My children’s relationship to money

Donna Willan Latest, Money cents

In my previous column I reflected on my financial health and wellness – and realized I obsess a bit about money. So I want to develop a healthier, less anxious attitude to money – while still being conscious and purposeful about my financial decisions. This thought process has led me to reflect on my children’s relationship to money. We all know that children ‘do as we do, not as we say’, so are they also becoming a little obsessive about money?

I think they are doing really well (and remember they are only five and seven years old): they have an appreciation that one must consider costs and price; that towards the end of the month there may not be any money left in the ‘fun envelope’; and that we have to work hard for our money. But how can I ensure that my children’s relationship to money is going to be a healthy, happy and wise one, and not anxious and obsessive, or frivolous, or stingy?

Perhaps there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • My children are developing their relationship to money now, today, based on my relationship to money – so my best strategy to support them is to sort out my own relationship to money!
  • I need to help them to get the right balance between ‘being sensible’ with their money and ‘being a miser’. Perhaps our pocket money approach can help with this – one third goes into their piggy bank, one third into the charity jar to share with others in need, and one third into their wallet to spend. Hopefully this will assist with a balanced approach to money and ensure that they spend in line with their values!
  • When discussing money with my children I want to encourage reflections about “need” versus “want” (see previous column) and “value for money”. For me this last point is particularly important; I don’t want to encourage an attitude of “can we afford it” because that doesn’t include reflection around whether we need it, whether it is value for money etc. It simply says we can’t afford it – setting us up as ‘being without’ and feeling disappointed. I would rather support my children’s relationship to money to include thinking about: is it worth the price that is being asked, is it how I want to spend my money, is it something I really need?
  • And yes, I think financial health and wellness sometimes includes buying something frivolous and indulgent, those special treats – but we need to think about them carefully and feel good about the expenses to ensure there is no buyer’s remorse and treats are treats, precisely because they are occasional!

And so I am ending this column with the same quote from my last, and which I want to reflect on today in relation to my children’s relationship to money, and my role in supporting them to develop financial health and wellness: “Financial health is having a conscious and purposeful relationship with money that is satisfying and isn’t overly stressful… Financial health or wellness includes: spending money based on your values; having low or reasonable debt; saving money to meet your goals; and having a safety net, such as an emergency fund or insurance.” (Source: Klontz and Lowrance)

In my next column I’m going to look at pets and what they cost us. Many of us love our pets and get more because s/he is: so adorable, needed a ‘good home’, will be good security etc., but are we properly budgeting for them and do we know what they really cost?


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