Managing money has been such a huge part of my life. Don't yawn, please don't! Seriously, give me a chance. I come from a background where money wasn’t readably available, mainly due to my dad suffering two heart attacks and, by doctor's orders, not going back to work. Following my dad's scary hospital stint, every penny had to be accounted for.
Try to visualize living a fairly comfortable life only for it to be shaken to the core! Some of you might know exactly what I'm talking about. It just shows you truly don’t have control over every aspect of your life.
As I watched my parents bicker over money or heard comments such as "don’t tell dad I bought this", I made a promise to myself to live within my means.
In this day and age, it’s up to parents to teach their kids the importance of healthy finances and give them the tools to achieve this. As far as I know it's not a topic discussed in school these days.
Kids deserve a fair chance once they move out on their own. I want my stepchildren to be successful and capable of supporting themselves. Also, I don’t necessarily want my stepchildren to move back home after college. Unless, of course, it’s an emergency of some kind, #sorrynotsorry. My husband and I want to travel the world once the kids are out of the house.
How do we teach our kids the value of money?
The sheer amount of stuff my stepkids have is truly eye-opening. There is a present overload at birthdays and Christmas, especially when you compare it to my 1 present for each celebration.
I had to tread lightly as the new stepparent. It wasn’t up to me after all and I was still new in my role as a stepmother. Over time I gently pointed out how different my stepkids lives were compared to mine at the same age. Of course, I didn’t want to deprive my stepkids of anything. But teaching children the value of money is important.
- Say no and don’t feel guilty. Really, your (step)child doesn’t need that chocolate bar at the grocery store, that game at the toy store or the McDonalds kids meal. Children shouldn't expect to get everything they want when they want it. Also, teaching them the difference between wants and needs is crucial.
- Kids should have the chance to earn extra money around the house. No, don't pay them to clean their room, shovel the driveway or walk the dog, but washing windows, mowing the lawn, vacuuming around the house. These are all bigger jobs and are deserving of some cash.
- Talk about finances openly but don’t worry them with your adult money problems, okay? However, finances should not be a taboo subject either. When there is an unexpected bill and you need to decide between paying for the new fridge or putting off a not-so-necessary purchase, don’t hesitate to discuss this with your partner when your (step)child is in the room. This will teach your (step)children that we all need to make decisions about where we spend our hard earned cash. Money just doesn’t grow on trees, even though we really, really wish it did and, unfortunately, the bank machine doesn’t spit out free cash.
- Encourage your (step)child to save for something he or she wants and have them set goals. All that money they saved from birthdays and chores can be used towards something they really want. Believe me, once your (step)child owns something they worked really hard for they will make damn sure it’s taken care of.
- And allow your (step)child to purchase what he or she wants even when you believe it’s a waste of money. Who knows? Something you may think silly could turn out to be their most cherished possession.
- Open a bank account for your older (step)child. Trust me, they are going to think it’s awesome to have that little plastic card. Not always having all their money in a piggy bank in their bedroom means it isn't always staring them in the face saying "Spend me!". Keeping a little cash around is probably a good thing, but having a bank account that they can watch grow without being able to access too easily will help them to save up for that big dream purchase.
- Teach your (step)children about interest when they ask to borrow money. Sure kid, you can borrow $10 BUT you’ve to pay back $12 after 30 days. I can guarantee you will be met with protest and questions. This is a perfect time to open up a conversation and explain to your (step)children how credit card companies work or a mortgage is set up. More likely than not, your (step)child will decide that they actually don’t really need that toy right now. It can wait until they’ve saved up enough themselves.
- Give them responsibilities, real responsibilities. Teenagers with side jobs are old enough to pay their own $20 cell phone bill. Encourage them to do so! It will force your (step)child to know what’s like to have recurring bills.
Not only do I have in-depth conversations with my oldest stepson about his next purchase, I can also proudly say he worked his butt off mowing lawns and was able to buy himself a dirt bike after saving for a year when he was 10 years old! He not only mowed our lawn and his mom's, he also started his own small 'business' mowing lawns around the neighborhood. Even turning down business prompting his dad and I to jokingly tell him he should hire an employee. Explaining the fundamentals of being a ‘boss’, charging his clients, let’s say $10, and paying his employee $6. The wheels are starting to turn! (disclaimer, we are not actually going to allow him to hire an employee, we just want to get him thinking)
Being on the same page with your partner about teaching the kids about finances is one thing. But as a stepfamily it's great when everyone is on board. If the ex is not on board that’s A-OKAY! Work with your limitations and set your expectations accordingly. You can't change the ex-wife or force her to do things the way you want it done. She may have some different views that aren't necessarily bad ones just because they don't align with yours. Your stepchild might not have his own lawn mowing business but you can still pay them for chores or give your stepchild an allowance.