Although my kids are no longer the babies they once were, they’re still very young. My daughters are ages 5 and 7, and I have so many dreams for their future. I study them every day and my mind explodes with possibilities.
What will my daughters be like when they grow up? What careers will they choose? Will they fall in love and find the happiness I’ve found? Will they become happy and productive adults?
Believe me, I’m not in a hurry to find out the answers. Watching them learn and grow is truly magical, and I would much rather slow down than speed things up.
At the same time, I feel compelled to fill their childhood with substance. Although my mother never pushed her ideas on me, she was constantly dropping subtle hints on what life would really be about. Sometimes I listened, and sometimes I didn’t.
While my mom certainly didn’t know everything, she did teach me some amazing lessons about money. She taught me that working hard was not enough and that earning a lot wouldn’t be enough either. She taught me to save my pennies and make plans for the money I made. She also taught me the greatest financial lesson of all – to live below my means. She never preached it; she led by example.
Live Below Your Means
“It isn’t what you make. It’s what you spend.”
My mom used to say this all the time, but it took a long time to understand what she meant. Wouldn’t it be smarter to make as much money as possible? Since I was young and hadn’t yet entered the workforce, her advice seemed old and outdated for too many years to count.
But now that I’m out in the real world and earning a real income, her advice makes perfect sense. I am surrounded by people of all income levels, and what I have found is that a high income does not necessarily guarantee financial success.
Before starting our own business, we had acquaintances whose income was double ours, yet they had little financial stability. Although they were high earners, they constantly struggled. It’s not that they’re not earning enough; it’s that they’re spending it all.
Contrastingly, I know people – like my parents – who managed to do quite well without earning much at all. Living below one’s means is the key to building wealth. Although earning a lot certainly helps, it is not the home run that it is made out to be.
I want my kids to know they can have a fulfilling and secure life as long as they spend the money they make wisely. If one of my daughters wants to be a kindergarten teacher or social worker, I want her to know that she can live out her dreams and be financially secure just by living below her means. I want my kids to learn that choosing a high paying career does not necessarily ensure financial freedom. Living below their means – at whatever level that may be – is essential to being financially stable.
Debt is a Burden
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I did what typical young adults do when they start getting credit cards – I ran them up. I’m not sure if I ever had anything to show for it, but I know it was tedious and painful to pay them off.
I spent many years ignoring my mom’s advice. Instead of living within my means, I bought whatever I wanted and “paid for it later.” I punished myself time and time again until I finally matured enough to stop for good. Although I ignored my mom’s words for some time, they were so ingrained in my mind that they ultimately (and luckily) prevailed.
I want my children to understand that acquiring debt can burden them for years to come, even decades. I want to teach them that, yes, they can use credit to buy a house or to start a business, but that they shouldn’t use credit to buy things they can’t afford.
Sure, using credit responsibly can lead to a great deal of wealth and security. At the same time, using credit carelessly can have long-term consequences and cause incredible amounts of unneeded stress and heartache. My kids should know that they don’t have to struggle. They can instead choose to use debt responsibly and avoid a lot of headaches in the process.
Bigger Is Not Always Better
When we were growing up, my mom left the workforce to stay home. She walked us to the city swimming pool, made crafts with us, and created games for us to learn and play. She taught us to have fun using nothing more than the crazy ideas in our heads.
Instead of playing with expensive gadgets and nifty new toys, we made dirtpies and played softball in the back yard. Since we didn’t have new games from the store, we used markers and paper to create the games we wanted. We simply made do with what we had and, as a result, we were very happy. Although we never had much, we never noticed. After all, we always had each other and the great outdoors to play in every day.
I want my kids to find happiness in small things. I want to teach them that sometimes the bigger house means more housework and the fancy car means pricey repairs. I want them to know that satisfaction in life cannot be bought or paid for – it must be achieved by learning to be happy with what they have. “Stuff” will never fill an empty heart. Acquiring things may bring temporary joy, but it never results in happiness over the long run.Stuff will never fill an empty heart... it never brings happiness in the end. Click To Tweet
My mom taught me to delay gratification. She taught me how to save and to think long and hard before spending the money I worked so hard to earn. In turn, I want my daughters to learn how to be happy with what they have and not just look for the next bigger and better thing. My kids should know there will always be someone who has more than them, and that is perfectly okay.
There is nothing I want more than happiness for my two little girls. I hope they learn to work hard and be productive members of society. I dream they’ll find something to believe in and strive for. I pray that they try not to compare themselves too much to others. And I hope that one day, some of my advice may be so ingrained in their minds that they simply cannot shake it off if they try.
The whisper of my mom’s great advice still rings in my head. I can only hope it will ring in theirs, too.
You want more thoughts on parenting and money? Ask and you shall receive!
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- Middle America: You Can Have Kids Without Going Broke