My wife has a twin brother. So, a few years after we married when it was time to start our family, when I began praying we would have twins she thought I was crazy. Twins are very expensive. You have to buy two of everything. They were very expensive then and they are very expensive now. Yet, the boys have never heard me say, “I can’t afford it.” They’ve heard me say “no,” but not because I couldn’t afford it. I have a lifestyle today that exceeds most of my peers, but it takes work and discipline.
Thankfully, my boys are now long past the back-to-school stage, but seeing all of our beautiful children returning to school reminds me of those wonderful, albeit expensive, days. So let’s use the start of the new academic year to trigger the teaching of one of the most valuable lessons you can ever offer your children — how to live within your means.
Many of us never talk to our children about money because money is often a taboo issue, not only in households, but at work and in neighborhoods. I’m not saying you have to open your bank book and show your children exactly what you have on hand, but you do need to teach your children how to budget. You need to teach your children how to respect money and what good money can do when it is managed properly.
Most of all, you need to teach your children to follow their passions and how to turn those passions into careers that will be satisfying professionally, emotionally and financially. And, because it’s the 21st century, you also need to teach your children to have diversified income streams.
If you know anything about raising children, you know that they learn more by watching what you do than from what you say. That means if you’re truly going to teach your children you have to start by making sure you have your own financial life in order. But the lessons don’t have to be painful. They do need to be routine and consistent.
For instance, when you go to the store don’t just let your children buy whatever they see. When they bring you that must-have item, ask them if they’re willing to spend their own money on it. You’ll find out very quickly what they really must have and they’ll learn very quickly about the basics of a budget.
Today, most of us can’t find any neighborhood kids who are willing to do small jobs like cut your grass or shovel snow. It’s not that these jobs are no longer needed. It’s just that many of our children are so pampered that they don’t need to earn money. Many of our children don’t even have chores in their own homes. Why not assign them a few chores tied to an allowance, and throw in some bonus things they can do to help out in the home or in the neighborhood to collect bonus money? You can teach them about earning and saving money at the same time you teach them about helping others.
It’s also a good thing to start early with instilling an entrepreneurial spirit. Teenagers today could go to almost any suburb in America and start a lucrative business just from cutting grass or offering to run errands for people with busy lifestyles. Fortunately, there are still enough safe neighborhoods around where these activities can take place.
When they start earning a little money, or even when they receive money as gifts, march them right to the bank and help them open a bank account. Sure, you can do that online these days, but I am guessing the physical experience of being in a bank will create more of an impact on their young minds. Impress upon them that they need to save money. If you don’t have a bank account, open one for yourself while you are there.
It’s OK for your children to know that you haven’t done things perfectly, as long as they understand what you see as the goal and strategies to get there.
Use the school-year calendar as a reminder to yourself to reinforce lessons of good financial management regularly with your children. It will pay off, trust me.DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., author of Say Yes to No Debt: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom, is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey and is the architect of the dfree® financial freedom movement.