To learn from your own mistakes is valuable. To learn from the mistakes of others is far less painful and much more efficient. How important is it, then, to share those lessons with our children and grandchildren so they might avoid some hurt later in life?
Money is a tool. And, like other tools, it is only as useful as you are skilled. Consider the fun job of digging a hole. If it gets too deep, you can’t blame the shovel. And continuing to dig is only going to make things worse. When it comes to money, more of it isn’t going to solve your problems. We have to put down the proverbial shovel and reevaluate what is financially necessary, important or valuable.
To continue with our shovel analogy, the size of the shovel doesn’t change the outcome – only the speed at which we can dig ourselves a bigger hole. As we get older, most of us get to play with bigger and bigger shovels through raises, promotions, bonuses and inheritances. Hopefully, our skill and self-control has also improved with age and experience.
So, how do we help those following us learn to hone their skills and learn not to bury themselves – and maybe us – along with them? It is the same as teaching the proper use of any tool:
- Be deliberate. Every child learns lessons about money from their parents. They are watching everything you do and hear more than you think. What are they learning from you? Ask them. Asking basic questions about how they think money functions in your family (age appropriate) is a great way to see what they are learning from you.
- Decide what you want them to know. Does money buy happiness? Does more money make you better? Is money just a toy? Is saving important? Does money grow on trees? These are just a few of the things to get you thinking about your family’s financial values.
- Let them make (small) mistakes. The best part of starting financial training when they are young is the mistakes are small and won’t really hurt them or you. The longer you wait the bigger the cost to learn the same lessons.
- Connect the dots. Communicate openly with your children about what you value as a family. Write it down. Put it on the fridge. Bring it up when decisions are being made. Model for your kids that your values are in alignment with your money decisions. Showing them the how and why are vital if you want them to be able to have success when they go out on their own.
Whether you are a parent or a grandparent, it is never too late to share your life experiences with your family. Just like passing on valued family recipes and traditions, sharing and teaching hard-learned life lessons is part of the legacy and inheritance only you can pass on to the next generations. If you need some ideas of how to start this process, let us help!