As a parent, we all want our children to become Money Mavens! The task of educating our children to be responsible custodians of money is sometimes easier said than done. We have talked to parents who say that all their children received the same lessons and messages about money but they have a child who never seems to be able to save or leverage their money. They don’t understand how this happened.
All families have money messages which they either consciously or unconsciously pass on to their children. Some common messages are “money doesn’t grow on trees;” “money is the root of all evil;” or as Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Whatever the family messages are, we all got them from parents who got their messages from their parents.
Rudolf Dreikurs, an American psychiatrist, said “Children are keen observers but poor interpreters”. That’s a fact! When we talk about money to children are we being misinterpreted? My children observed me get up at 5:30 AM, get ready to go off to work at 6:00 AM at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, and return home at 6:00 PM. A long hard day that didn’t end when I got home. I often went over the trades I made during the day until late into that night.
They thought that my job was easy! They didn’t understand what it took to be a successful trader. They thought hard work was physical labor not a career that used brain power. When they got older they had an “ah ha” moment and understood that using one’s brain is just as hard work as digging a ditch. Since they thought I had an easy job they thought it was easy to make money. They had a rude awakening during their summer breaks when they got up at 5:30 AM to clerk for several trading groups. They realized for the first time that what looked like an easy job was really very difficult and very few people can do it. This was when the money messages and work ethic talks they received as children resonated with them. I often told my children that “the harder I work the luckier I got” and that “success is a journey and not an overnight trip”. My money message growing up was that “work = money”. Working hard meant more money.
I tried to give them a healthy, positive, self-confident attitude toward money, believing that was a real contribution to their future. In the end, it’s not hard to do: children are keen observers so we need to set a good example of sound money management and let the children watch and learn. Kids need to see how money works in the world, how it comes into the family budget and how it can be used both wisely and well.
Setting a good example starts with us, the parents, who understand our own money messages and attitude towards money. Money is a tool for living not a goal or a medium of exchange. Children should understand that money is neither good nor bad. We all want to use it to achieve our goals and have positive impact on the things, ideas and people we value. We all want to raise and encourage our children to be Money Mavens