Teaching My Kids About Money When I Have Failed

Goal setting and working hard hasn't ever been an issue.  During my sophomore year in high school, I got a job cleaning the dining area at a Carl's Jr. Restaurant.  I didn't want a job, but a friend of mine talked me into applying.  By my senior year, I had earned the position of Assistant Manager and was awarded the uniform and title on my 18th birthday.  I worked hard and accomplished my goal.  Sadly, upon graduation, I had about $30 to my name.  That's it.  No money in a checking or savings account.  Just $30.  While working hard brought early job success; however, managing money is an entirely different story.

My story doesn't get much better where finances are concerned.  While I understood how to work hard, I didn't know what to do with the money I earned.  My finances were a complete disaster by the time I hit my 21st birthday.  How could I be good at running a fast food restaurant and a complete failure at managing my money?  The answer is easy to understand looking back with what I now know.  I knew nothing about budgeting, reconciling an account, writing a check, saving money, incurring debt, paying expenses, financial terms or concepts, and the list goes on and on. 

If I could only make more money, my financial situation would change! That was my thinking at the time, but it doesn't work that way.  If a person doesn't know how to manage their money at $5 per hour, they are not going to know how to manage their money at $10 per hour.  I read a book by Larry Burkett, which taught me how to create a budget.  That helped a lot!  It felt good to begin understanding how to manage my money, but one book wasn't enough.  After following the suggestions for a few months, I began to fall back into old habits.  It was because I didn't have enough information and knowledge.

A couple of years later in my mid-twenties, I got married, and my husband and I began having babies.  He knew a lot about managing finances.  As our kids started to grow up, I realized I needed to start teaching them about money.  I feared they would go through the same financial struggles as myself.  It's difficult sharing your failures with your kids.

Kids are amazing, though.  Being honest with them about my struggles in life has been a rewarding experience.  It has allowed conversations with them about money that I never had with my parents as a kid and teenager.  They challenge my advice, which causes me to grow.  Their questions cause me to study more and seek out as much information as possible.  The biggest key to teaching them about money is instilling in them that they need to learn continually and to learn from different resources.  One book is not going to make them proficient at finances magically one morning.  Financial learning is a never-ending game on the long journey of life.  Learning and practicing the necessary skills is what they need.  Start them early on learning financial terms, concepts, and skills.  Don’t be afraid to share your failures, but make sure to share what has worked!  If you are still struggling, consider learning together!