Kids, Money and Shoes
While poking around the internet looking for interesting stories to read, I stumbled across this one entitled How to Teach Your Children the Value of Money.
While the article goes through a few steps, things like starting early, teaching children where money comes from, and making investing interesting (all of which are good ideas), I couldn't help but think of Little Eldrehad who is now in Kindergarten.
Little Eldrehad is just now learning the difference between the value of different coins. You know, how a penny is one cent, a dime ten, and so on, and beginning to learn to add and count change. While learning to count change is an important, criticial step on the road to financial literacy, when I think of our daughter and money, I realize that her financial education probably began at the tender age of two, maybe three.
You see, she attended preschool for half days. As an only child, she absolutely loved going to school, being and playing with other children, and drawing, coloring, cutting and pasting, and all of the other things children that age do in preschool (she still absolutely loves to draw and color, and is constantly asking Daddy to staple pieces of paper together so she can make a 'book').
I bring up preschool because I remember a funny little story Mrs. Eldrehad told me about dropping Little Eldrehad off at preschool. She said, "They're so cute! She ruuuns over to the other little girls, they all giggle and laugh and admire each other's shoes."
"Admire each other's shoes?" says I.
"Yes. When one of them is wearing a new pair of shoes, the other girls always notice," says she.
"In preschool?" says I. Uh-oh, I think to myself, when she gets into middle school I'm really in trouble!
Sometime later, maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months, I don't really recall, I was getting ready to head off to work one morning. Little Eldrehad is usually still asleep, but occasionally wakes up early and sees me off. Giving me a big hug that morning she asked, "Why do you go to work, Daddy? Can't you stay and play with me?"
"I have to go to work and make money" says I.
"Money?" says she.
"Yes," says I, "Everything costs money" then, I don't know why, but in that moment I remembered the story Mrs. Eldrehad had told me and I added, "You know, so we can buy things, like shoes."
"You go to work to make money so mama can buy me shoes?" says she.
"Yes," says I.
"Okay, bye Daddy" says she.
So, off to work I went in order to make some money so we could buy more shoes.
The shoe story doesn't quite end there, however. You see, about once a year or so our family likes to take a little road trip to Las Vegas. Little Eldrehad loves the place, especially the swimming pools, many of the free shows (Circus! Circus! is a favorite), seeing the flamingos at, well, the Flamingo, the lions at the MGM, the tigers at the Mirage... if you've been there, especially with children, you know the routine.
Anyway, not long after we got home from one such trip -- it might have even been the next weekend, Little Eldrehad (who was three or four at the time) asked me, "Daddy? When can we go to Las Vegas again? I loooove the circus!"
"We can't go every weekend" says I, "it costs a lot of money."
"Oh," says she, "but don't you go to work to make money?" says she.
"Yes," says I, "but I only get so much. If we spend it all on going to Las Vegas we won't have any to spend on other things."
"Like shoes?" says she.
I must have grinned from ear to ear, "Yes, like shoes" says I.
Teaching children about money, and giving them a foundation of financial literacy as they head off and eventually make their own way in the world is, in my view, critically important. These stories, though, remind me that the education doesn't have to be formal or planned. We don't always have to sit with them for the sole purpose of teaching them about money (though I'm sure I'll be doing that with Little Eldrehad along the way too).
In fact, we can just talk about shoes -- and, in the process, teach our children perhaps the most important financial lesson of all. In the end, finance, and money, is all about choices. Spend now or save for the future? A conservative investment approach, or an aggressive one? Save for our childrens' college education or save for retirement?
Or, in Little Eldrehad's mind, go to Las Vegas, or buy more shoes?
-Russell (a.k.a. TMFEldrehad)