“Money is the opposite of the weather. Nobody talks about it, but everybody does something about it.” – Rebecca Johnson
Children never cease to amaze me in the way they analyze their world and my daughter is no different. So one day when she says to me, “Momma, how did Tee Tee get rich?” I was driving at the time and almost swerved into the other lane from laughing so hard at my daughter’s question. “Uhh, honey your Tee Tee is NOT rich, who told you she was?”
According to my colorful child with her rose tinted glasses, she understood that my sister was “rich” because she would buy her anything and everything she wanted no questions asked. My daughter continued to explain to me that she was the only person she knew who had two birthday parties a year (my sister also throws her a birthday party), and always gives her “pocket money”.
What my then six-year-old child did not understand, along with most adults was that she needed to save money in order to buy things she wanted and participate in the activities she deemed of value. From as far as I can remember, any money my daughter received went into a traditional piggy bank. I would catch her at times pulling out the money and counting just the bills. The highlight of her piggy bank “audits” would be when she came across a $10 or $20 bill. Trips to the bank to handle our monthly deposits were nothing more than a comedy show. My daughter wanted to talk with the manager to make sure no one would confuse her money from other people’s money. She “knew” what her money looked like she would often tell the bank associates. They would offer her the Dum Dum lollipops in the candy bowl. She would take them of course, but then asked if they would put an extra dollar in her account. They thought she was adorable and cute, but she was dead serious.
Trying to explain money and the importance of managing it properly would be a daunting task when it came to my daughter. She takes everything literally, so I had to be mindful of what I said to her. So I started my journey about teaching her about money with what I thought was the most important thing to do: Pay yourself first.
I first explained to her that she should save a minimum of 10 percent of any money she receives. We broke everything down in pennies to make it easier for her to grasp the concept or so I thought. I told her there are one hundred pennies in every dollar and that required her to save at least ten cents for every dollar. Since her allowance is $5 a week, she is required to save $0.50 a week. According to her however, it would take much too long to buy anything with only saving $0.50 a week. Thankfully, she decided she should save more instead of pressing me for a higher allowance – for now. That is when the discussion of wants, needs and wishes came up. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, and Self –Actualization. My daughter’s hierarchy of needs: Entertainment, Entertainment, Love/Junk Food, and then back to Entertainment.
It was important to me as a mother to nurture my child to be well rounded. I started off when she was very young about the importance of charity and her responsibility in her community by allowing her to join me in my various community activities: soup kitchens, neighborhood clean ups, etc. She would be my “guest” speaker when I met with my high school mentees. I wanted to infuse in her social responsibility without being esoteric; also modeling how and where her money should be spent. So how do you get a child of a 70’s baby to understand money: Play a round of Monopoly!
When I sat her down to play, I allowed her to be the banker. I wanted her to understand that it’s a huge responsibility having to “pay” the players the correct amount of money and to stand “guard” of players who needed to borrow money from the bank. (I do not know about your household, but we gave small loans out to keep the game going at times). Although she was excited about her responsibility as the banker, all she really wanted to do was roll the dice. It frustrated her to no end to have to stop and pay players $200 every time they passed GO, if they wanted to purchase a property, or any other transaction where the game had to pause to handle money transactions. She quickly said, “I don’t want to have to deal with money, I just want to save it and spend it only when I have to.” Oh, out of the mouth of babies.
Fast-forwarding three years to the age of 9, my child has become a hoarder of money. Unfortunately, I may have played an unintentional role in that. My intentions were to teach my daughter the importance of saving money for the future. My daughter’s interpretation became I will save all of MY money while you spend yours. She is so obsessed with how she can make money she has thought of schemes to outwit the tooth fairy and actually wants to resell her braces back to her orthodontist when her treatments are complete.
We continuously talk about money. She is sensitive that our lifestyle has changed over the course of the last year. The largest impact of that change is not being able to visit her “Tee Tee” several times throughout the year. The cost of an airline ticket for a minor to Michigan is not in my budget anymore, however, she could use some of her savings to visit. When I asked her if seeing her aunt was a want, need, or wish, she looked me dead in the eye and said “I wish to see my Tee Tee, but I NEED my money”. Oh, out of the mouth of babies.