by Anna Marie Trotman
Money is both personal and emotional. The way we approach money has many layers related to our fundamental personalities, our upbringing, and our experiences with having too little or too much money. My mother grew up during the depression in the 1930s. She was one of 6 children and often talked about how her mother and father scraped together resources to make sure the family was provided for. My father, on the other hand, grew up in the same era as an only child. My grandfather was a chauffeur for the Dorrance family who owned the Campbell Soup Company. My dad’s family, although not wealthy by any stretch, was taken care of during the depression.
Growing up, I watched my mother as she counted pennies; she was always concerned that there wasn’t enough when clearly there was. My dad worked for DuPont and was able to provide for our family. We owned our home, had a nice boat, went on great vacations and always had what we needed and more. My parents never saw eye to eye about budgeting and investing. Mom worried and dad said we had enough.
Being Mindful of Your Money Story
Today’s world is different than it was for our parents. What has not changed is that for the most part is that we are not taught about personal finances in school, and often parents don’t discuss finances with their children. This can result in poor financial management and a lifetime of financial concerns.
Your money story begins early and continues through all phases of your life. If you graduated from college you may be responsible for payments on your student loans. Beyond the concerns of tuition, many college students apply for and use credit cards for incidental items without understanding monthly payments and interest. High-interest rates and credit card debt can follow students beyond graduation.
If you started working without getting a higher education you may be in a job that pays either minimum wage or slightly higher. With the high cost of living it’s very difficult to budget. Living paycheck to paycheck can be personally stressful as well as put strain on the family. You may be very careful and have your household budget figured out to the penny, yet this strategy can be stressful as well.
Looking at your money story can be scary. Ask yourself these questions: Is your financial philosophy compatible with your spouse or partner? Do you have student loans, do you live paycheck to paycheck, or do you feel comfortable with the decisions you are making regarding your finances? Journal about your money patterns, how you think about money and what your relationship with money is today. How do you react when your partner is making decisions about the family finances and you’re not included? Do you have the pressure of being the person responsible for budgeting? Do you work well with or are you in conflict with the way your family plans or doesn’t plan how resources are allocated?
How Does the Family Fit In?
Write in your journal about how the entire family fits into your money story. If you have little ones or older children, have a family meeting and begin a dialog about how they view money and how it fits in with the family dynamics. I found a great resource from Mama Fish Saves. Mama Fish says that your 9 year old may not comprehend that the water bill has gone up, but will understand that saving a certain percentage will help towards having a family pizza night. Here is her free .pdf on how to hold a family budget meeting with age appropriate topics. Check it out here.
Get the Kids Involved in Planning the Grocery Shopping
Start by making a grocery list together. As you choose better value items, explain the decision-making process and ask your child(ren) to help you do a cost comparison. If they start to whine when they can’t have certain treats, be mindful when you explain why you’re not buying something. For example, when explaining why they can’t have that treat, say “that’s not how we choose to spend our money” rather than “we can’t afford it”. This makes it clear that it’s an intentional choice you’re making together. It may even be helpful to think about how you’ve used words such as ‘afford’ in the past, and how that might impact mindfulness around how you and your family use your resources.
“5 Money Conversations to Have with Your Kids”
Taking the time to understand your feelings, anxieties, excitement, and stress about money is crucial to sorting out your issues with money. It is even more important how you talk to your kids about having a healthy relationship with money so that they can start making smart financial decisions now and as adults. Since money is a tough topic for adults and children alike, I’m recommending Scott & Bethany Palmer’s book “5 Money Conversations to Have with Your Kids “. I believe it may help to make some of those challenging conversations easier. One of the most valuable parts of this will be the “Button Pusher” sections, which will help you realize when your own money personality and biases may be creeping into how you talk to your kids.