QUESTION: How can I teach my children about FQ when I myself am not good with money? Where do I start? – Janet via text message
ANSWER: It is true that you can’t teach what you don’t know, you can’t give what you don’t have. However, take your intention to teach your children about money matters as your first step to your own financial freedom and happiness.
Since money values are more caught than taught, your first step is to really improve your own. But you don’t have to wait for your complete FQ transformation before you start teaching your children about money. Accepting our weaknesses to our children and showing our resolve to work on them works wonders. My sons were quite impressed to see me work on my laziness to exercise a few months ago and they were somehow inspired to do the same no matter how busy their schedules got.
The first thing you should do is to understand your own money values. What do you feel about money? Why do you say you’re not good with money? Don’t you have savings to cover your emergency fund yet? Haven’t you started on your retirement nest egg yet? Do you have a lot of debts? How did you get there?
Understanding your money values entails more than just tracing a few months back to how you got so indebted. It entails going down your childhood memory lane. Go back to your own money memories when you were a child.
Below are questions that will help you. There are no right or wrong answers. Or should I say, the only right answers are the honest ones. You don’t have to show your answers to anyone so don’t censor yourself. This exercise will help you understand your current relationship with money.
– Did your family discuss money openly?
– Did you get the feeling that money was hard to earn?
– Did you feel that it was easy to earn money?
– Did you feel that your family could not afford what most of your relatives could?
– Did you feel that your friends had nicer things than you did?
– Were you uncomfortable having far more than what your friends had?
– Did your parents fight about money?
– Did you prefer receiving cash for your gifts?
– Were you ashamed to bring your friends over to your house?
– Do you recall having known very rich friends and relatives? Did you think they were good people or otherwise?
Now that you recall some of the things about money in your childhood, try to remember one money story that affected you significantly. Where were you? Who were you with? What was happening in the scene? How did it make you feel? Be as specific as possible.
In Suze Orman’s Financial Guidebook the author shares her childhood money memory which I think is a very powerful example.
“My earliest money memory goes back to when I was eight years old. In the hot Chicago summers, all of us in the neighborhood would go to the Thunderbird Motel to swim. It cost a dollar to get in. One Saturday, as usual, I said to my mom, ‘Can I have a dollar to go swimming?’ And she said, ‘Sorry Suze, but we don’t have a dollar to give you right now. But don’t tell your friends you don’t have any money because if you do they will not like you anymore.’ I suddenly felt I was different from my friends, that I had less than they did, and that they wouldn’t like me if they knew. After that night, once my mom and dad were asleep, I started to go into my father’s pockets to where he kept his money. I would take some bills out of his pockets where he kept his money, not to spend on me, but to buy my friends gifts – a comic book, candy, a taffy apple. Why did I start to do that? Because I wanted my friends to think I had money, for if I had money they would like me.
How long did I continue to do that? Until I was 20 or 30 years of age. I don’t mean I continued to steal from my father, but I stole from myself in the form of taking my friends out to lunch, buying them gifts for birthdays, weddings, and holidays and charging it all on my credit card even though I didn’t have the money to pay for it.”
Now Janet, try to recall your own childhood money memory. It’s best to write it down no matter how painful this exercise may be. Writing has a way of helping us process our thoughts and feelings and this piece will form part of your financial literacy foundation.
Now, if you understand why you’re not good with money, it is easier for you to work on it. There is really no need to brood over it and endlessly blame what happened back then. The main purpose of this exercise is for you to make the connection of what happened then which greatly affects how you are now. The good news is you can now start coming up with your new money experiences. You can jumpstart your new relationship with money.
Next week I will discuss the second part of this exercise: Understanding your core values and making them agree with what you do with your money. This should set the tone for your new relationship with money.
For the meantime, go ahead and go down your childhood memory lane.
Wishing you financial happiness,