Money Makes The World Go ‘Round

Money makes the world go ’round. Or does it? And if it does, why can’t we talk about it?

My parents, when times were tough, were horrible with money. I found out, only recently, that they almost lost their home – not once, but twice – when I was a small child.

When I was very young we lived very simply, very frugally. I remember sharing a bedroom with my three other sisters and my parents sleeping on the pull-out couch in the den. We ate every kind of noodle and rice casserole to stretch the dollar. We walked instead of starting up the car. (But then, we lived in a neighborhood where we could actually walk to the market and drugstore.)

My father worked hard at a job that he loved. He worked hard at a job that he hated once new management took over. Bottom line, he worked very hard for the things that we had. And by the time I was a middle school student, we were doing very well. Really well. Designer clothes, high-end restaurant meals, a large beautiful home decorated by professionals, new cars. Money was flowing and my parents were no longer poor money managers.

Me? I’m the exact opposite. My chosen profession was education. I loved teaching. I loved it so much that I passed up the opportunity to earn a higher salary in the public school system where I felt my creativity would be squashed. I taught for a much lower salary at a small private school.

With my low salary and as a single parent, I was just above the poverty line. In fact, if the car I drove was a few years older, I would have qualified for food stamps. But I was happy. I had minimal debt. I was a good money manager. We were getting by.

Life circumstances changed and now there is more money to manage. Unlike my parents, when the money is flowing, I am a terrible money manager. I allow myself to get lulled into a false sense of security. Because I know the money is flowing, I use the credit card more often. I buy things I don’t need. I spend before I think.

Anything I’ve learned about money I’ve had to read in books or listen to money experts on TV or radio. What they talk about is so foreign to me. Putting into practice what they preach is difficult.

My parental model has flaws. My parents never spoke about money with me. They bought. They spent. And I never saw the consequences. When I was 16 they gave me a department store credit card. In my name. I’ll never forget when the first bill came and I freaked out because I couldn’t pay the balance. They laughed at my distress and told me they’d cover it. I cut up the card and told them I didn’t want it anymore. I couldn’t handle the responsibility.

I also vowed I would teach my kids about money. With my daughter, I’m not sure I did any better than my parents. I’ve tried one theory and the next, but she’s a spender. A generous, kind, loving spender. When money is flowing, she buys for herself and for the ones she loves. She had her first real job this past year and at Christmas she was so excited to be able to buy “real gifts” (her words) for her family and friends.

But she’s had the job for 5 months now and has yet to save a dime.

How can I stop this cycle with my sons? Which money theory is the best one? Some say you shouldn’t pay your kids to do household chores. They are part of a family and chores are part of being a family member. Others say if your child doesn’t do their chores, they don’t get paid. Just like the real world. But both theories make sense to me. What’s a poor money manager to do?

I wish my parents had been more open about their mistakes and their successes. I have no idea how my parents became “successful” with their money decisions. They just did. One day we were poor, the next day we were very, very comfortable. (See? I can’t even say the word wealthy.)


My money issues are just too big for this blog.

So I’ll do what I do best. I’ll bury my head in the sand and distract myself with a little humor.

You can, too, if you’d like. Just press play.


Filed under children, Growing Up, parenting, Ponderings

17 responses to “Money Makes The World Go ‘Round

  1. I can relate to your dilemma, Jane…I grew up in a low-income household, and stayed in that bracket until a couple of years ago…I want my children to have it easier than I did, but it’s hard not to overdo it! When I tell them I had my first job at age ten, they look at me like I have two heads!

    I don’t have any advice for you (because I’m probably doing it wrong)…good luck!


  2. Oh, God, I don’t even want to think about how poorly we’ve done teaching the girls the value of a dollar. They feel entitled to just about anything they want. It’s shameful.

  3. Good money sense is tricky to teach. We constantly struggle with it here, and marvel at how even when there IS more money coming in, there’s never much more to show for it.

    My husband was one of 10 kids in a lower income home. All of the kids started working when they were 12, helped pay for their own catholic education, and then all paid their own ways for college. I had one sibling. We had a farily easy existence, but one good lesson was that half of any money we received (from gifts, babysitting and then jobs in high school in college) went to our college account. This ended up being our spending/book money that our parents doled into our accounts each month.

    Good luck!

  4. I didn’t have any money growing up either and probably made all the same mistakes that everyone else who wasn’t taught money lessons makes.

    However, I pepper every single individual day with a small lesson, or talk about money. I involve them when we go food shopping for instance – “this is how much we have, here is what you feel we need. Let’s see what it comes to.”

    I am constantly pounding in the value of saving and of my three children, my middle one is the master saver. Not only does he save every penny, he, by choice, will not buy an iPod, a game player or a cell phone. He has gone so far in his own financial education, theat he sneered at the rate of return in a savings account and instead puts every penney he can get into stocks!

    It was about one year worth of teaching, and constant prodding, that I spent with all three of them talking about stocks, bonds, rates of return … never imagining that my middle one was scheming. He now owns stock in General Mills, Wal-Mart, Berkshire Hathaway B, McDonalds and Colgate Palmolive. He started buying when he was 12!

    On the other hand, my oldest spends every last cent he can on x-box junk. He stinks at saving, but he’s great at killing nazi zombies. My youngest, well … she’s a little of both. She puts a very small amount away but is obsessed with buying more minutes for her phone.

    So, it’s a mix and it’s working for me. I’ll just keep incorporating financial talk and decisions into our daily discussions and hope that a lot of it sticks in their mind.

  5. I’m still living in toddler-ville where we’re most focused on not spilling goldfish crackers all over the house. I haven’t begun to think about these things.

    Husband is a world-class money manager. It’s amazing, really. I’m okay – not awful, but not great. Like you I see value in both approaches to household chores and I suspect that we’ll adopt a hybrid. Some chores will be financially rewarded (perhaps laundry, yard work, etc.) and others will be non-negotiable (keeping your room clean, etc.). As for earning and spending I have no idea. I suspect this is one of those thing where we’ll have to adjust our methods based on the natural proclivities of our kids.

    I’ll be interested to follow up on the responses here, though. Your readers are always full of good advice.

  6. Sometimes I’m a very good manager, other times my wants get in the way. Sometimes I’m very self-disciplined, sometimes I show no discipline whatsoever. When my brothers were kids, one hoarded his allowance, the other spent his immediately and then borrowed from the hoarder. Who charged interest. At 8 years old! The brother who borrowed has done fine as he’s grown older though and now has a handsome bit of property that will fund his retirement. So who knows?

  7. What an interesting post, Jane. I was actually thinking about this earlier this week, or more specifically, worrying about it. Realizing that I haven’t taught my younger son about money. How to manage it. Which is different from how to make a dollar stretch or how to do without.

    Unfortunately, when you aren’t even giving your kids an allowance, and when money is a touchy subject (due to insufficient funds or other odd money issues in the background), it becomes hard to talk about it. To explain it. To be consistent in the context of talking about it. Without emotion – as a tool.

    I realize I have a limited amount of time left to try to fill in some gaps for him. And I wonder if it’s too late. I hope not.

  8. My husband grew up with very little money…he is our money manager and everything we have is because he knows what it is like to do with out. I did not have to do without and I am a terrible manager of money. We have tried to teach our son to be a good manager of money. I think as much we would love to be able to learn from someone elses mistakes there are some we have to learn for ourselves. I just hope my son’s isn’t as expensive as mine.

  9. I’m in the same boat. I think I’ve done a crappy job teaching them about money but I’m not sure what to do about it…they’re still little but still.

  10. I read one book that encouraged parents to give their children money for specific purposes. Even if it’s just fun stuff. But, here’s the hard part, then you can’t bail them out or buy them those things. My mom kind of tried that with me, and I learned that the consequence of buying an expensive pair of pants was that I could not afford to get a shirt too.

    But…. I am not the best manager. I let my wants set the tone too often.

  11. Monty Python is always hilarious. Thanks for the giggle. My mom told me when I was a teenager that if I wanted a lot of clothes, I needed to learn how to sew. So I did. While my kids don’t know how to sew clothes (not taught anymore in school), they were told that we would buy them X amount of clothes and if they wanted more, they needed to buy it themselves (aka: save your money to buy what you want). Of course, our X didn’t include any of the designer brands, which is what they “needed.” A few times we would give them $X and tell them they could buy whatever they wanted. It didn’t take long for them to figure out they could buy 1 piece of designer clothing, or 10 pieces of non-designer clothes. While they occasionally thought the designer piece was worth it, most of the time, they bought the other and saved the change for another day. Good luck!

  12. I am so terrible with money. I don’t have kids yet, but I worry about how I will afford to have kids and also how I will teach them to be better than me. I spend more than I earn (albeit most of it is bills), I have student loans and a small amount of CC debt…. sigh, I have no advice. My mother is GREAT with money and taught me well. I just fail.

  13. I’m Belgian. We save. Lots. I think the average is now at some 20/25% of the paycheck that goes straight to the savings account – I’ve grown up with it, and not being able to put away some €s every month gets me cranky. Still, I don’t remember it ever being TOLD, specifically, that it was important to save, to have something to fall back on.
    We had about the same situation as LisaF’s kids: we got what we needed, got some money on a weekly basis to get what we wanted, and if we wanted more, we had to get a job. We never got paid for household chores, though, and I personally don’t think it’s a good thing. Chores are chores, the kids won’t get paid for them as an adult later, will they? But then again I’m not even dreaming of kids yet, let alone having them, so what do I know :).

  14. As an Asian family we are taught to save everything from an early age. Growing up I knew my parents had to work hard for the money they earned. There were times when we didn’t get the brand name jeans or the lavish vacations and both my sister and I had to pay for our own schooling. I grapple with what we are teaching our daughter. She doesn’t know of the struggle because as an only child she is spoiled through gifts (even if they don’t come from us she has grandparents who like to be generous). We anticipate having to counsel as she gets older about working hard and truly valuing money. Don’t have any answers here, but wanted you to know that you aren’t alone.

  15. This has started an interesting discussion. I really appreciate the participation and hearing your different thoughts! Thanks everyone!

  16. Love this. So glad to have people talking about money. People are often more reluctant to talk about money than sex.

    Because how we value money reflects on how we value ourselves maybe. I am playing around with this idea. Not sure where I’ll land yet. One thing I know, my happiness does not depend on money. That said, I’m fine with having plenty of money.

    Where does that put me in relation to all your questions? I think I’m better at managing money when I have less. I want to get better at learning the lessons of abundance and being comfortable with that.

  17. Not sure what the answer is, but here’s what we do: chores are not paid. Allowance is weekly. Three days later taxes are collected and we go to the bank. The allowance goes into checking for spending, savings for saving, or cash for giving. We match any money put into savings or giving.

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