I’m a lucky guy. I tricked a beautiful, caring woman into marrying me; my three kids are healthy and often well-behaved; and most of my businesses have been successful, affording me a great lifestyle. But all of this luck leads me to one constantly nagging fear— that the trappings of this great life will yield unbalanced, bratty children who will grow up to become knuckleheads.
For better or worse, we’ve all come across those disconnected trust-fund children at some point in our lives. While some go on to become productive members of society, the mere presence of maladjusted children of wealth is enough to scare parents of means. Even worse, the problem seems to be exacerbated by more and more wealth. So what are financially successful parents who want productive and fulfilled children to do?
While researching this topic, I came across five steps that can help when it comes to raising financially intelligent children. You don’t need to teach them to be bankers by age 8, but the building blocks are a good start.
1. Talk about Money. Money is a part of everyone’s life, and ignoring it just because it’s considered by some to be “the root of all evil” is like ignoring oxygen because it can feed forest fires. Money is neither good nor evil— it’s a tool. I discuss money with my children in honest terms. They have a lot of questions, and I’d prefer to be the one to teach them.
2. Show Them in Real-Time. I make it a point to let my kids know what I’m doing when I get change, make a deposit, write a check or leave a tip. I also discuss what a credit card is when I’m using it so that I can dispel the thought that it’s some sort of magic device. I’ve found that explaining the concept of money in the moment makes the biggest mark.
3. Make Them Work for It. Show your kids how much you love them by helping them discover the power of the work ethic. I make sure the tasks I give my children have real consequences, like not getting paid if the work isn’t completed. They need to see how hard some jobs are and why they should appreciate the fruits of their labor (i.e., money.) My kids are still small, but they help us pack orders for our baby-clothing company and get paid for their time.
4. Encourage Them to Save and Give. Spending comes easily for kids— it’s the saving and giving that’s harder to do. I help my children understand why they should save and the merits of giving through examples. At home, we set up three piggy banks for each child and let them decorate the banks as they see fit— one for giving, one for saving and one for spending. They can customize each one with what matters to them and spread their money accordingly.
5. Introduce Them to Entrepreneurs. Kids are inundated with all sorts of images of high-paying professions they might want to pursue when they grow up … but rarely is entrepreneurship an option. Introducing your children to fellow entrepreneurs and letting your peers explain what they do for a living may inspire your children to think outside the box when it comes to their future. At the very least, they can see a few examples of other opportunities out there.
In many ways, raising financially intelligent children is a lot like running a business. You have to put in the hard work, lay a proper foundation and nurture them until they blossom under your guidance. Ultimately, I’ve learned that the more you talk about proper finance today, the more prepared your children will be tomorrow. It all starts with a conversation.