Once in a while, something clever comes out of just about everybody’s mouth. Even mine.
A few weeks ago, I was driving my daughter somewhere when the subject of money came up. As most seven-year-olds are, she is eager to please (most of the time), and she knows that I spend a lot of time reading and learning about money and investments. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went up to that point, but she said, with all the gravity she could muster, “We have to learn about money because it’s so important.”
Without thinking, I answered with what I think was some pretty good fatherly advice: “The reason we have to learn about money is because it is so unimportant.”
Unimportance of Money
I answered her puzzled look by saying that there are so many other things to do in life, and so much good that we can do in the world that it would be wrong to spend too much time thinking that money was a worthy goal in and of itself.
But here’s the thing: almost all of the good that can be done in the world needs money. A kind word to a stranger on the street, or helping your aged neighbour shovel their sidewalks don’t take money, it’s true, but donating to charity, donating time to volunteer organisations, or even spending as much time with your kids as you would like all require a certain degree financial security. The more generous you want to be, the bigger your wad has to be. Most days, given the choice, I’d rather be doing those things than working for money, but I’m not yet in the position to make that decision. By educating myself about money, and taking action based on that knowledge, I hope that some day I’ll be able to make those choices about how I spend my time.
More importantly, though, (this is such a Dad thing to say) I hope than I can teach my children how to manage and control money so that it doesn’t manage and control them. If they can learn from an earlier age than I did how to save and invest, and to make wise decisions about how to spend their money, I will have done my job. I hope that most days, money is the last thing they have to think about, because money really is so very unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
So, by all means, talk to your kids about money, but remember to keep it within the perspective of the larger picture.