Planting The Seeds
When I was too young to understand, my dad used to take me out on Saturday morning to the donut shop, buy our favourite donuts and talk to me about money. He would talk about the stock market or other world news regarding money, or he would talk about our own family savings plans. Sometimes he talked about the money being saved for my schooling or his retirement accounts and why they were important. I didn’t understand it, but I enjoyed my donut and I listened.
Putting The Concepts Into Practice
Somewhere in middle school, he gave me the job of balancing the cheque book at the end of the month. This job, now obsolete in most households, involved carefully reviewing the chequing account bank statement against the register book at the front of the cheque book and against the pile of bills paid during the month. I remember him telling me that Queenie was not good at keeping track of all her written cheques and any ones she missed I had to find the bill for and carefully add to the cheque-book register. Then I would add the end of month balance to the cheque-book register so it would represent accurately the amount of money in the account at month end.
Computerizing The Accounts
At the age of 15, I was helping my dad track our spending and develop budget categories as the home computer age began. This changed his budget system forever. I didn’t know exactly what it all meant at the time, but I got a better sense of how much money he spent every month to keep the house and family going. I didn’t yet know the big picture or what he did behind the scenes when we had a big unexpected expense come up. Eventually I got a good sense of what the regular bills were and the constant flow of money.
On My Own
8 years later after receiving my university degree, and living on my own for a few years while away at school, I still had a lot to learn from my parents. They asked me to house sit while they travelled for my dad’s job and gave me the job of all the household bills and budget. Left alone with this task I was shocked to learn the impact of house maintenance, insurance, retirement savings, taxes and loan payments on the monthly cash flow. While living there, I got my first full-time job, and a new puppy. Again I found it shocking to realize how little my first pay-check (after taxes) actually covered in real life.
Teaching Children Financial Literacy
Parents are instrumental in teaching their children the real money facts of life. After my own experience I learned to start early to plant the seeds of financial literacy in my children, to teach them the vocabulary, and to open their minds to ask questions. When you do, they observe the world around them differently. So don’t keep money topics and conversations hidden from them, share them openly and let your children be a part of the process.