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Kids, Money and Shoes



November 24, 2009 – Comments (9)

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)


9 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On November 24, 2009 at 10:46 AM, devoish (70.22) wrote:

Good story.

My son wanted to play an online game with his friends. Cost to dad, $5.00/month. I made him mow the lawn for the money.

My son stopped playing the online game and joined a bowling team with his friends. Not because he liked bowling at the time, but because he wanted to spend time with his friends.

Cost to dad, $10/week. Still for mowing.

I gave him twenty dollars and got change when I picked him up. The next week I got less change. When I asked him why, he said he bought a soda. The next week I got back even less change. He said he bought a soda for his friends too. I was ok with that. I have been known to buy a round too. The next week I got even less change. Soda and pizza, he said.

Now I've seen frends yell at their kids about money, saving money, etc and I do not see great results with that.

So I told him he could keep the change from the twenty. Six months later he had more money in his sock draw than I do and he is not buying pizza every week.

I should also note that he is older than Little Eldrehad. This story transpired from age 12 - 14.

This might not be the most conventional approach, but it worked for my son.




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#2) On November 24, 2009 at 12:27 PM, PeteysTired (< 20) wrote:


Just curious, does he still mow the grass?  Would you still give him $20 if he stopped mowing the grass? 

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#3) On November 24, 2009 at 1:06 PM, outoffocus (22.80) wrote:

I am good with money today because my parents instilled in me the value of money early in life (being poor helped also). But growing up I learned how to get the most bang for my buck by watching my dad when he was shopping, choosing the lower priced item because in most cases it was just as good as buying the name brand. I learned by observing him decipher what was a fairly priced vs. what was too expensive. I learned how to find good bargains at flea markets.  I earned an allowance for doing certain chores around the house.  I still carry those lessons through my adulthood. 

I am saddened when I hear stories about parents hiding their money problems from their kids.  I think those parents are doing their kids a real disservice.  By hiding their problems, they rob their children of the ability to deal with those issues themselves when they become adults.  Like Elderhad said, it doesnt always have to be a formal sit down, it could be something as simple as taking your children shopping with you. 

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#4) On November 24, 2009 at 4:18 PM, devoish (70.22) wrote:


Yes, he still mows the grass. Would I still pay him if he stopped... maybe. I'm his father not his employer. If he was unable to mow the grass because of being on the school swim team, I would. If he gets a better paying job, maybe. I would not want to take something away from him because he bettered himself. Leaving school and striking out on his own will be a gradual evolution, I hope and I have no cut and dry answer to that second question.

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#5) On November 24, 2009 at 4:42 PM, Eudemonic (59.47) wrote:

What's the going rate for toothfairys nowdays?

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#6) On November 24, 2009 at 8:43 PM, Imperial1964 (94.00) wrote:

You may like my blog from last year about my 3-year-old getting excited over dividends.

"Dividends!!" Investing wisdom from my 3-year-old

We try to teach them, but every once in a while our kids teach us a thing or two too.

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#7) On December 06, 2009 at 11:14 PM, ricklorim (< 20) wrote:

Your thoughts on choice is point on. When I read that, I related it to a slightly different lesson with my 5 and 6 year olds. As they consentley nag me for trivel things, I remind them that resources are finite and that in life, we need to make choices. In order to enjoy life most, we need to forgo those things that don't mean as much so that we can experience those that do. In the purest sense, that doesn't even involve material things.

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#8) On December 23, 2009 at 11:33 AM, renee2257 (< 20) wrote:

I have 3 kids and I am constantly looking for ways to show them monetary value.  One of the things on my 12 year old daughter's Christmas list was a coat from an expensive brand.  Great coat, but she would wear it 1 year and outgrow it and I'm not getting any more wear out of it with her brothers.  the coat was pink. I happened to be in Wal-Mart and saw a coat that looked identical except it didn't have the North Face logo on it.  This coat was $7 and the North Face coat was $120.  She is not only getting the $7 coat, but she is getting 17 of them in various sizes and colors.  There is a coat drive at my office and I thought this was the perfect time and way to show her that for the same amount of money 17 people, including her, will get a new coat instead of 1.  As far as kids go, talk is cheap.  If there is an opportunity to show them what you mean by value, then do it. 

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#9) On March 02, 2010 at 7:41 PM, carfun (< 20) wrote:

When my daughter was in 3rd grade she came home one day and said most of her friends got an allowance and wondered why she didn't. We advised that an allowance would be fine but that we would determine an amount that would require that she buy her own clothes, school supplies, music lessons, etc. We explained that if she spent all the money right away on wants, there would be none left for necessities. She thought for a short time and decided that maybe the allowance idea wasn't that great. We eventually did help her develop a budget with an allowance. This continued until she graduated from college and got a job. There were never large cell phone overages or expensive clothes because she knew that when the money was spent there would be no more given until the next allowance time. She managed to save ahead and any money she made from jobs was in addition to the allowance. She has done well as an adult, has had cash to purchase cars when they were needed and has never ask for money other than help with a down payment on a condo which she plans to repay.

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