8 Things I've Learned From Having Parents Who Started With Nothing

by Kirsten Corley

My parents always joked they paid for their wedding with the help of the funds they were given as gifts.

They were the definition of starting from the bottom and working their way up to the top. They attained the "American dream" for my family.

As a child, I didn’t realize how difficult it must have been for my parents to start a family at 24 and 25.

While my mother raised three kids, my father worked, studied for his masters and still harbored enough energy to play with us at night.

A few nights during the week, they would shift. My mom would work at night, and my dad would watch us after work.

As children, you aren’t supposed to see struggle. You aren’t supposed to comprehend things other than all the good life has to offer you.

We grew up with what we saw as the best Christmas gifts and the happiest birthday parties. We even went on a Disney vacation not once, but twice.

Because my parents work for everything they have, they instilled values in me I could have never learned from anyone else:

1. The American dream

Others seem to have this false theory the American dream is dead. I have to disagree with them.

People have the ability to build lives they are proud of. It might take some sweat and tears to get there, but dreams don't come easy.

2. Sense of work ethic

If there's one thing not being born wealthy has taught me, it's that with enough hard work, you can achieve anything.

When it came to grades in school, we were always asked to do our best.

When you try your best, the result will always be success.

I began to make this connection as I grew up with people who blamed others for their bad grades. I learned we are responsible for everything in our lives, and what we put into everything will reflect what we get out of it.

No one ever put 110 percent into something and failed. You always learn something from your mistakes.

3. Not entitled to anything

I never understood having a sense of entitlement.

Later in life, I moved to a wealthier town, and I found I couldn’t relate to the people who were simply handed things.

This helped me in the real world, as the people who were handed everything didn’t know how to handle rejection. They found it easy to give up.

People who don't feel entitled will be better prepared for the reality of the real world. People will kick you so fast to the curb, your head will spin.

You can either sit there and hope people feel sorry for you, or you can stand back up and fight for what you want.

4. Managing money

My mother always said, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” She insisted if I wanted something, I had to save for it.

With every pay check I ever earned, I heard the same sentiment, "Live within your means.”

When I was going through a period in my life when I wasn't proud of my financial choices, my father looked at me and said, “I’d rather you make a mistake with your money now than when you're older. As long as you're learning, that's what matters.”

The biggest difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t is their relationship with money.

5. Not to be cheap

“The worst thing someone can be in life is cheap,” my mother would tell me.

Despite not always having everything, being miserly or cheap was never something I did.

6. Having more than someone else

People spend a lot of time comparing themselves to others and the things they don’t have.

It would've been easy to get lost in a world of mansions and nice cars when I went to high school, but my parents never allowed me to.

My mother was constantly dragging us to the soup kitchen to make us give back to our community. As a result, I turned into an adult who advocates causes and organizations on my own.

You always have more than someone else, and you always have something to be grateful for.

7. Same playing field

After one Christmas break, I came home to my dad and said, “I told the kids in class what I got for Christmas, and they said I got too much.”

He told me everyone comes from different backgrounds. Parents have different incomes, but no matter how you look at people, you are no better or worse than them.

I learned modesty that day.

My parents never bragged, and I show everyone that same respect.

8. Bring people up with you

As my father continues to gain success and wealth, he helps others lead by his example.

You can be the most successful person in the world and have the most money, but if you don’t have people to share in it, there’s no point.

This affected me in adulthood because the real world kicked me in the ass after graduation. But my father just kept telling me to keep trying.

When I finally landed my dream job, I took any free time I had to help others in any way I could.

My parents prove the American dream isn’t a dead one.

The success I have is a reflection of who they raised me to be in this world.