My daughter just turned two. There was a party, gifts and a cake. Those are those magical moments I really treasure as a dad, and they are all new to me and my wife.
Before my daughter came along, it was just us and my startup business ventures. Our money was just about what we wanted to do. When she entered our lives, that changed. I had to rethink the amount of risk I took with the startups I wanted to pursue.
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I thought I’d always been pretty good with money, having had parents who taught me a lot of lessons about it. In the last couple of years, my perspective has changed. If you pay attention, children teach you some real-life lessons about money, including how you spend and save it.
Lesson No. 1: Spend Less Than You Think You Have To (Your Child Still Loves You)
I heard my parents and others say just how fast your money goes with kids. It was easy for me to dismiss because I’ve operated startups on very lean budgets. Bootstrapping was how I got by, so I looked at applying that to having a child. It doesn’t work that way.
No matter how good you are with money, there’s something that happens when that little face appears with big eyes and a bigger grin that makes you pull your wallet out. As parents, we want to give our kids everything and more. At first, we were buying all the cute outfits and development toys we could get our hands on. She didn’t wear half of what we bought and only had about four or five toys that really got used. We realized that like all new parents, we had gone overboard.
The reality is, she didn’t know how much money we spent on her, and that wasn’t what was important to her.
Lesson No. 2: Money Can Be Fun
As a business owner, I spend a lot of time on budgets, invoices, bills and other payments. I’m mulling over the best strategy for cash flow. All of it is serious adult stuff.
My daughter taught me that money needs to be fun sometimes, however. It’s a tool that we should use to get enjoyment out of life, rather than feel enslaved to it. My daughter’s pure joy at the simple things in life reminds me that just getting that silly prize out of the machine at the grocery store or going on a carousel ride is the best thing ever. The small amount of money spent to see that joy on her face is worth it.
While I’ve always just left the penny on the sidewalk, coins fascinate her. She squeals when discovering one. As adults, we forget that excitement in making and spending money, so our kids are there to remind us.
Apply that same excitement over the penny on the sidewalk to the dollars you can put into a savings or retirement account or toward a debt pay off. Relish those moments of achievement.
Lesson No. 3: Time Is Worth More Than Money
Before my daughter, I worked seven days a week, around the clock, to get my business up and running. I lived and breathed working and making money. After she was born, this wasn’t possible. I had to take breaks when she needed a diaper change, meal or stroll around the block. It forced me to rethink what was actually important. Though I worried that business would slow down without my focus, it somehow carried on with the help of my team.
In the end, all your kids want from you is attention. They need someone to show them the ropes. It should be you rather than a nanny or teacher. It’s your presence that builds their self-esteem, confidence and skills. After all, kids are an investment. The time I put into being a parent will yield a better life for her. That’s worth more than any income I could make in the same time period.
If you have children, make it a priority to schedule personal time with them each day of the week. Once they are in school, make sure you finish work on their schedule so you are present in their lives at sports or any other activity they are involved in.
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Lesson No. 4: Share Your Wealth
My daughter runs around giving her toys and stuffed animals to anyone who comes to our house. She’s really into sharing. We’ll see if that changes should she get a sibling. For now, though, it’s about giving what she has to others. In fact, that penny she picked up the other day and was so excited about was handed over to me.
That selfless nature is something we often lose as adults. Seeing it in our daughter has encouraged my wife and me to get involved in more social causes through our companies and in our personal time.
Look for ways to keep that spirit going in your kids through volunteering as a family during the holidays or school vacations. That will fuel the sharing spirit in them and you.
They Are Our Legacy
One day, we won’t be around to help our kids anymore, so there’s no time like the present to show them how to be smart with money. They don’t know anything about what money means until you set the model for them to emulate.
Set up a savings account. Start putting money aside for college. Encourage them to work around the house for spending money. The more we can teach them now about the right way to see and use money, the better our future society will be in terms of economic and financial intelligence.
Read More: How My Money Mistakes Have Affected My Kids
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