On our drive while listening to the Braving the Wilderness audiobook by Brené Brown, my six year old daughter caught a line that perplexed her. “Why did she just say we have to hold hands with strangers Mom?” This made me laugh, because I tell her to stay away from strangers, and the current reality of the COIVD-19 pandemic has us focused on not touching anything. Clearly this statement went against the messages my daughter had been receiving, and now she was confused. I love that she spoke up because it gave me the opportunity to explain that Brené didn’t mean it that way, but to symbolize how we create community and a sense of belonging by connecting with others.
These conversations remind my financial advisor-self that children are sponges, giving meaning to everything around them, and money is no exception. Think back to the early messages about money in your household – were these messages positive or negative? Many of us, myself included, were exposed to household conversations about money which centered on never having ‘enough’ or money being a cause of stress. And for those of us who did receive such messages, it may have gone on to influence our present relationship with money.
We can change the money messages our children are picking up. It starts with us becoming aware of how we talk about money. We have the ability to create conversations about money that are centred on positivity and inspiration. This will serve our children later on by building confidence in their ability to grow their wealth and achieve their financial goals. Below are some ideas for ways we can be intentional with our words and actions, in an effort to keep the money messages that our little sponges are absorbing encouraging and uplifting:
Talk to your children about money like you would to another adult, but keep the concepts age appropriate and positive, so they get comfortable with financial terms. Invite them to ask questions and be part of the conversation. A client shared that while living overseas with her seven year old son, they could travel home from work and school each day by taxi or train. She generally chose the taxi, thinking only of convenience. One day when she shared the costs of the two modes of transport with her son, he was shocked by how much more the taxi was, and insisted the train was the better option from that day on. He took an interest in the family finances and wanted to help save his single mom some money.
Yes that’s right, brag! Because not only do we want our children to be inspired by our stories, but we can encourage an unapologetic pride in their own early money accomplishments. My daughter is really good at convincing me to take her for ice cream at Dairy Queen. Being there brings back memories of getting my first ‘real job’ at the age of 15. As we sit side by side eating our dipped cones, I tell her about how I saved all my paycheques the first summer I worked there to buy my very own car. I worked SO hard to save up. Buying a car completely on my own, as a teen, was a big accomplishment, one I’m very proud of! My daughter may get tired of hearing about my DQ glory days, but her love for ice cream still wins out, so I guess she will have to endure. And I do hope my proudest early money accomplishment inspires her to create one of her own that she’ll brag about one day.
I am such a huge proponent of goal setting, and really being specific about money goals. I love walking beside clients as they accomplish their most ambitious financial goals and create new possibilities for themselves and their families. The ‘goals’ discussion is paramount each time I meet with a new person. When I know what a client wants to achieve I can plan with them how to reach their goals. What surprises me is how few people have specific details and answers ready when I ask about their short- and long-term goals. We need to think and talk about goals more often, and start early! I ask my daughter what her goals and dreams are on a regular basis and it always makes for a fun conversation. She currently has an ambitious goal to buy a fancy pink sports car. She hasn’t quite settled on the career yet that will afford her this luxury, I think she is still getting over the shock that her initial plan to have me buy it for her was a ‘no’. I love going on the journey with her and offering ideas on how she could make her dream a reality (when she is old enough, and tall enough to drive that is!). If we encourage conversations about goals and dreams with our kids, they will never stop believing that anything is possible.
Learning opportunities in our lives will often come out of mistakes and failures. The same can be said about money. So much of what we learn and grow from originates from money mistakes. This statement might sound odd, but yes, what I am suggesting is to step back and let your kids make money mistakes. And from the mistakes, valuable money lessons emerge. Think of it as experimenting with money in a safe environment. If a young person makes a money mistake early in his life, it has less of an effect on their financial future. If your teen gets a summer job and decides to spend their entire paycheque the day they receive it, they now must wait two full weeks before getting their next pay. The impact of this financial mistake is likely minimal, perhaps they miss a few outings with their friends. They quickly figure out that holding a little money back ensures they won’t miss out next time. The same scenario would look very different in adult years. As an adult, if they spend an entire paycheque the day it’s received, it will mean no money for groceries, or missing a mortgage/rent payment. In adult years, that money mistake has a much greater impact. Nobody is perfect, and mistakes will happen, but if we allow them to happen in the early years and in a safe environment, our children can take the valuable lessons learned forward into their adult years. With these points in mind, I invite you to be intentional about the money messages that your children are picking up. When talking about money you can be mindful about what you’re saying and how it’s being said. Through healthy and positive conversations about wealth, you can encourage your children to achieve their most ambitious goals and to create possibilities in their financial futures.