Some Great “Independence Day” Habits for Your Children and Grandchildren

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Parties and parades are on the schedule for millions of Americans today.  And, fireworks will fill the sky tonight!

It’s July 4th and talk of “Independence” is in the air!

The type of independence I’d like to share with you today, however, has a little bit of a different slant than what you’ll hear bandied about on television.

As a parent, one of my goals is to have Caroline and Michael grow up to be as happy and “independent” as they can possibly be.

I’m of the strong belief that there is a measurable link between the two.  As you grow older, the less you “have” to depend on your parents, your friends, your family, your employer, your government, etc., the happier you will be.

This is not to say that you don’t want to be “inter-dependent”.  In a free society, we are all inter-dependent. We all want to bring something to the table in exchange for what others bring.

You just don’t want to have your well being and happiness in life entirely dependent on anyone or anything else.

As an adult, if you still have very high levels of dependency, your stress level increases dramatically and your level of happiness decreases.

Yet, unfortunately, the more I look around, the more I see just the opposite being taught and instilled in children from the “parenting” that I witness, to the curriculum being taught in schools.

One of the areas that I believe is seriously lacking in attention in parenting, and even more in schools, is teaching “financial literacy”.

From my own personal experience, I sure wish that I had been taught more at an early age.  It would have saved me some serious bumps and bruises along the way.

Curriculums have changed dramatically over the years, but one thing is the same.  There is little or no discussion about personal finances and how “money” works.

Yet, if you take a step back and analyze it for a moment, so much of the stress in our lives is dictated by the degree to which we have figured out how money works.

A couple of years ago, one of our Relaxing Retirement members shared a story about some contrasting experiences in this area.  The stories were so compelling that I wanted to share them with you.

In one instance, his daughter, who is a professional working in Connecticut, was working extra hours babysitting for a well-to-do family with five children.

What she observed was incredible.

First, the children are taught from birth that of every dollar that comes into their lives, whether that be from a gift, work, etc.:

  • 1/3 goes to savings,
  • 1/3 goes to charity, and
  • 1/3 goes to spending.

Wow!  You may very well challenge those percentages, but the principle and structure is so impressive.

What do you think the impact on their lives will be by having this system ingrained in their minds?

How financially independent will they be at an early age vs. the overwhelming majority who instead spend 110% of what they make (with 10% placed on credit cards!)

The second habit she observed was that, at an early age, each of the five children took turns each month writing out checks and paying the family’s bills, thus watching the way money flows and what things cost.

Again, how incredibly valuable at such an early age!

To contrast that, this same Relaxing Retirement member was walking down the streets of Boston after a Red Sox game with his brother and nephew, who happened to be a 20 year old junior at Boston University at the time.

While waiting on the street for his brother to purchase a book, our member and his nephew were standing outside Abe & Louie’s Restaurant reading the menu in the window.

Our member was reading aloud the a la carte prices of various items: filet mignon: $44, salad: $12, appetizers: $16, etc.

After he read them aloud (noting how much it costs to have a good meal at a nice restaurant these days), his nephew said, “is that a lot?”

Imagine that!

He had no idea whatsoever!  None!  He has never paid for anything outside of using his parent’s credit card his entire life.

Now, B.U. degree or NO B.U. degree, what do you think the financial path will be for this young man?

What do you think his own credit card bills will look like in 10 years (assuming his father finally stops giving him his ‘no limit’ credit card to use)?  He is being set up for a train wreck.

After reading this, I hope you found it as helpful as I did, and you pass it on to everyone in your family.

It might be the most important “Independence Day” gift you’ve ever given.

Committed To Your Relaxing Retirement,

Jack Phelps
The Retirement Coach

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