Recently I had a conversation with our 14 year old daughter about money. It’s not the first one we’ve had but this time was different. Why? Because I ended up getting upset with her. So what happened? Here goes:
She has been saving her allowance. And sometimes she gets money from different relatives. So that day, I just casually asked how much money she has saved. She said, “None.” I said, “Are you kidding? What happened?” Then she started to explain. In frustration, I just cut her off and didn’t even listen to all she had to say.
That’s probably not the best approach – to ask your child a legitimate question, only to cut her off while she’s answering. But here’s my issue: we have been talking about money – the do’s and don’ts - like budgeting, saving, spending. And what did she do? She spent it all!
She just completed her freshman year in high school. Soon she’ll be off to college. And after that, comes the real world. Unless we give her the right lessons at this juncture, she might learn the hard way the importance of managing money carefully. She told me a few months ago that she wants a bank account with her own debit card. I promised her that, if she demonstrates that she can handle the responsibility of managing the money she gets now, then we can do that. The recent spending spree that she went on tells me that she’s not quite ready yet. So back to the drawing board we go.
Now, I know as adults, sometimes we spend more money than we should – more than we want to. I understand life situations arise. But she’s 14 and a fulltime student. She has no life real obligations that would cause her to spend anything on a monthly basis. Any money she gets is purely for her pleasure – a little shopping, a little eating or whatever she wants to do.
I eventually listened to her tell me she did some shopping and got some things she’d been wanting to get for some time. I told her I have no problem with her getting things she had wanted. But we had a deal and she didn’t keep her end of the bargain.
You see, I have had my own financial issues and I am determined to teach my 3 kids about money management from a theoretical standpoint. Then I want to give them the opportunity to put these concepts into practice as they grow. My wife and I have 2 young sons – a 2 ½ year old and a 7 month old. So for now, the lessons are all directed to our teen daughter.
When I was growing up, my parents did speak with my siblings and me about money but more in a general sense. As I became an adult, I began to realize that I needed a bit more. I started working and earning my own money while in high school and that continued through college. I spent what I earned on things I wanted; my needs were taken care of by my parents.
When I graduated from my university studies and became a professional, I started earning much more money than before. At the same time, I became an independent, working adult, responsible for paying his own bills. That’s a whole new ballgame altogether.
It’s one thing to earn spending money when your parents are responsible for your care; it’s a different thing when you are responsible for every penny that comes into or goes out of your household. I learned, in a hurry, that a nice paycheck can come and go in a flash. I didn’t go about spending money unnecessarily; I just didn’t live by a budget. I figured that, as long as I could pay my rent, car note, credit card bills, college loans, grocery bills and other monthly obligations, I was fine.
I didn’t think about doing a bank reconciliation to ensure that I know what checks are outstanding at a given time. I didn’t think about saving. There was little thought about planning for tomorrow because I was so busy trying to live for each day.
There came a point where I realized that instead of managing money and putting it to work for me, it was managing me. Without employing a proactive approach to handling finances, I seemed to always find myself with too much month left after the money I earned that month was gone. Without going too much into the details of that chapter of my life, I’ll just say that I learned some tough lessons about the importance of handling finances. I set out to change my situation so that I could begin seeing different results.
Establishing a budget was one of the first things I did. It’s good to put on paper what you earn and what you’re obligated to spend and what you can exercise discretion in spending. Learning to save and invest is also an important part of this process. It’s something I have learned and am still learning. But more importantly, I have been putting what I have learned into practice and I’m finding more and more, that the principles of managing finances do work.
My kids mean the world to me. As they grow and develop I want them to learn the importance of handling finances. I teach our daughter that, when she gets money, she is to set some aside for savings; then she is to give some away – in our case, to church. Then she can buy things that she needs or even wants. But all of this is to be done with a well-thought out, proactive approach.
I know that the weekend before our conversation I referred to above, she went out with her cousins and they did a little shopping – well, a lot of shopping. She ended up getting things she didn’t plan to get, paying more than she planned to pay and when all was said and done, she came home with some nice things, but the money was gone – no savings, nothing given away. And I’m sure that if I was to look at what she paid for the things she got, I would see that she overpaid for some items. Or at the very least, she got items that, though they may have been good buys, were out of her budget.
I believe that we live in a society that encourages us to be impulsive spenders. We’re bombarded with ads for items that we don’t really need; we’re encouraged to get credit cards to get items that we want, just to satisfy some desire that was initiated in crafty ways by advertisers. And of course there’s the peer-pressure issue that causes our kids to think they need to have what everyone else has.
So as responsible parents, I believe that we have the obligation to counteract what our kids might hear from their friends or from advertisers. The truth is that they can accomplish just about anything they desire. And they can acquire things that they dream about. But it takes planning, discipline and self-control to make it happen.
Parenting is no walk in the park. But we’re preparing the next generation to take over the world as we get older. Money management is a key lesson for them to learn in order to live accomplished, balanced lives. Let us encourage them to be wise in how they handle this precious resource so that they can see their goals and dreams come to fruition.
Do enjoy your day.
The Upbeat Dad