I’m reading Suze Orman’s The Money Class right now and boy am I getting education. Suze Orman is a woman I greatly admire. She went from a dead end job to a high paying job, incurred a huge amount of debt, paid it off and grew her own empire. There are a few things she does that I highly disagree with and think she can be very rigid with her principles, but I definitely agree with her more than I disagree with her.
I’m in the portion of the book that discusses how to talk to your family about money and dedicates a huge portion of it to children. Obviously there are an endless number of ways you can educate your children about money, but she has some very valid points that I think Andy and I might try when the little ones come around.
Reading about interactions with kids and money obviously brought me back to my own early days of spending money. One of my favorite things to do with clients who have a hard time curbing their spending is to ask them what their first money memory is. It’s usually associated with not getting something and feeling a sense of rebellion or being given something and thinking the supply was unlimited. My own first money memory is of my mom taking me to a Walgreens and buying me a My Little Pony. She handed over the cash to the cashier and I said, “And now you’ll get some money back.” And my mom looked at me and said, “No, I won’t.” Not in a harsh or patronizing tone, just one that was stating the fact. A year later I would learn about exact change, but at that time I associated this with the idea that money is finite and could disappear at any moment. This sort of association has led to a habit of spending money almost as soon as I got it that I have spent the last 4 years slowly breaking down to make way for more savings and being a smart consumer.
It has not been easy.
My parents were generous at their worst and gave my brother and I almost anything we asked for. To be fair, I think we were pretty reasonable kids for the most part. But when Nate wanted a net for batting practice in the backyard, he didn’t just get one, he got the BEST one. And when time came for me to get my driver’s license, I didn’t a car, I got the BEST car (that I still have 10 years later, so obviously that was a great choice). They were amazing parents, but gave us little education and understanding about where money comes from except for the occasional arguments about how we needed to turn the lights off when we left rooms.
I think this is why I devour personal finance information like a fat kid devours cake (as a former fat kid, I can say stuff like that). I love it and I love applying principles to my life and debating about the merits of savings strategies and how much you actually save from things like turning off your hot water heater when you leave the house (hint: a lot).
This is all to say that if we can trace back to that first memory we can learn a lot about why we spend and why we save and why we value what we value. This can help open up your eyes to what needs to change in your own approach to money and hopefully will help you teach the younger generations how to handle theirs more responsibly. Take a minute and think back to that moment. What happened? Did you hear your parents arguing over money? Was it stolen from you? Did you spend a lot on a major purchase? Did you stuff it away in your piggy bank? And how did you feel? Happy? Sad? Ashamed? Nervous?
Now think about how you feel when you spend money today. Do any of those feelings translate? Is spending a constant internal back and forth or is it something that happens with confidence? And how about your saving? Is that something that comes naturally and is as pleasure-bringing as spending? Or is it something that makes you nervous or feel inadequate?
I’d love to hear your first money memories and if you chose to do your own self-analysis about how that relates to your current spending I know I and other readers would definitely benefit from it.
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