By the time we have a family, most of us are doing our best to be financially responsible. As we raise our children, we try to instil in them our most important values about money – hoping that they’ll learn from our experience and mistakes.
We spoke to six parents from many different walks of life to find out about the most important money lesson they hope their children will learn. Here are their wishes:
Ansie Vicente, a writer and editor, tries to teach her children that credit should only be used for large, important expenses. She can think of only three that qualify: study loans, home loans and car finance. “Study loans should be kept as low as possible. Home loans again should be kept as low as possible. And cars should be bought with a big deposit, so that the loan amount is as low as possible.”
She allows for one credit card that is kept aside for emergencies, while you build up an emergency fund, and outright bans store credit cards.
The reason for avoiding debt under any other circumstance, she says is because “the finance charges will bite you in the butt every time.”
Dave Fair, a career development coach, hopes that his children will find work that has value and makes them happy. “I hope that they manage to do work that allows them to make money and meaning at the same time, because one without the other creates dissatisfaction and frustration.”
He also wants them to understand that money makes their lives possible. “I consciously teach them that money is essential for preserving their freedom to choose and for accessing interesting and beneficial experiences. So I want them to make lots of money, but not be attached to it as a source of prestige or in its material form,” he says.
Caro Keatings, a pilates instructor, says she would like her children to learn how not to be defined by money. “I want them to understand that money comes and goes and even the richest people can lose it all. What is more important is to seek satisfaction in what you do, not what you have.”
Gcobisa Mambrie May, a business unit director at a communications company, writes her children a letter each year on their birthday for them to read when they are adults. This year, her son turned ten and was given a wallet, and so her letter was all about her hopes for his financial future.
“I said to him that we all need money to survive, but we need love and family more. I also told him that despite what people say, money does make it easier to be happier, and the route to getting money is getting an education and working hard. But I also want to teach them the value of hard work so that they can experience the joy of a job well done, regardless of the money earned.”
She tries to teach her children the value of money by getting them to help her save for family holidays. “If they ask to go out for a meal, I ask them if they would rather do that or use the money to reach our holiday savings goal, so that they learn about priorities and making sacrifices.”
Nomajwara Soga is a sheriff. In her line of work, she gets to see a lot of people who have reached financial rock bottom and haven’t been able to pay their debts when she goes to collect on judgements. Because of this, she teaches her children to avoid credit at all costs.
“I want them to learn that if they want something, they must save up to buy it. They must never go into debt. I tell them that if they do, someone like me might be coming for them...”
Jess Mackay is a graphic designer, who started out her parenting journey as a single mum. She’s now engaged to be married, but still teaches her son the same messages that she did when money was tighter. “I hope that he will learn to live within his means, to budget correctly and to save towards emergency funds, deposits on large purchases, investments and retirement,” she says.
She hopes that by teaching him to find joy in the simple things in life, he won’t come to rely on money and material luxuries for his happiness, because as far as she’s concerned, that always ends in poor financial decisions and debt.
“His 21st birthday present will be a visit to a financial advisor!” she says.