By the time you reach your 60s, you’ve almost certainly made your share of financial mistakes. Even if you are one of the lucky few who managed to save consistently for retirement, you probably look back on your life and wish that someone had taught you more about money as a kid. I know I do!
I grew up in a relatively “normal” family. My dad was a car mechanic and my mom, prior to hear death at age 50, stayed at home with us kids. Like many little girls, I wasn’t really exposed to concepts like interest rates, stocks, bonds, insurance and the like until I reached my 20s. Even then, I tended to learn the hard way how each of these concepts worked!
Of course, I watched my dad working hard to support us and, I suppose, this rubbed off on me. But, money was never discussed at the table. My other relatives certainly didn’t feel like it was their place to tell me about their financial mistakes.
Talking to the other women in the Sixty and Me community, it’s clear that most of us had a similar experience. So, I thought that it would be fun to share the advice that we wish we had been given as children.
If you are a parent, I encourage you to share this wisdom with your kids. If you are a grandparent, I hope that you will also take an active role in teaching your grandkids about money. With any luck, we can help them to avoid the mistakes that we made!
I recently asked the women in our community to share their money advice for kids. Their responses were insightful, positive and fun. Enjoy!
Many women in the community talked about the value that they received from their first jobs. Some of us started working as young as 11 and said that our early work experiences taught us more about money than any “lecture” from a family member ever could.
As Joyce said, “I would advise kids to look for jobs that they are capable of doing now. Think about starting a lemonade stand, helping a neighbor in the garden, shoveling snow or helping someone with computers. No matter what you do, develop a strong work ethic early. Then, save for tomorrow… because it will surely come.”
Personally, I wish someone had pushed me to be more entrepreneurial as a kid. I loved my corporate career, but, I didn’t start Sixty and Me until I was in my 60s. Now, I can’t imagine going back to a big company.
Another big theme that came up was “wants” vs “needs.” Many women pointed out that it’s completely ok to want something in the short-term, but, kids need to understand that buying something today means that you are giving up buying something bigger in the future.
Unfortunately, sometimes the “bigger things” are related to emergencies that you can’t predict. Since kids don’t have much perspective on this, it’s important to tell them about some of the times that you wished you had saved for a rainy day. Was there a medical emergency that you had to deal with? Did you lose your job and have to live out of your car for a while? These are the kinds of experiences our kids and grandkids need to know about.
As Robin said, “Always have a rainy-day fund. You never know when you’ll need a new set of tires or repairs for your dishwasher. Treat saving money like a game – its great fun to see your savings account balance grow!”
When we were children, coins were real money. Now, it seems like money is just a concept. When we go to the supermarket, our grandkids see us paying with credit cards. When we buy them an iPad game, we just click a button and “voila!” the app appears.
Several women mentioned using coins as a way of making money real to kids. As Nancy said, “After many conversations with my grandson about why he couldn’t have something that only cost $80 or $100, I decided to try something else. I got down a large jar of pennies from my dresser. The next time he wanted something that cost $20, I said ‘great!’ Then, I counted out $20 in coins from the jar. I think this is a great way to help small children visualize the concept of money.”
While several women talked about starting a business, others recommended the “sure and steady” path. Specifically, many members of the community said that their own lives would have been much easier if they had put 10% of their salary into savings.
As Eileen said, “I warned my grandkids never to get a credit card. If you can’t afford it, save for it. I also advised them to put at least 10% of their income into a savings account. That said, you can only tell them so much; they need to experience the financial ups and downs themselves to really understand them.”
Our generation has learned the hard way that “money doesn’t buy happiness.” Actually, this is only half true. Money doesn’t buy happiness when you buy status-based “stuff.” But, many studies have shown that certain purchases, like those related to experiences can make you happier. In addition, using your money to help others makes you feel great.
Several women in the community advised showing our grandkids that money can be used for good. This could be as simple as buying a meal for someone in need or donating to a worthy cause. It’s never too early to help your grandkids to see that they are a part of a larger world – one that needs their passion, time and treasure.
After all, money is a tool. It doesn’t do anything – good or bad – until we make a decision to use it.
You can read all of the responses from the women in our community here. In the meantime, I hope that you will share this information with the kids in your family. We have so much wisdom to share and our grandkids need our help.
What advice would you give to a child about money? How about to a person who is a little older… let’s say someone just entering the workforce? Please join the conversation.