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Ballast Advisors Blog

Mothers and Money: How Three Generations of Women Approach Financial Planning

Financial planning is a vital aspect of life. Often, the financial lessons and advice passed down from generation to generation shape an individual’s approach to finances. In honor of Mother’s Day, we are delighted to have a multi-generational family of Ballast Advisors clients, Jean, Val, and Amanda, who have agreed to share their experiences and insights with us.

At 90 years old, Jean is the matriarch. Her daughter Val, 65, is a former 3M employee and mom to one child, while Amanda, 39, Val’s daughter, is a former Target employee and mother to five children. All three generations of women live in Woodbury, Minn. In this blog, we’ll dive deep into some lessons they’ve learned and the role that financial planning plays in supporting their goals. We’re inspired by the insight of these women who know that taking control of your financial future at any stage is key to achieving your dreams.

The “Greatest Generation” Mom reflects on her legacy

Jean is the family matriarch who, at 90 years old, has a meaningful impact today on the three generations below her. As a wife and mother, she took a traditional role for women of her era, raising a daughter, Val, and a son. Her husband worked hard at his role at 3M, which brought the family from Ohio to Woodbury, Minnesota, in 1965.

Jean says that her experience growing up during the Depression and being raised by a single mom impacted how she looked at finances.

“It’s not something people of my generation love to talk about,” she explains. “I consider myself lucky compared with some peers. I grew up on my grandparent’s farm in Kentucky, and we never went without food like so many others did.”

As a child, Jean recalls working with her siblings at a poultry farm every Saturday as an egg checker, working to earn 10 cents to go to the movies. Working hard and saving was a natural part of life.

As a wife and mom, Jean says her husband was always traveling for work. So she took on many roles in the family beyond what was considered “traditional” for women of her generation, including writing checks and paying bills.

Jean’s granddaughter Amanda says she still sees the impact of her grandmother’s approach to money and hard work.

“She was raised in that era of you take care of everything. You use everything. You save, you don’t spend. And you don’t splurge.”

Jean and her late husband, Lowell, were married for over 60 years. They started working with the team of financial advisors at Ballast Advisors over a decade ago. Jean and her husband worked hard to realize their financial goals, being a snowbird in Florida, golfing, traveling, and loving on eight great-grandchildren.

Jean admits she still worries about money, but working with a financial planner has helped give her peace of mind.

When Lowell passed away in 2015, Jean says she was worried. “But Paul [Parnell] came to the funeral and said, Jean you don’t have to worry, you’re going to be fine financially,” she said. “That was very encouraging during an overwhelming time.” 

Today Jean is still focused on her legacy and says she wants to have money to pass on to her family.

The “Boomer” mom focused on retirement and caretaking.

Val is 65, and like many women of her generation in the 1980-90s, she also worked outside of the home and focused on building a career. She worked for 3M for 38 years, retiring in the healthcare division. She and her husband, Joe, are married for over 42 years and had one child, Amanda.

She says they focused their financial goals around her, especially saving money to help her through college. And now, she is caretaking for her elderly mom.

“I remember sitting down and writing bills with my dad as a child,” says Val. “When it came to raising my daughter, we gave her a lot, but at the same time, we tried to teach her that everything’s not handed to you on a silver platter either. It’s the balance.”

As empty-nesters who raised a successful daughter, it came time for them to start thinking about themselves again. They were determined to retire before age 60 without needing a second job after retirement. They still wanted to be able to travel, shop without worrying, and enjoy dining out with friends.

“I know we waited too long before thinking seriously about retirement. We had my 401k at 3M,  my pension, and my husband’s pension, but we were spending a lot and had no investments other than what I had accumulated at 3M.”

Val credits her parents with encouraging her to work with a financial planner, which was the first time she began to seriously think about planning for retirement.

“I watched my parents, and we thought we’d be good if we even did half of what they did. We followed the advice of our financial planner. It was hard, but we stayed very focused on the plan. We consolidated debt and focused on what we were spending, even down to the dollar, and whether we should put gas in the tank that week. We have become very fortunate because of it.

Val adds that Parnell helped provide important advice regarding downsizing their home last year.

“We had been looking for a townhome for two years. Paul said, sell the house and worry about where you’ll live later. So, we took the risk, and luckily we found a place. But that timing was so important, considering what’s happening now,” she adds. “There’ve been things he’s told us, do such, and we do it. He’s never led us astray.”

Today, Val is the primary caretaker for her elderly mom and often helps with her five grandchildren as well. She has also encouraged many of her friends and colleagues at 3M to seek the advice of a financial planner sooner than later.

The “Millennial” mom raising the next generation.

Amanda, 39, like many Millennials, has also built her life focused on children and career.

Amanda also worked in Corporate America, including Target and 3M. More recently, she’s worked for small businesses. She balances part-time work with caring for her five children between the ages of 3-13.

“I’ve taken a little bit more of an active role in the financial piece of our home compared to my mom and grandma, but my husband likes to do it.”

In fact, Amanda and her mom laugh, telling the story of how her husband Abe made her read finance guru Dave Ramsey books before they were married and is very conscious about money. She credits him with helping her to be more diligent about budgeting, especially when it came to enjoying her Target employee discount.

“Once we started working on our budget and paying down debt, the focus really started shifting to be how do we financially plan? How do we ensure we have money for the kids for college?” says Amanda. “How do you become strategic in it for the long haul.”

Amanda and Abe also joined working with Paul Parnell and Ballast Advisors as the family’s financial planners. Along with Amanda’s husband Abe’s knowledge as an estate planning attorney, they recognized the benefit of early planning.

“We talk to the kids about investments. We talk to the kids about ways to be financially independent early, like starting their own business,” she adds.

Amanda says that one of the ways she and Abe are helping the children to value money is through the use of smart card technology and a money management app and card for parents and kids that tracks spending.

“We have a couple of our kids who are very big savers, and then we have one that really likes Starbucks,” Amanda laughs.

She also admits that having access to today’s technology in financial planning can sometimes feel like a burden, especially for her grandmother, who doesn’t own a mobile phone or computer.

“You can know as much as you want to know, and in real-time, you can see your investments and what they’re doing. And that’s a good thing and a bad thing. That’s probably a good thing that Nan [Jean] does not use technology because she is such a worrier about money.”

For Moms Everywhere

It’s fascinating to see how financial advice and lessons have been passed down through generations of women in the same family. Jean, Val, and Amanda have shown us how their mothers and grandmothers have influenced their financial approaches, how motherhood has impacted their financial planning, and even how technology has changed how they approach financial planning for their kids.

“I feel for people in their fifties, as all these companies are laying people off.,” says Val. “I think it’s important that as you start in the workforce, you need to make sure you’re taking your money and doing something worthwhile with it so it comes along with you to retirement, whatever that might be.”

One thing is clear – financial planning plays a crucial role in supporting women’s dreams and goals for their families, and women need to take charge of their financial futures. The sooner – the better.

“It’s important to say that there’s not a one size fits all kind of approach for families. Talking to someone early who has the knowledge to help guide you is super important because there are so many ways to protect wealth or increase wealth,” Amanda adds. “You work hard for that money; it’s important to think about how you protect it for future generations if that’s a goal.”

Working with a financial planner can provide valuable guidance and peace of mind. We hope that the experiences shared by this multi-generational family will inspire and motivate others to take control of their financial futures.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Jean and Lowell’s wedding

Three generations!

Val & Joe’s wedding day

Jean with her two children, Val and Craig

Amanda and Abe’s wedding

Amanda and Abe’s family

Val, Joe and their five grandkids



The individuals named in this blog (Jean, Val and Amanda) are current clients of Ballast Advisors, LLC (“Ballast”). They were not compensated for any testimonials made about Ballast. Their individual experiences with Ballast may not be representative of any other person’s experience with the firm.

Ballast Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about the firm, including its services, strategies, and fees can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available without charge upon request. BAL-23-26.