As a financial counselor, I have had the privilege to serve people from all walks of life and socio-economic statuses. During those experiences, I’ve learned that we are more alike than different. Every family, whether they earned $15,000 or $200,000 a year, sought my services for the same reason – they were STRUGGLING to manage their personal finances.
Now, you might be thinking, how can somebody who earns $200,000 a year struggle???
It’s simple. If you make $200,000 then turn around and spend $200,000, you end up with $0. That person might have more stuff but, at the end of the day, they still don’t have any money. Let’s be honest – saving isn’t the American way. Amassing more stuff is. Despite its momentary satisfaction, getting more “stuff” rarely creates the peace of mind and satisfaction most people think it will.
When asked, many of my clients can connect their upbringing to their current spending habits. For instance, hypothetically, I might have a client who loves to shop. When exploring the client’s upbringing, we might learn that her family expressed themselves by buying – You Guessed It – stuff! Up to that point, our hypothetical client hadn’t a clue that she was following financial patterns she learned as a child.
This brings us to our main point:What financial foundation are you laying for your child(ren)?
Every parent I know, myself included, wants to ensure that the next generation does better than the last. Unfortunately, although we are well intentioned, we equip our child(ren) the best way we know how – with what we’ve always known. If our children only know how to do what we’ve done, how are we equipping them to be better than we are?
As a parent, it is important for you to know that although you may not have a master’s degree in personal finance, you have a Ph.D. in Life. Your financial experiences, whether good or bad, can be turned in to invaluable learning opportunities.
For example: grocery shopping! You may not create a budget and shopping list at the present time, but you know you should. If you did, you would be less likely to walk out the store with a lot of unnecessary stuff, right??? If your child(ren) experience you repeating this behavior over and over again, you’ve unknowingly set a financial pattern that your child(ren) are likely to repeat when they comes of age.
What can you do about it?
The next time you go to the store, have your child(ren), this works for kids age 6 and up, help you create a grocery list that will not exceed a spending limit of $20. Make it a game! To win the game, your child(ren) must ensure that Mommy or Daddy don’t go over the budget. The prize doesn’t have to be money. It could be more time on the computer or TV, a favorite meal, an extra scoop of ice cream, etc.
While at the store, and you know it’s coming, allow your child(ren)to grab a few random things that are not on the shopping list. Be certain they grab enough items to place you over the $20 spending limit. At checkout, when the cashier rings you up and goes over budget, ask her to make the executive decision on which non-budgeted item(s) should be put back so you do not exceed the spending limit. Most important of all, be sure to pay with CASH! Kids tend to think debit cards have magic fairy dust and an unlimited supply of money.
Now, the thought of making your child(ren) put something back at checkout may sound a bit harsh to some, but you’ve just taught your child(ren) several financial skills without even knowing it:
- You’ve Empowered them by allowing them to be a part of the financial decision making process.
- You’ve taught them how to Plan Ahead.
- You’ve shown them that it is important to Honor the Spending Limits They Help Set.
- You’ve demonstrated, by using cash, money is not an unlimited resource –No More Fairy Dust!
As your child(ren) get older, increase the size of the grocery list and the budget they are in charge of overseeing. It’s amazing how kids rise to the occasion when they are empowered to do so! Beyond that, it’s important to make the process fun. My three year old won’t let me brush his hair unless we make a silly game and song out of it. Whether your child is three or fourteen, remember to keep it light.
I’ve worked with a countless number of teens and college students who have never handled money. In many instances, a number of these young adults have never had any meaningful conversations with their families about money. I understand that many families do not feel qualified to teach their children money skills. However, if we truly want the next generation to do better than the last, we have to equip the next generation with better tools than we had. That said, please feel free to like my Facebook page: Modum Solutions. You will find some amazing content throughout the year that will help you become more financially savvy and confident when it comes to talking to your child(ren) about money.
Lastly, if you reside in the state of Georgia and have a child between the age of 11 and 14, I will be co-facilitating a week long financial literacy/awareness camp at the University of Georgia in July of 2016 – Money Dawgs. Follow this link for more details. For families with limited resources, scholarships are available!!!
Michael J. Thomas Jr., Servant, Family Man, Public Speaker, Blogger, Author in the Works, Ph. D. Student at UGA, Financial Counselor and Founder of Modom Financial Services
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Dr. King’s quote pretty much sums me up in a nutshell. My life’s work, with regards to my calling, is to provide holistic financial services to under served populations that strengthens families and builds stronger communities.