. After becoming a single mom, my mother decided that a good way to save on the water bill was to not flush the toilet after using it in the morning. (Head in hands just thinking about it.) It’s almost as if they took pleasure in lack, incivility, and the ability to inflict it on others.
    Congratulations on ending the legacy. Lessons in learning what not to do are so incredibly valuable.

    1. J. Money August 25, 2017 at 3:57 PM

      My wife just read that book and said it was one of the craziest things she’s read! There’s a movie coming out soon on it too, right?

  25. Dave August 25, 2017 at 3:34 PM

    We can select our friends, but not our family. No family is perfect. I have relatives who I love, but I have to keep a healthy distance from them because their lives are super unmanageable. It is awsome that you are able to share your story today. I enjoyed it and related to it.

    1. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 25, 2017 at 4:16 PM

      Same here – I still have love to them even if they are not a positive impact in my life. I wish them the best, even if I keep my distance.

      Thanks for reading Jack’s story and happy to hear it was relatable + read J. Money’s blog.

  26. Carly Beard August 25, 2017 at 6:53 PM

    This was all too relatable in some cases. Thank you for sharing!

  27. Cheryl B. August 26, 2017 at 10:10 AM

    Wow! Jack your story is incredible. I met a woman professionally who pulled herself out of a similar situation and became an RN. I live in Humboldt County, California where the drug culture permeates our beautiful county. There are so many stories that end badly. You are amazing! Write a book please!

    1. Chris @ Duke of Dollars August 26, 2017 at 12:31 PM

      We should keep pressuring Jack on this ! We are thinking about writing an e-book soon, would be nice to include these lessons in it.

      Thanks for taking the time to read it!

  28. Prudence Debtfree August 26, 2017 at 1:37 PM

    Jack manages to make this so funny! Talk about getting passed your past! I know a woman who managed to escape her stripper mother’s influence to become very successful – financially and otherwise. It was no less than a Herculean effort – as it must have been for you, despite your ability to laugh at it.
    In connection to your post about money blueprints, Jay, Jack certainly proves that it IS possible to face down any negative messages about money absorbed in childhood.

  29. AnnieA August 26, 2017 at 6:50 PM

    It’s hard when the lessons of childhood are so bleak, but a relief to hear when someone rises above it. My father was the complete opposite, being frugal in the extreme, but he made us feel neither loved nor respected, instead demonstrating we were not worth spending any money on, as well as time or interest. People react in different ways: I have taken care of myself since adolescence and am doing well if remaining something of a loner, and my sister married early, rarely worked outside the home, and has a constant need for treats and gifts, with attendant financial difficulties. Hoping things are better with their children…

    1. J. Money August 28, 2017 at 6:48 AM

      Ugh, just more proof extreme at either end is never good. I’m sorry to hear :(

  30. Michael August 27, 2017 at 5:46 PM

    I see lots of people who Inherit sticks from their parents and they hold on to the stocks becuase the parents could always rely on them. I think that inherting stocks like IBM, it’s important to real consider if the company is going to be viable going forward.

    My Grandmother loved Woolworth’s we used to shop together and she would get me a grilled cheese at the lunch counter and if I was good a milkshake. My grandfather loved Sears and sears was the Amazon of his day. My children will never know Woolworths, and most likely my Grandchildren probably won’t know SEARS.

    1. J. Money August 28, 2017 at 6:49 AM

      Woolworths!!! Totally forgot about that place! I used to go there back in the day picking up fish for my aquarium… Taken there by, surprise surprise, my grandparents as well :)

  31. Mao September 1, 2017 at 11:16 AM

    Great tips from your parents. It’s shocking when I saw some friends would blow a big chunk of their inheritance into nice cars (buying cash!). Really a horrible use of money.

    The most ridiculous advice and yet useful my dad gave me was to use a condom. Teenage/Not-Ready pregnancy is really no joke and for sure will ruin your financial near future.

    1. J. Money September 6, 2017 at 5:08 PM

      Haha… true that.

  32. steveark September 1, 2017 at 11:53 AM

    The opening story reminds me of my first trail ride on my first used three wheeler. Yes, back in the early days of ATV’s they only had three wheels because having four wheels just made turning over without warning way too hard to do. Well it was not a great machine with a sticky carburetor, yeah they didn’t have fuel injection either yet, so there was a delay between hitting the throttle and the engine responding. That led to a situation where I was trying to climb a vertical creek bank and the engine revved up to wide open at just the wrong time. I jumped off the back and realized that those dreams where you try to run but it is like your feet are in concrete actually can come true. My feet were stuck in the mud as 350 pounds of metal crashed down on my head. Later in the ER the doctor walked up to me, shook his head and said “Three wheeler, right?” Then he put nine stitches in my head and sent me back to redneckville. Ah, thanks for reviving great memories!

    1. J. Money September 6, 2017 at 5:09 PM


  33. ZJ Thorne September 4, 2017 at 7:20 PM

    YES! Parents who refused to raise you insisting that you were the jerk child who just wanted a fancy life. No, I wanted safety and decency. Congrats on learning early enough that they could not snarl you with a record. A life well-lived is so sweet after what we went through.

  34. OMGF December 29, 2017 at 3:15 PM

    Wow! Thank you for putting this out there. I know it’s not easy to open a vein on the page but I’m so glad that you did. So many parents inflict financial and emotional trauma on their children. Kids barely in their teens are told to accept all types of abuse because it’s coming from their parents. People assume that if a parent isn’t kicking the shit out of you then whatever else they’ve done is easily forgiven. Good for you for getting out and staying away.
    I do wonder, did you have any other support system around you in your teen years. You were extremely lucky not to have had to bear the consequences of the risks your parents made you take. Was there a coach, teacher, friend’s parent, or other family member to keep you tethered. If you read Hillbilly Elegy J.D. Vance always credits his grandma and sister for being the anchors that kept him from getting swept away in the madness around him. From everything I’ve seen the people who make it out of these circumstances have an angel on earth that helps divert them from the path their environment dictates.
    Glad you are in a much better place now.

    1. Jack @ Duke of Dollars December 30, 2017 at 12:25 AM

      Hi OMGF –

      Up until I left for college, the closest positive role models I had were a few excellent teachers. I started to snap out of my upbringing at 18 and met my wife-to-be soon after I took charge of my own life. She and her parents were my guiding light out of the mess. We married quite young and have grown up together in many ways. Her parents are no longer with us, so now we forge our own path.

      I hadn’t heard of Hillbilly Elegy, but just picked up a copy on my kindle. I needed a new book to read! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a thoughtful comment.

    2. Jack @ Duke of Dollars February 27, 2018 at 10:45 AM

      I read Hillbilly Elegy: what a compelling story!! I don’t agree with many of the author’s viewpoints, but I did emphasize with soooo many elements of his story. Thank you so much for the recommendation.