How Do You Instill Money Mastery in Your Kids?
What money lessons are your kids learning about from you?
It may not be what you want.
One of my worst days, a tough one for me as a father, came a couple of months ago. I will often ask my kids what they want to do at the beginning of a day. This particular Saturday, my son, who is five, announced that what he wanted to do was “buy something.”
Surprised, I asked, “What? What you mean, ‘Buy something?’ Why do you want to buy something?”
“I just love buying things!” he responded.
Where had he learned that? It could not be from us.
Then I remembered that we had made some recent purchases. These were not impulse buys. We had planned and saved to buy them.
To our son, it seemed like we were getting extreme joy out of purchasing things. In reality, our happiness was coming from the fact that we saved and delayed for so long. Now we were finally getting these things we wanted.
He caught the joy but not the reasons for it.
Unfortunately, when our kids learn from us about money, the fact is that all too often the context is lost.
Why Money Mastery?
Why teach your kids to master their money?
The book “The Millionaire Next Door” says that 70% of inherited wealth is squandered.
I often talk to people about what they are teaching their kids about money. One CEO I spoke to responded “I don’t care. They’re going to inherit enough to make as many mistakes as they want.”
Really? What if that mistake sends them on a dark road and you are no longer there to help them? That could be the biggest waste of life AND money you ever make.
You teach your kids money mastery so they will appreciate all the hard work you do for them, but also to help them build skills so they can be successful no matter what profession they choose. They can then leverage these skills to choose a profession of passion rather than a profession of earnings.
Start with your allowance policy. What is your allowance policy? What do you want your kids to do with their allowance, if they get one? Have you talked to them about it?
I grew up with a small allowance, something like $20 a month. I also had jobs that I could do around the house to make extra money.
A lot of people I know now are not giving any allowance at all. They want to avoid training our children to think that money will come to them without them doing anything.
What do your children actually do with the money you give them? These money habits are becoming engrained and will either be reinforced through success or they will have to un-learn the habits they have formed from the allowance you have given them.
Fight or Flight
One of my proudest moments was when my son asked, “Why is it that every time I ask for something you ask me if I have money?”
The answer is simple. I am not responsible for what my children want. They can want anything they have the money for.
They want a race car? “Do you have race car money?” They want a toy? “Do you have toy money?”
I want them to know the value of a dollar. If they want something, they need to save money for it. Call Grandma or Auntie and see if there is anything you can do to earn the money you need.
I want my kids to exercise their ability to engage with their network to create wealth and value for something they want. That is how it works in the real world. Why would I want to protect my kids at a young age from a world they are going to live in their entire adulthood?
Too many parents fail to do this. It has lasting effects on the safety, mental health and innovation of our communities. When you are preoccupied with survival, the amygdala’s fight-or-flight reflex kicks in because you are insecure. You lack the resources to make long-term decisions, which later turns into family dysfunction.
Are your kids just waiting for their inheritance? Are you teaching them to? Then they are waiting for someone to solve their problems because they do not have the tools to do it for themselves.
Also ask yourself what you are teaching your kids about saving. My neighbor makes his son break his babysitting earnings into thirds. My financial advisor does the same thing with his kids.
One-third of the kid’s earning goes to the parents, one-third is for saving and the final third is for them to spend. Some people will structure this as a third to charity, a third to savings and a third for spending.
My neighbor’s kid is 14 years old. So, when he makes money, his parents put a third of it away to save for his first car. He is practicing saving for something without dealing with some of the auxiliary spending and expenses we have as adults.
This approach is a valuable way to teach your children to tie savings to a goal. Later, this can turn into, “Well I saved for a car; I can save for a house.” That turns into, “Well, we are getting married; let’s save for a honeymoon!”
With your example, your children can have this built-in experience of successful savings. Tie something like a vehicle, or anything else, to the savings. The ability to save has a massive impact on your children’s money mastery.
Responsibility, Independence and Choice
What do you want your children to know about money in the future? Do you want them to know debt? Do you want them to know about equity? Do you want them to know about real estate or investing?
For me, there are three things I want my children to know about money: responsibility, independence and choice.
I want my kids to understand they are responsible for making their own money. Before I got a college football scholarship, I was planning to use the armed services to pay for college. I understood it was my responsibility to pay for it.
I also want my children to have independence. An NFL coach told me the other day that he advises younger coaches to marry for money. We laughed, but he was serious. And a former co-worker of mine planned to meet and marry someone who would help him retire.
These are dependent money mindsets. I want my children to be independent. I want them to choose a relationship because they care about someone and because that person values them and what they bring to their life.
More than that, I want a future for them in which they can be independent. I want my children to make choices independent of money — based on who they love, where they want to live and where they want to work.
And this is the final lesson in money mastery I teach my children. I want them to know they have choices, not only in how they spend and save but also around debt and their living situations.
Teaching these choices to my children is one of the most critical aspects of their money mindset that I believe I have a duty to impart on them.
Mastery is all about recognizing and executing choices. A lot of guys play football, but mastery thrives in the ones who master the details and choices and understand the choices they are making.
I want to instill money mastery in my children. I want them to know where the money they make is going. I want them to recognize what is important to them concerning their money, and have a plan for what they are going to do with it. That is mastery.