I guarantee you that if you do not, they will hang around and expect you to do and pay for everything for them — just like you have their whole lives!
Because my parents were so tight-lipped about money, I had no idea the sacrifices they made for all of us. No. Idea. My three brothers and I all went to private schools. All four of us went to college — art school, in my case. (Yes, private school. I was so glad to get away from home!)
Did I have one single iota of a clue what that cost them? What they had to do to cover those expenses, year after year as we grew up?
Not until way, way later, when it was far too late to say thank you, thank you, thank you — for caring about our futures, for doing what it took, for going without so we could have. Writing this is so hard. Shame and tears. But that’s done and gone. Got to move on, right?
So what did I learn from all this?
This is what:
Talk to your damn kids about money.
Starting when they’re young!
Treat your kids like little kids, yes! Because they are little kids. And, educate them! Show them the money! Tell them what a penny is, a nickel, a dime, a quarter! Show them each dollar bill! Help them count, tally, know the values.
And later, show them how to write a check, notate it, keep track of the funds!
How to use a credit card, if you use them, and how to keep the account robust and clean.
Show them how much it takes to pay for groceries, a dinner out, gas for the car. Show them how to list monthly expenses and tick them off once they get paid.
Show them how to deposit money in savings and checking accounts, and how to use those accounts.
When my kids were little, I used to take them to see our favorite local band at a restaurant/bar nearby. I showed them how to find out on the menu what our snacks and drinks would cost.
I gave them each ten bucks. They carefully selected the items, and gave the waiter the right amount of money when the bill came. And good tips.
They were so proud!
How will they know how to handle money if you don’t show them? I’ll tell you — through misinformed sources — or not at all, like me!
Remember that they will be 18 soon, wanting to leave the house and go out on their own. Test them, push them, ask them what they know. Believe me, they will want to know!
If you don’t show them what to do now, how will they ever know how to navigate like responsible adults when it comes time?
I guarantee you that if you do not, they will hang around and expect you to do and pay for everything for them just like you have their whole lives!
Is that what you want? Helpless, infantile adult children? I don’t think so.
Show them how much you make, what your expenses are every month.
Show them what you do if you can’t make the full payments, or what you could choose to do if you have a little extra.
Tell them, too, that expenses, accounts, amounts, and everything financial is your family’s business and your family’s business only. Stress the importance of strict in-family confidentiality. They will be proud to be entrusted. Give them that ability to be proud.
Talking about money allows you the opportunity to show them, on the one hand, how vulnerable you all are in the face of not-enough.
And if you do have enough, or even plenty, how powerful that is.
Show them that, no matter how much you have, you are still vulnerable to those who would remove that plenty if they could.
Show them how good it feels to give five or ten percent of your income to a group or an organization you respect and does good things. Or to give it silently to someone who needs it, with no strings.
Join together to make an investment, starting out by making pretend ones. Take part in charity campaigns, raising money for a cause you’re passionate about. Buy art or antiques….
Discuss with your kids who you will leave in charge when you die, and who you will bequeath your things to in your will. When you let them be part of the process long before you leave the planet, it will help them avoid the who-gets-what fights that so often occur at the reading of the will, and used to the idea that you are not immortal.
I could think of a whole lot of other things to do with your kids relating to money, but I bet you can think of all the just-right things for your own family way better than I ever could. I just wish my parents had done so with me.
Oh! I just had a flash — you know what my dad gave me for my 15th birthday? Guess! Hint: my older brothers each got a couple of prime stocks and bonds.
I was all excited — I thought I would, too, so, in preparation, I’d been carefully playing fictional investor, checking the back of the daily newspapers for the stock ratings of a couple of companies all year. I watched as the stocks rose and fell, made notes, and even changed which companies I followed as I saw which ones were more reliable.
My dad ceremoniously placed a big box in front of me on the dinner table that night, after we did the whole cake thing.
I’m thinking, wow, this is way too big for papers, wonder what it is!
My heart in my throat, I pulled apart the wide, red silk ribbon bow, carefully opened the heavy cream-colored, satiny paper, removed the top of the box, peeked under the red tissue…
“Oh my! OOOhh…”
Can you hear my fake laugh and see my fake look of joy? A pair of dark red alligator-skin high heeled shoes! And 3 pairs of silk stockings, with the seam up the back!
Ooooh, fake fake fake me — trying so hard to make my tears of rage look like tears of joy….
I wanted to shred him. Apparently he hadn’t been paying attention for the last NINE YEARS, as pantyhose were introduced and swept the market. Or maybe he thought I’d look classy with those silk ones on? Who knows?
Stocks? Bonds? Nah, I was ‘just a girl,’ what would I know about those things?
Yet one more chance to educate me about money and finances, down the drain.
Educate your kids.
Do it without negative emotion. Even have fun at it. It will make such a difference for all of you.
Thanks so much for reading my story. I hope it lit you up. Or maybe it inspired you, or made you curious, or gave you a new perspective with which to view and appreciate your own life. Or maybe take on a new exciting scary fun adventure! That’s my wish.
The PAINFUL WAY I LEARNED ABOUT MONEY, Part II
text and image © Angela Treat Lyon 2021–2
This is an enhanced version of a story from my book, INSIDE SECRETS, Stories I’ve Never Told Anyone, Volume III. Illustrated with my artwork.
You can get all the books in this series in print on amazon, or get the Ebooks for $5 each (or pay what you want) at atlyon.gumroad.com.
The images in Volume III are all from original pen and ink drawings done in Japanese Sumi ink on heavy watercolor paper. If you’d like a print of this image, please contact me.
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