Do you shield your children from any financial worries or discussions?
As a parent you want the best for your children and want to ensure they start off and continue on the best financial path. You look back at mistakes you’ve made and want to ensure your children don’t do the same. The thing is you learnt to manage your finances by making those mistakes. Recognising that you have made a mistake helps you to learn and become the person you are.
Your child often feels invincible as they are growing up. They’ve had a fantastic early life with a great group of friends, adults and teachers who knew them and parents who dote on them. Why wouldn’t the rest of the world and their life continue in that vein?
Because you have always wanted to protect your children you haven’t told them about the mistakes you have made. Or the consequences. They grow up to have a rose coloured view of how things happen and work.
So when you try and have a conversation about making the right decisions about their finances it often falls on deaf ears. If you can get a discussion going, you will explain what you think they ought to do.
Unfortunately the decisions you encourage them to make may sound like hard work. They may sound boring and not fun. How do you get your children to listen to you when you have protected them from the harsh realities of the mistakes you and other adults in their lives have made?
Should you try and brow beat them into making the right decisions? Would that even work?
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Making mistakes can be a helpful learning process. When you decide on a course of action you don’t do so with the knowledge that it is a mistake. You usually make your decisions based on the knowledge you have, possibly mixed in with helpful advice from others.
Making the wrong decision is not about waking up the next morning and realising you were wrong. Its about watching that decision play out, the consequences coming forth. And the realisation slowly dawning that you have made a mistake and need to sort it.
Delaying your response to this realisation is also a learning process. You will learn that procrastination can be costly. That rectifying mistakes cost less in the long run if you do so quickly.
Your future decision making is influenced both consciously and unconsciously as a result of previous decisions made and how you feel about them.
Age appropriate honesty
Being honest and open with your children when age appropriate will help your children in their learning about how to make life decisions. Sitting down with your children to explain your budget and your saving strategy can help them understand money.
If they understand your budgeting decisions they can gain knowledge of what is realistic to expect when they are earning their own wage or living off their student loan.
A balancing act
Balancing the sharing of your knowledge and financial mistakes is a tricky one. Some of the mistakes you made impact directly on or are because of your children. Therefore it isn’t always appropriate to give the full facts.
Let’s be honest, there are numerous adults & children alive today who were a result of birth control failures. It’s probably not a good idea to explain to an impressionable teenager that they were not planned!
Alternatively you probably don’t want to tell your children that you spent a shed load of money on drink, takeaways and stuff if you are also telling them you can’t afford to pay for their college years.
It’s their decision
Be prepared for them to make their own decisions which may well not be the decisions you want them to make. Your priorities when you were 18 are very different to what they are 10 or 20 years later. Your children will likely not make the same decisions a 30 year old would make because they don’t have the life experience to do so.
They will learn from their own mistakes eventually. But they might do so faster if they know about the mistakes you made, the consequences you faced and what you wished you had done.
I wish you luck in having these conversations and getting your messages across.
Sharing my mistakes
I was a teenage single mum and have done ok for myself despite that difficult start. What I had never told DD1 was the struggles I had during her early years. The things I did to try and make ends meet, such as:
- I used an unregistered childminder due to cost
- At one point she only had 3 sets of clothes
- I took out my 1st credit card to make ends meet
- I had lodgers in the house to help pay the mortgage
- My mother guaranteed the mortgage
- I never went out for a meal or to the cinema until I got a 2nd job when she was 18 months old
When DD1 confided in me that she was pregnant at 21 she was confident that everything would be fine because, she told me, I was a role model for young mums. She wasn’t aware of any of the struggles I had, the choices I had to make.
She didn’t have a permanent employer like I did (UK Government) who offered paid emergency leave, sick leave and flexi working. And she didn’t have a mother who could afford to guarantee a mortgage.
Would she have listened and taken heed if I had talked about our life earlier? Would she have been capable of making decisions at say, 16, to make sure she didn’t get pregnant because she fully understood the consequences? I don’t think so.
As DD2 is 10 years younger I had presumed that DD1 would have picked up hints that having a child is not easy, it’s 24/7. I thought having a much younger sister would have been enough to put her off having children when she was young.
Having that belated conversation about mistakes and consequences can be hard – I certainly found it so. You have to tread the thin line between being honest about consequences without being all doom and gloom. Or telling them what they should do even when you didn’t.
As a result DD1 and her husband now have 3 children, my grandbabies. They made their own decisions, not based on mine. But they were, belatedly, fully aware of what having children young means and the impact a child has on your life.
As DD1 gets older she does ask for advice more. She doesn’t always take my advice as she has her own ideas. In fact I swear she sometimes delights in taking the opposite decision just to wind me up!
Learning my lesson
I am now more open with DD1 and DD2 about our finances. Not the nitty gritty numbers. But what our plans are, how much we think is enough. I do so to encourage them to not automatically spend everything they earn.
DD2 is a work in progress but then she is still at university so I guess I shouldn’t expect anything else. DD1 has very different lifestyle tastes to me but does understand the meaning of a bargain.
I haven’t yet converted her to the idea of early retirement. But she has followed the family tradition of hunting down yellow sticker bargains when grocery shopping.
Have you had honest conversations with your children? How do you help them not make the same mistakes you did?