Many, many years ago one of my favourite things to do was run errands for my mum or my dad. They would often ask me to “hop on my bike” and fetch something from the local corner dairy. Sometimes it was a bottle of milk with a bonus of a bag of lollies. Other times it might have been fish and chips and a bottle of tomato sauce. Regularly, I was sent to buy a couple of packs of cigarettes! I know what you’re thinking, but in the old days that was a helpful thing to do for your parents. Actually, it was helpful for me, too.
You see, I meet a lot of young adults these days who are retarded when it comes to spending money. Before you get offended or defensive… by that I mean they are less advanced in their development than they should be. Most young adults these days have not had the privilege of buying their dad cigarettes so have never been trusted to spend money in line with instructions. How can they learn to be wise with their own money when they have never been trusted with someone else’s money?
I’m a big believer in teaching children from a young age to learn safe behaviour within safe boundaries that are relevant for their age and maturity. That could look like spending ten bucks at the store to help mum out. What’s the worst that could happen in this scenario? Maybe mum loses her ten bucks and the child gains a fantastic lesson in consequences. The total cost for this lesson would be ten bucks. But what if that child has to wait until they have to make a decision about how to spend five hundred dollars? The consequences are so much greater and the risk so much higher if there’s never been any opportunity to learn how to spend money wisely during formative years.
Sending kids on a trip to the supermarket with a shopping list is a fantastic way to help begin this learning process. (Make sure you don’t give them the credit card, though!) What about everyone being involved in planning a family holiday and all costs associated with the trip? As children get older you can involve them in the search for a new car and the costs involved in buying this kind of asset. Recently we involved our teenagers in the process of purchasing a property. Whilst they weren’t the ones making the final decision (this time) they were certainly included in the discussions about all the factors of our decision making process, including costs.
As their guides in life we have the greatest opportunity to build into our kids sound models for making choices when it comes to spending money wisely.
Let’s not allow our children to grow into babies in big bodies, rather, let’s develop healthy young adults who have learned how to make wise financial decisions in the freedom they have gained.