I thought I’d been doing a good job of making sure my boys have a roof over their heads, quality schooling and as many Spider-Man T-shirts as their peers – without becoming entitled (read: spoiled brats).
That is, until my four-year-old was invited to The Party.
This kid, this friend, lives in a house straight from the pages of Good Housekeeping. Everything is tastefully decorated. There are entire rooms dedicated to his toys. His party was elaborate in a way that I could never manage without a party planner, several elves and a Lotto ticket with at least four winning numbers.
I knew from the moment I pulled up to their house in my dinged Honda Jazz, that we were out of our league.
That said: they are a lovely family. So lovely in fact, that we’ve since become friends. Which has thrown the doors of comparison wide open.
When my son goes over to his new friend’s house to play, he goes mad for the toys! Then comes the sleeve-tug and the question: “Mom, you’re going to buy me a Hot Wheels parking garage like this, right?” Err, right… except it comes straight from that section in Toy Zone we carefully steer the kids past lest something with a cheque card-melting price tag catch their imagination.
Fast forward 10 years, and we could be taking out a second bond on our house so that our son can go on a gap year in Europe with his private school bestie.
It was time to have the Money Talk.
Beforehand, I did as much research as I could, speaking to friends and family, and going online to see what advice the experts had said. Here is what I’ve learnt about having the money talk:
No matter their age, you don’t want your children to worry about the family finances. Instead of telling your child, “We don’t have enough money” or “We can’t afford that”, turn it into an opportunity for your child to learn the value of money. Offer to help them save towards the item they want.
Don’t shame your child and make them feel bad for wanting what their friends have or for wanting to “fit in”. It’s normal to want more – think about the envy you feel when your neighbours buy a new car. Encourage your child to dream big, and to put in the hard work to achieve.
Here is your chance to explain to your children that different jobs have different compensation. And put it into context i.e. “Mark’s mom is a lawyer and she is paid very well; I work from home and don’t earn as much, but I have more free time and can come to all your soccer games.”
Resist the temptation to make snippy comments about what their friends’ parents do with their money, or their values as a family. Don’t make conversations about money personal. This is not about you, or any insecurity you might have about your earnings. This last point really hits home for me.
My husband, salt of the earth, reminds me that when it comes to money, perception is everything.
Take our new friends with their gorgeous home: They have one child, and thus more disposable income, while we have three children (and I might have to trade a kidney to pay for their university textbooks). They are living in a rental, while we’re paying off a bond.
Our family could very well have the same income as theirs – we just allocate our income differently. That’s okay.
The important thing to remember is to turn this challenge into an opportunity for your child: to lay the foundation for healthy money habits.
Stacey Vee is content strategist by day and toddler-wrangler by night. When she's not sharing hard truths about personal finance, she's baking. Baking from scratch can be expensive, by the way. Stacey lives, laughs and runs bubble baths in the city of Johannesburg. You can follow @MissStaceyVee on Twitter.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.