This originally appeared at ING’s wethesavers.com.
Coming soon from me: Your child can save.
These commercials touting “Your baby can read” crack me up. I’m not sure of the average six month old’s ability to analyze a sonnet, much less a few rhymes of Dr. Suess.
I wonder if parents should maybe focus on teaching their children other things.
My parents didn’t teach me to read via DVD or whatever is standard child-raising practice these days, but they certainly did right by me in the financial situation.
It was the 80s then, and I practically learned to walk in the mall, where my mother worked and my teenage sister introduced me to neon-colored consumerism, complete with air brushed shirts, slap bracelets, footless tights and all other related fashion tragedies.
Twelve years younger than my sister, eight years younger than my brother, I was the family baby. I imagine it would have been easy to spoil me, but I’m grateful I was not, as least not with money. As I mentioned in my first blog, I’ve had a savings account for nearly two decades now.
With my siblings I did chores, like wall washing. For these duties, my parents paid me a few dollars a week. I learned that money came as a result of work, the kind that left your hands smelling of bleach and your arms achy.
Each week, when I added a new bill to my Kaboodle hidden stash, I felt lucky to have an allowance. I’d often sit and examine the money. I’d count it out. I’d smell it. I’d look at the dates, patterns, where it was printed, then I’d put it up back in my room. Sometimes I washed it in the sink and left it to dry in my window sill. If it was very wrinkled, I’d iron it flat.
Though I’d occasionally spend 36 cents on Skittles (then my favorite candy), I could not imagine blowing all of my money on sweets. Thus, after my first few weeks of earning my own money, I became curious about what should be done with this accumulating amount of green.
My mother told me I should save it in case I needed it, and once I had saved enough, she’d take me to the bank to open my own savings account where I could earn interest. She showed me how my money could make money, and I became obsessed, opening my first savings account with $81.
I can’t say this method is 100% foolproof (in fact, it only had a 33% success rate for my parents—I’m the one out of three children). But I can’t imagine a better way. I learned to save for future need and I learned to be proud of choosing to save than to spend.
Now I just need to figure out how to make a DVD program out of this method: I’ll show toddlers making perfect change, and kindergarteners shopping around for the best CD rate.