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Guest Opinion: Talking to your children about money


As both a mom and a financial planner, I want my 1-year-old son, Brock, to grow up to be financially independent and make wise financial decisions. There are two significant truths that can help. First, the best way to learn to handle money well is to handle money. Second, the best way to learn to make good financial decisions is to — you guessed it — make financial decisions.

I grew up as the oldest of three daughters. My mom, a part-time piano teacher, always shopped the bargains and used coupons. My dad, a pastor, taught me how to live frugally. In elementary school, my mom gave me four Tupperware containers labeled Tithe, Give, Save, and Spend. I was required to divide all money I earned or received into the four categories: 10 percent, 10 percent, 10 percent and 70 percent, respectively. My parents gave me a small allowance for completing chores to encourage me to practice classifying money into the different categories. This taught me the value of giving back to the Lord, giving to others, saving, and I certainly enjoyed the spending category the most! Classifying my money into the four Tupperware containers laid the groundwork for the financial decisions I make today.

My parents often did not have money to get me things above and beyond the basics, so I learned how to buy those things with my own money. As women, we often feel the need to buy everything for our kids, but I learned many valuable lessons from not having everything I wanted. 

In high school, my parents entrusted me with bigger financial decisions. They purchased a $500 1988 Jeep Cherokee for me that was a rust bucket, but I loved it! I was required to pay for the gas and oil changes, and even had to purchase four tires for the car. I learned the importance of a summer job and how to spend carefully to buy the things I both needed and wanted.

In college, my parents scaled back even more by only paying for my medical expenses, cellphone and part of the tuition bill. This gave me more opportunities to practice living frugally so I could stretch my summer earnings to cover the entire school year. They also helped me open a credit card, but encouraged me to only use it to purchase gas for my car and to pay it off each month. 

In a society where men are often viewed as the financial decision-makers of the family, I appreciated watching my mom spend hours creating budgets and balancing her checkbook on Quicken, a financial management software package. Her example and guidance encouraged me to become confident making financial decisions. Eventually I became a financial adviser and planner, a career dominated by men.

My parents’ guidance and discussions about money growing up helped me become completely independent in my finances. You don’t have to use Tupperware or the 10 percent, 10 percent, 10 percent and 70 percent rule, but it is important to put some guidelines in place. Include your children in some of your financial discussions so they have both the knowledge and experience to make their own financial decisions and someday be completely independent.

Brittany Heard works with Foster Group clients to define and achieve their financial goals. She enjoys helping clients make small changes that benefit them long-term. Heard’s opinions in this guest submission do not necessarily reflect those of her employer.

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