I became a parent over 40 years ago. It taught me so many things and changed me in multitudes of ways. Each of my boys is a different as day and night, but both taught me similar lessons. Here are things I learned about money when I became a parent.
Money doesn’t matter, family does.
Every parent, rich or poor, experiences the joys, the sorrows, the highs and the lows of birthing their child, raising it and sending it out into the world. You are part of a family. There is someone for you to teach, mentor and with whom to share the world and your times. You fully realize that you are but a single link in the generations that have gone before and those that will come after – when you see your nose on your child and your Father’s dimple on his chin.
Money is required.
Children are expensive! The latest figures from the US Department of Agriculture state that the average cost of raising a child in the USA from birth to age 18 is almost a quarter million dollars ($245,000).
Gone are the days of rural America when having more children meant more help on the farm and more prosperity. Having a large family today is for the wealthy! Most children only take from the family finances, instead of contributing to them.
Back to school time can cost more than Holiday time.
As a poor couple just starting out, with lots of relatives expecting Christmas gifts, we often dreaded the holidays. We saved all year in order to be able to buy those gifts. But when the boys started school, we found out that it was even more expensive for us than holiday time. There were usually 4 new pair of shoes (2 per boy), 10 new pairs of jeans, 10 new shirts, sweaters, coats, boots, hats, gloves, and school supplies, not to mention underwear and socks and haircuts. I remember being very surprised the first time back to school expenses exceed the prior years Christmas spending.
Kids rapidly learn how to separate you from your money.
We held a pretty firm line at the store on the ‘I want this”, or “Can we buy that” but the boys still found our soft spots and used them to their advantage (not that we usually minded).
Who says people aren’t born negotiators? I think most of us learn how by age 1.5 and then somehow forget after we get to be adults.
Most parents don’t think they have time to teach personal finance.
As with us, most of them are too busy juggling jobs, school, kids, parents and all of the mundane everyday tasks that go along with those. We get past teaching about potty training, move on to manners and into school work and church. Who has time to teach a kid about money market funds?
Let the kids pick it up the way we did, by watching and listening how their parents handle money!
I didn’t specifically think about how to teach my sons to manage money. The expert books I read didn’t stress the need to do so. My parents hadn’t (that I remembered) made a big fuss about formal personal finance lessons.
This is one area of parenting that I now wish I had taken a more active role in teaching (although both of my sons seem to do fine in this area so far).
Children will usually mirror their parents financial attitudes.
If you walk the walk, even if you don’t talk the talk, your kids will most likely copy the ways you manage your money. If you are a saver, they are likely to pick up on that and become savers themselves. If you carry a balance on your credit card and constantly complain about it, don’t be surprised if your kids do the same.
Of course, some folks do take a hard look at the way they were raised and decide to do things differently.
Its a good idea to let your child want something.
If your child never experiences the strong desire to acquire or do something, he or she may never develop the idea of earning money to get it or of finding ways to accomplish it. As the author of “Young Bucks How to Raise a Future Millionaire” (Troy Dun) puts it: “Give your child the gift of want”.
Most of humanity’s leaps forward have been the result of someone wanting something. Someone wanted the ability to keep warm and cook meat – and figured out how to tame fire.
Don’t supply every little desire your child expresses. Instead, help them figure out ways they can go get that desire.
What money lessons did you learn when you had children?