It’s an odd thing, writing about money. Writing about parenthood. And writing about all the overlaps. I get excited when my kid wants to save money for a house or a vacation. Although I love my job, my heart breaks every time I have to meet their tear-stained eyes and tell them I have to go to work so we can pay rent and have food.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with money recently. There’s healthy parts. I’m responsible. I’m actively invested in our household finances. And then there’s unhealthy parts. I worry that whatever I have won’t be sufficient. I don’t like spending money, even when I have to. Not because I’m a miser, but because I’m paranoid about that next emergency that might lie around the corner.
As my children grow, I want them to be responsible. I want them to be actively involved in their finances. But I don’t want them to have any unhealthy fears. Here’s what I want my kids to know about money:
It’s an amazing tool.
Money is hands-down awesome. It allows you to take care of yourself, pursue your dreams and help others. It’s a tool that goes beyond dollars and cents, and mastering your own personal finances will set you up to be able to handle those inevitable bumps in the road all that much easier.
You shouldn’t lose your soul to it.
Watch what you do to get money. There will, at some point in your life, be a time when someone asks you to do something you’re not comfortable with for cash. I’m not talking anything as dark as prostitution (though I hope you stay the heck away from that, too,) but rather things that go against your morals or professional ethics.
There is no dollar amount that makes sacrificing your dignity and self-respect worth it. Have the strength to walk away when that time comes.
Use it to help others.
While it’s good and necessary to use your money to take care of yourself, look at your excess funds as a way to help others. Maybe that’s through a donation. Maybe that’s through helping a friend of family member in a time of need.
Being a miser may help you establish a nice, golden cushion, but that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to connect. We’re here to help make each others’ journeys a little bit easier. Do that as much as humanly possible.
Ask for help.
There was a time in my life where I was too stubborn to ask for help. It was silly, and caused more pain than my pride was worth.
It’s okay to ask for help. If you pay people back or pay the help forward, even in ways that aren’t necessarily financial, you’re not a mooch. You’re not less than. You’re human. And you have people who love you and want to help you make your journey a little bit easier, too.
It’s okay to make conscious purchases that will make you happy.
Denying yourself all things at all times isn’t healthy. It’s okay to go on vacation if you have the funds. It’s okay to buy new clothes that will make you feel confident. (Though Mom’s always going to remind you of the deals at consignment and resale stores.)
Don’t feel like you have to be so staunchly responsible that you forget to enjoy life along the way.
But do be responsible.
It’s true. You only live once. But that saying doesn’t just apply to fun experiences and having cool stuff. It also applies to debt and retirement savings. It also applies to having enough food on the table for your children and being able to send them to good schools. It also applies to having enough money to visit your mother if you move far away. (I know…I’m supposed to be removing guilt here, not reinforcing it…)
Don’t make decisions that are going to bind you financially or restrict your choices. If you don’t have enough, get more education. Start your own thing. Negotiate a raise. Ask me for help. But don’t actively make irresponsible decisions that will lead to further turmoil further down the line while you’re in a state of desperation.
I love you and want you to be happy. Live within your means and start saving big chunks of money in your youth. When you have enough, give the rest away or spend it on things that will add joy and value to your life.
And remember, money is far from the most important thing in this world. In my eyes, the most important thing is you.