Parents Serving As Financial Mentors

I came from the generation that wished our high schools had offered a class in financial health – far beyond learning to balance a checkbook. When should you use credit, and when should you never use credit? What is the stock market, and what is compounding interest? When should I invest, and in what? What is diversification, and how does it protect me? Why do most divorced households have financial issues at the core of their dysfunction? What is a budget, and how should it be used? How can each person ensure their own autonomy even if they want to raise kids, travel, or be of service to their community?

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Because I did not benefit from anyone initiating these conversations about topics that ultimately shaped my financial future, I was eager to start them with my kids – my millennials. It took them until their early twenties to believe I actually knew what I was talking about, and it took an effort on my part to make the topics approachable. Parents who don’t share learning experiences with their kids tend to raise kids who don’t share learning experiences. So, I opened up about the household budget, methods for saving to purchase investments, and experiences of my own and my clients that had succeeded or failed. I also closed the pocketbook. When our children were still young, my sister and I decided that the best way to raise self-sufficient children was to let them be that way from the moment they reached adulthood. We didn’t pay for college or even a cell phone bill or car insurance, but we advised them as they learned how to do those things for themselves.

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Today, my three children have taken very different paths and have different struggles and goals related to career and finance, but they do ask for my input, and I feel comfortable giving it. My oldest will call me to brainstorm ideas about her career path, the scope of work, and compensation, while the youngest will call to talk about structuring her life so she can again travel in service for three months out of the year. Here’s the thing, remember that they are your children, separate from you. They are not your opportunity to vicariously relive your life without mistakes. So you can give them your ‘what would I do’ and leave it at that. Sometimes they will learn from your experience, and sometimes they won’t – remember that mistakes are opportunities for growth!! Don’t shame them. Just teach them how to debrief and decide how they would have done it differently.

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