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Teaching kids (and ourselves) about money

This week I took my oldest daughter out for a daddy-daughter date. She’s 10, and will be 11 by the end of the year. She’s a wise old owl for her age, beautiful inside and out… biased as I am.

One of the things I am trying to teach my children is about money. I remember talking to a friend of mine some time ago, who had accumulated a lot of wealth. Both his sons went to good schools and have “successful” careers and livelihoods. I asked him and his wife what they taught their children about money. The wife was quick to respond: “Daddy will provide.”

While there is Biblical basis for this truth, I persisted and asked again, hoping to glean some strategic insight and wisdom for parenting and passing on knowledge. How do I teach my kids about money? His answer was properly wise: give them some.

That week, I went and organised bank accounts for all our kids. Each of them have their own personal bank account.

So in addition to her pocket money, I gave my daughter a budget, in cash, for our date. The parameters were simple: that’s it. I’ll pay for lunch, and she could spend or save that additional money.

The crux came when we arrived in a toy shop where what she wanted was 50% more than what she had in her budget. She wanted more money.

And I didn’t budge. I didn’t interfere, or get emotional. I just quietly reminded her before we started the whole thing that her budget was specified up front, and that’s what she had to work with.

Truth be told, it was heartwrenching to watch. She was dispondant for a whole 40 minutes of our time together, because she wanted it. She doesn’t need it, she just wants it. Like so many of us with so many things in life.

As she sulked from further shop to shop, I went through the various arguments in my own head:

Surely a good God gives good gifts to his children? Why not just give her the extra money?

What will she remember about this date? That dad was a Scrooge?

Why don’t you loan her the money and she pays it off in other ways?

Sadly, I think the our world thinks this way. We are, simply, not disciplined enough. From credit cards to loan accounts, we want what we want… and we want it now. We justify any which way we know, just so we can get it. I look at the world and I see many who are very seldom content and gratified with what they have and where they are. There’s always a search for the next thing.

This was a lesson in money and spending, but it was much more than that. I had the realisation today that God – as a loving Father – gives us the planet, and what a planet it is. How grateful am I today.

My daughter blew her budget on some other second-prize toy she found in another toy shop, and after that, was much happier. These are steps I see my kids taking. She took a long time to decide on that second option, as if she was debating whether it would make her happy. But regardless of today’s outcome, I can see she’s learning about money.

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