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My Childhood and Family Finances

Growing up, I remember seeing my parents balancing their checkbooks.  I remember watching them write the checks for groceries, gas, and a number of other things.  One thing that I don’t really remember is ever being involved in the finances of the family.

I can understand why my parents did that.  They probably never really thought about it.  After all, I didn’t have a job, so I brought no income in.  I didn’t really have any direct expenses, so I sent no money out.  And my parents provided room and board.

Now that I have kids of my own, I understand even more why I wasn’t involved.  As a parent, it’s very easy to think of your children as your wards.  You provide for them.  As long as they are being provided for, what need do they have to know anything of the family finances?

As my children get older, I realize that my parents were wrong.  And I would be wrong too if I followed suit.

My Children and Family Finances

From the moment that our children are born, they look to us as their role models.  They learn to eat, talk, and walk by learning from our example.  There is very little that our children do not learn from us before they reach school age.

When they reach school age, some of that is lessened as they begin to learn how to read, do math, and all the other fun subjects at school.  But, we are still their role models.  If we want them to have a happy and fulfilling life, it’s our responsibility to continue to teach them how to do so.

And, if you’re reading this, you’ll agree that learning to handle your personal finances is a factor in leading that happy and fulfilling life.  For the health and well-being of our children we need to teach them how to handle their finances.  We need to teach them how to complete a simple budget.  We need to teach them what a credit score is. We need to teach them how to start investing in stocks.  And there is no better way to do that than to involve them as much as possible in the family finances.

Obviously, certain things are going to be a little more age appropriate than others.  My 5-year old isn’t likely to sit through a half hour of budgeting.  And even if he did, he’s unlikely to understand most of it.  And he certainly isn’t likely to understand anything I tell him about his credit score.  But, broken down into some extreme minimalist examples, he’s likely to begin picking up some of the principles.

How, then, do we involve our children?

How I Involve My Kids in Family Finances

Explain why you do what you do.  They don’t have to sit through the entire budget, but sit them down and explain that you are going to do the budget for the family.

You’ll likely get their favorite question.  Why?  Which, as it happens, is the best possible segue into the short explanation of why you budget – because it lets us know how much money we made this month, and allows us to plan where we want to spend it so that we get all the bills paid and are able to save for other things.  And, if they walk away satisfied at that point, that’s ok.

As they get older, they’ll start asking more questions and you can explain more of it too them.  At some point, they’ll be able to understand it well enough to sit with you while you do it and can begin to learn how it works.

Show them what you do.  My kids help my wife sort through coupons and clip coupons all the time.  When they started helping, it was just because they were excited to be allowed to assist.  Now, after having done it for quite a while, they’ve also picked up on how we use those coupons and will even ask to make sure we’re using them when we go shopping.  By just letting them help cut and sort the coupons, they’ve picked up on the basic principle of why we coupon.

Involving them in what we do, whether it be finances, cooking, cleaning, or even hobbies (I get lots of help gardening), can be an effective way to teach (without actively teaching) our children how to do things.  They’ll learn how to do things for themselves and are more likely to grow up to be healthy individuals who are capable of doing for themselves with minimal outside assistance.

Try It Out

We’ve all gotten way too used to having teachers do the teaching, and then we wonder why our children don’t know how to make a budget, cook dinner, or grow tomatoes.  I’m amazed every day with my children’s aptitude and ability to pick things up and run with them. Except scissors, of course!

Give it a try.  Involve your children and see what you can teach them without even trying!

Crystal’s Comments:  I don’t remember being involved directly with my family finances, but I do remember my mother teaching me how to write a check and balance a checkbook when I was 8 or so.  I also remember both of my parents explaining to me why we bought generics and how to save money on less important stuff so you can put away cash for a more important goal like retirement.  We talked about general topics like savings, prioritization, stocks, CD’s, etc.  While I still may not know exact details, I know they are better than okay. 

That foundation shaped my views on my household finances now.  My mom recently said that she has no idea where I inherited my love for budgets (she hates them), but she knows exactly how I learned how to manage money as a tool.

How involved were you in your family’s finances?  Do you involve your children?