By Yvonne Sam
Today, with all the pressure, emanating from social media and technological advancements, it has become more challenging than ever to teach children proper spending habits, and to help them distinguish between “a necessity and a luxury”.
In our current age and time, children are more exposed to a variety of things, like new gadgets, high-end brands and the latest trends in fashion. It is only natural to desire the best for your child/children, however, as parents, you need to make them realize the difference between a want and a need — and you need to educate them, while youth is still in their favour.
Such principles can be practiced on a day-to-day basis. For example parents, when you go grocery shopping with your children, educate them by taking the necessary things first (needs). Once you have completed your needs list, make assessment with other things (wants), based on what is left in your budget. This can educate them about the difference between the two, and enable them to create decisions, based on their own judgment.
Whenever your child thinks about buying something, inquire if it is something they really need or just something that they want. In so doing, you are allowing their young minds to make small decisions that will benefit them in the future.
Parents should also make kids realize, before they become too old, that not all that glitters is gold, and not everything nice and flashy is worth having. Material things, like gadgets, while nice to have, lose their value over time. They do not remain the same for long, and once new things come along, they are considered outdated and archaic.
Lifestyle creep can start a lot earlier than parents realize. Kids nowadays are smart enough to know that trees are not the bearers of money, and they can also discern, or differentiate, a luxurious lifestyle from a humble one. You need to put the work in to teach them about money, because schools and after-school programs fail to cover even the basics. Thanks to social media and television.
Therefore, parents must be honest and straightforward and tell their children that money comes from hard work and perseverance. It is vital that they learn the concept of how money is acquired in order for them to learn its value. In so doing you are opening their eyes to the reality that working hard and being responsible, can guarantee them a brighter and more stable future. Yes, educating your child/children on how to handle money is a truly challenging undertaking.
Parents should be ready to answer a multiplicity of questions, and an abundance of “whys”. In fact, in preparing kids for later financial success it is essential to start with the “why.” Children should be made aware that parents get up and go to work, on a daily basis, to earn money. Money in turn, allows them to have the things that they both want and need.
Explain to them that the water they drink, clothes they wear and the electricity that lights up the house all cost money. Strange but nevertheless true, is the fact that most children do not realize that the water coming out of the tap is a utility that must be paid for.
Regrettably, today far too many parents allow their children to sit in front of a computer instead of working. By these actions, they are missing out on developing essential skills that will take them far in life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting the children to perform good old fashion work — watering plants, mowing the lawn or washing cars creates a sense of accomplishment.
Remember however, that training children at a young age, can go a long way towards making a difference in their ability to make decisions in the future. Additionally it can also make them realize the things that are far more important and relevant in their daily life.
And parents, as you assume the role of financial educator, whether you realize it or not, little eyes are in turn watching the way you earn, spend and invest your time and money.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.