One of the topics that is often neglected or overlooked as parents struggle through the pre-teen and teen years, is finance. Money is not often a subject that comes easily to parents. And, once you’re teaching your children, they often want to know more about how much you’re making, how much debt you carry and why you aren’t making more.
While some of these may be good questions, they may leave you feeling uncomfortable or even violated, depending upon how open your own parents were about money. However, you might be overlooking a strong team of individuals living under your own roof who can help you move your family’s goals forward.
What if you learned that one night a month could change the financial direction your family was taking and grow your children’s understanding of how to grow their own financial future?
Not only will this build your bank account but you’ll also strengthen your relationships with the little adults you’re growing at home.
Let’s Talk Money
Most of us are very uncomfortable talking about money unless you’re doing taxes with your accountant. Money is an objective measure that many believe measures not only their financial worth but their own self-worth. Our society values those who have money, are rich, can afford to spend whatever they want on whatever they want.
But the reality is that your self-worth is not based on a number in your bank account. That number will let you know the probability you’ll pay your bills on time, can afford a new car or can easily splurge on a new wardrobe. But the amount of money in your bank account tells NOTHING about who you are as a person. It says nothing about your worth, your intelligence or your ability to be a great parent or partner.
Today I met an orthopedic surgeon who didn’t think he walked on water. Most physicians I meet these days think they were born with a stethoscope in their hands and a packed bank account. This one did not. He was humble, nice, listened to what we said and had ideas he talked about and didn’t TELL us about. In other words, he earned our respect and didn’t assume we would give it.
When you remember that no matter how much money you do or do not have in your bank account has nothing to do with who YOU are, you’ll be more comfortable sharing those numbers with your children. This is an extraordinary lesson for your children to learn as well. My middle son continues to struggle with this concept. In his mind, money equals worth.
He doesn’t have much money as he is still in college – but that isn’t as important to him as the fact that we didn’t have much money as he was growing up and therefore my poor worth was transferred to him. He has a good friend whose father is very well to do and he compared their family against ours for years. Teach your children their worth – and yours – doesn’t come from a bank account and you’ll all be happier.
Not Just Children
According to a survey by American Express, 90 percent of couples avoid talking about financial issues, debt and household expenses. In fact, many knew their partner’s weight but not how much they made at work! The couples claimed that financial discussions led to arguments so they avoided them.
And, while your children know you work to put food on the table, they don’t always understand the relationship between how much you make and how much you can spend on miscellaneous expenses.
The result is that many children believe the ATM is a magic machine. You’re getting money from a machine and not your bank account. My youngest daughter had that same idea when she was five. If I said, “That expense isn’t in the budget this month.” her response was always – “Go to the machine! The machine has money!”
Change the Future
For many years the family has been one unit. If one parent stayed home, what they contributed was valued. Children worked to make the process functional. Not necessarily outside the home, but they did chores, learned to cook and clean and earned their spending money. There wasn’t the expectation that one person brought home the bacon, but that everyone contributed.
Your family financial team is that – a team. You can make the meeting times fun by including prizes or games and treats. The team’s goal is to build a future and help each person achieve their own personal goals. Everyone has a voice in decisions and responsibility for the outcomes. As with any meeting, it’s important to start with a structure that each person can anticipate.
Begin by identifying any movement forward since the last meeting in individual or family goals. These goals can be short-term or long-term. For instance, saving for college, buying a bike, paying for music lessons. Reducing debt should always be a top priority as it may reduce your stress and therefore improve your parenting skills.
Use programs that will create a visual image that tracks your goals. You can easily build a graph using an spreadsheet program that’s free online inside your Outlook or Google account.
Put your goals in writing, and use pictures for the younger children, so everyone remembers and can participate in the meetings. Each meeting briefly review the goals to be sure you’re traveling down the road you WANT to. Part of your goals is controlling your spending so you can achieve those goals. So at each meeting, review your spending from the previous month. If you commit to using the same debit card each month it will be easy to track where your money is spent.
Review your upcoming spending with your children – how much is budgeted for food, rent, utilities and any known extras. Ask you and your children if the extras are something you need or you want – and if you can afford the want or should put that money away for your goals?
As you wind up the meeting, determine what you’ll review in the next meeting and the date and time. And then celebrate! You and your children are on the same page as you journey toward your future and together you’ll likely get there faster than traveling alone.