Kids learn by watching. What are your kids learning?
My kids are still young enough that they think Dad is a pretty cool guy and actually knows a few things about life. I know it won’t be long, however, before my status is lowered to the annoying, embarrassing guy that my kids will go out of their way to avoid. I hope our relationship doesn’t get to that point, but I realize it probably will.
With this revelation I realized something else. Whether they think I’m cool or not, they’re still watching what I do and learning from my actions. At some point they may stop listening to what I say but they will always watch me and learn from what I do and the examples I set, good or bad.
What I want my kids to learn about money
There are a lot of lessons I learned growing up by watching my family and people around me that I don’t want my kids to learn. So I put together a short list of things I do want them to learn from me.
- I want my legacy to my kids to not just be an inheritance, but I want them to be ready to handle the inheritance I pass on to them. Getting them to that point starts today with the things I do.
- My family always avoided talking about money. I won’t make this mistake. I want my kids to know it’s ok to talk about finances in our family because it’s important to understand how money works and how it impacts our relationships.
- Since my family never talked about money, I have no idea what they did with it. Did they do a budget? Were they able to pay the bills or did they just scrape by all those years? I’ll never know but I make sure my kids see me doing a budget every month with my wife and (calmly) talking about our financial situation.
- Mom and Dad sometimes fought about money. Because of this I began to develop negative thoughts about money at a young age. I want my kids to grow up watching a healthy marital relationship where my wife and I share financial goals and philosophies. Translation: We work hard to not fight about money, especially in front of the kids.
- I grew up hearing sermons in church about the evils of money. I learned from family that there are a lot of greedy rich people and it’s a bad thing to make lots of money. But the truth is money isn’t evil. It’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil. There are generous rich people and there are greedy poor people. I want my kids to learn how to be givers, and then I want them to know how to build wealth so they can become bigger givers.
- My parents didn’t rack up a lot of credit card debt as far as I know, but that’s another habit I don’t want my kids to learn. When I shop, my kids see me pay with cash or use a debit card, and they know the difference between debt and credit. They also know why I refuse to own credit cards.
- According to my parents, we never had any money. That may be partially true but it’s more accurate to say we didn’t have much spending money because they were saving for longer term goals. I didn’t know that because all I ever heard was “we can’t afford it.” So when my kids complain about all the “stuff” their friends have, I don’t tell them we don’t have the money. I explain how if I buy the stuff their friends have, I won’t be able to provide for our long-term future. They don’t like hearing that but they’re beginning to understand how to make mature financial decisions.
I don’t have all the answers (although I’ll never admit that to my wife and kids). But I know one thing: It’s my job as a parent to make sure my kids learn life skills as they grow. I don’t want them to be perfect but I do want them to be prepared to manage their finances and avoid some of the mistakes I made as a young adult.
What are you teaching your kids to prepare them for life? Are you setting good examples or is there room for improvement? Take a few moments and reflect on what your kids are seeing. If you don’t like what they see, it may be time for a change.
Matt Wegner is a full-time financial & business coach, blogger, podcaster, husband, & father teaching his clients and audience to embrace debt-free living and pursue true L.I.F.E. (Living In Financial Excellence). Find more of Matt’s articles on his blog at www.financialexcellence.net.