Money, Debt – Do Those Words Affect Children?

Money, Debt – Do Those Words Affect Children?

Absolutely. First, think back. No matter what your financial picture is now, can you remember overhearing or maybe even having a discussion with your parents about money? Answers would be diverse and numerous; they might look like this:

1. I realized we didn’t have any money when my mother cried about my ripping a jacket;

2. At night I often heard my parents arguing about money;

3. When my father died, my mother had to work two jobs–to support us and pay off debts;

4. If my mother uttered the word debt or money, my father would shush her and take us all for ice cream.

5. From early on, my father focussed on my need to get a job to help the family.

Others reading this might have been fortunate enough to live in a household where money wasn’t a problem or an issue. But with the downturn in the economy and subsequent loss of jobs for great numbers of people, money concerns are now part of many households.  What parents or grandparents say about money and debt can negatively or positively affect how children feel and eventually handle their own money.

True wealth isn’t defined by how much money you have, but by how you use it.

Shannon Ryan grew up with this maxim. Her blog, THE HEAVY PURSE, reflects the lessons that her father began to teach her at the age of 13. He discussed the importance of spending money wisely thus giving a person the ability to purchase what matters most. He taught that financial freedom is definitely related to understanding one’s emotional relationship to money, which could be fear, anger, frustration, even boredom. Fear of money or anger that we don’t have enough can lead to profligate and unwise spending. The result? Emotional spending hinders the realization of goals and disallows living the life we want and deserve.

If you have decided to stop reading because none of this applies to you in your boomer years, please don’t. Do you read money gurus like Jean Chatzky and Suze Orman? Ryan is applying great principles about money to help prepare our children and grandchildren for a future where having enough money might be even more tenuous than it was for us.

1. Consider the emotional aspect of money: if money sometimes meant struggle for you, then consider teaching your progeny that it is a gift, one that can bring good things into life if used properly. Attaching too much emotion to money can make it a burden for the wealthy or something to covet for the non-wealthy—neither is positive or helpful.

2. Give money a purpose: discuss the importance of not spending mindlessly. Ryan advocates family meetings where money is discussed and goals (like a vacation) are set. Though her daughters are young, she and her husband are teaching money’s connection to goal setting. They might ask: which should the family save for this year—a vacation to visit a relative or a backyard climbing gym? They then plan and save for the decided upon goal. Her daughters have input and learn that this household does not spend mindlessly.

3. Set spending examples: Ryan’s children save the money they receive as gifts and from doing chores. A shopping expedition is a test to see if the “flashy new item” is really worth the funds they have saved. Ryan is proud to say the girls often decline spending their money and have learned not to beg Mom to buy the item for them.

4. Share money decisions: Ryan’s openness is healthy. I remember worrying about money as a child; I knew we didn’t have much of it. Once in a great while my mother could not help reminding us that we had to watch our spending carefully. But she also allowed us in on discussions about spending and decision making. We learned to pride ourselves on the money we made through summer jobs and the scholarships we earned to put us through college.

5. At the very least, talk about MONEY: Final thoughts. As parents and grandparents we teach our children so much, wanting them to grow up and succeed in life, become happy, well-grounded, successful adults. We give them the tools they need to reach certain goals: how to practice good hygiene, how to read, learn math facts, talk to adults, meet and become friendly with other children. But Ryan points out that rarely do we talk to our progeny about how to make smart money decisions. Ryan states: “If we really want our kids to succeed, money conversations need to become a priority and not an afterthought. Make the commitment to talk to your kids about money and if you don’t know how, then make the commitment to learn.”

Some money conversations can be difficult, but if debt is a problem and money is tight, Ryan has some great suggestions for budgeting and discussing budgeting within the family.

Money should not be a dirty word in anyone’s household. Honest discussions about a family’s economic situation works toward proper decision-making when it comes to spending. Including growing children and teens in the purpose of spending and the reasons for saving can help them build positive and emotion-free attitudes toward money as they build their own successful lives and careers.

Thanks to Shannon Ryan for her exceedingly helpful blog that can not only make money a positive word in our progeny’s vocabulary, but can also provide us with doable ideas about budgeting. Got a teen who wants to build up credit card debt? Arguments against. Check it out here. Our use and explanation of words like money and debt definitely affect our children’s economic future.

Money, Debt – Do Those Words Affect Children?

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