Dear Readers: Mother's Day has me feeling a bit wistful about the fact that my kids are now in their 20s, and like so many of us, I wonder where the time has gone. As I've been thinking about what it is to be a mom, I've been doing some soul-searching about what I've tried to teach my kids and why. I've often written about the importance of financial education and starting money lessons with your kids early on, but today, I'd like to explore a little deeper.
To me, financial education is more than just the ability to deal with the practical economic realities of life. It starts with the underlying values that are ultimately going to help our children grow into productive, independent, caring adults. So as I've been reflecting on what I want for my own children, I've been thinking of the values that I've tried to pass on to them — as they were passed on to me from my parents and grandparents.
An Appreciation for Hard Work
Work is a practical necessity, and there's a tremendous satisfaction in knowing you can earn money and pay for what you need. But to me, the value of hard work goes beyond your paycheck. I think I got the first glimmer of this as I saw my dad struggle to get his business going in the early years. He wanted to make a good living, of course, but he also had a dream he wanted to fulfill. And it was fulfilling that dream that gave him the most satisfaction. So, for a lot of reasons, I've always insisted that my kids work.
First, I wanted them to feel what it's like to earn their own money, and I wanted them to understand the importance of being responsible and living up to the expectations of their bosses. But I also wanted them to gain confidence by pursuing different avenues, exploring their talents and knowing what it takes to succeed, even if that means failing along the way. From the first summer job to the first professional opportunity, work teaches you not only about the practicalities of managing a paycheck, paying taxes and hopefully saving money but also about yourself and your ability to be focused, resilient and self-reliant.
The Confidence to Make Good Money Decisions
Life is filled with decisions, and the older our kids get the more important it is for them to feel comfortable making money decisions and confident in their ability to do so. How do they get this confidence? By doing.
From the first time you let a child handle money and make a purchase to the first experience of being expected to manage an allowance to the first time you insist that your teen live on a budget (and you don't bail them out if they fail), you're teaching decision-making. And those decisions just get more complex as they enter college, start their careers and eventually their own families.
It's often difficult as a parent to see your kids make money mistakes, but we have to let them do it. Of course, we need to guide them. However, their confidence will eventually come from making decisions — both good and bad — for themselves.
The Ability to Be Independent
It can feel great when our kids need us, but it's even better when they don't. If they learn to work hard and make good money decisions, the result should be that they're able to carry their own weight. I've always been a believer in one generation helping the other. I experienced that firsthand when my grandparents helped all their grandkids pay for college. Then, in turn, my parents followed their example by helping their grandchildren. The ultimate goal for us all is to help the next generation make their own way. That's what I want for my kids. Of course, they know I'm there for them, but they also know from experience that I won't just jump to the rescue at the first sign of trouble.
Compassion and Sharing
Philanthropy has always been important to me, and the idea of helping others is something I believe we can teach our kids from an early age. Whether it's as simple as giving to a food bank or as sophisticated as establishing a family foundation, I consider charitable giving to be an essential part of financial — and personal — education. If we can teach our kids to not only take care of themselves but to be willing to reach out to others, that is a truly valuable lesson.
So what does all this add up to? To me, all these values work together to help our kids become financially independent and secure. But it's not just about money. Financial security means having the freedom to choose, to follow your own path and your own passions. That's why financial literacy is one of my passions. I've tried to pass what I've learned on to my kids. And I'm committed to helping other parents pass these valuable lessons on to theirs.
Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, Certified Financial Planner, is president of the Charles Schwab Foundation and author of "The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty." Read more at http://schwab.com/book. You can email Carrie at [email protected] The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal or investment planning advice. To find out more about Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.