WHO SELLS TOYS AT THE GROCERY STORE?!
Last week I was at the grocery store with my kids when right by the checkout we saw some dumb, kitchy unicorn that cost fifty bucks.
“Can we buy that?”
Our kids’ money lessons are coming along great, but I guess they’re no match for mythical creatures.
And while I was trying to come up with an epic life-lesson around why we won’t buy it, I realized that raising kids is a lot like building wealth. It doesn’t just happen by accident.
Both take vision, both have ups and downs, and both require us to learn and make adjustments as we go.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of my major money decisions are identical to my kid-raising decisions. So if you’re ever stuck at some major crossroads, be it about money, kids, or unicorns – use this guide to point you in the right direction.
DO: make your own decisions
I hate unsolicited advice.
Why do people give it?
- They want to feel helpful. And knowledgeable. And expertly.
- They’ve never actually followed through on this advice themselves, but they want to see how it could pan out, and then live vicariously through you.
- They want to justify a decision they made themselves (good or bad) by claiming it’s the best way to go.
- They might have regrets about something they did or didn’t do, and they want to “help you” avoid the same mistake.
This advice will come at you from friends, parents, professors, books, news, and random strangers on the internet. It’s good to be aware of what’s out there and people’s experience with it but at the end of the day – it’s you who makes the call and who lives with the consequences.
When it comes to my kids, I’d never blindly do what someone recommends – even if they swear by it. It has to “work” for me.
I remember someone telling me they used to spend hours each and every night rocking their kids to sleep because it’s the only thing that works so I should be prepared to do that too.
No thanks. I have other goals.
When we’ve started to build our wealth, we got all sorts of nay-sayers telling us we’re stupid. Real estate is too risky, they’d say, listing all the things will probably go wrong.
I remember being told that it’s better to invest in “guaranteed income” investments, never mind their interest rate is under 1% because you can’t lose.
Again. Sorry, but I have other goals!
This is actually why we’re so committed to Stealth Wealth. No one tells you what to do with your money when they think you’re poor!
And yes, I’m fully aware that I’m a stranger on the internet doling out money advice. That’s why I share my thought process to show you how to think instead of what to think. I just want to tell you what worked for me, what didn’t, and what I learned from the experience.
YOU make your own decision that works for YOU.
DON’T: be lazy
I admit. I’d be a hypocrite to preach about not being lazy. I’ve definitely had nights where we ate Lucky Charms for dinner or watched Moana twice, back-to-back, so I could mentally check out.
I’d also agree that it’s good for kids to have “unstructured time” so they can just be themselves. (Although my kids are toddlers, and based on the number of things I’ve found in their mouths – I can’t exactly let them do their own thing.)
So no judgment from me.
But when it becomes a habit, that’s when you’re in trouble. When family life has no structure or direction for too long it becomes much harder to take the reins back.
Have you been lazy with your money? Does it just come in and out with no direction or purpose? Or does it just sit in the bank?
Take the reins back!
Do your research. Learn how to invest. Don’t be lazy with your money!
And on that same note, just as you wouldn’t leave your kids with some bad babysitter, don’t leave your money with some “advisor”. They generally don’t outperform index funds, but take a cut win-or-lose.
Learn to invest for yourself. Start with the basics (like index funds) and work your way up (to real estate.) It’s not hard once you get started.
DO: help them grow
Nurturing kids takes balance.
On the one hand your kids want to make their own mistakes, and on the other, they look to you as their guidance system. Your job is to help them grow and reach their potential.
Just like your kids, your money has tons of potential. But it’s up to you to guide it and help it grow.
- If you have no plan or vision for your money,
- If you always have bad debts to pay off, or
- If you’re too scared to invest it
You’re not giving your money a chance to grow. What a waste!
DON’T: let them go out too often
Speaking of striking a balance, kids need to learn a balance between doing the things they want to do, and the things they have to do. Yes, having a social life is great, but if they’re partying every weekend – that’s bad. And if your kids are constantly going out but you have no idea where they’re headed – that’s real bad.
Same thing goes for money. You need to strike a balance. Having some fun with your money is good and all, but if it’s constantly going out (especially if you don’t know where to) then it’s time to make a few changes!
Start by teaching yourself to save. The rest will be easy!
DO: teach them to be responsible
Know what’s sad?
When a grown person doesn’t know how to do their own laundry. On the other hand I get it – if no one ever showed them how to do it, or even asked them to try, why would they?
Even though my kids are small, they have little chores and responsibilities:
- Make the bed
- Put away toys,
- Sort socks
- Help shovel the driveway
Even my tiny one helps by taking pots and pans out the cupboard and putting them back in.
They love to contribute!
And as they grow older, we’ll keep giving them new skills and responsibilities to take care of themselves and actually help the family.
The same way that we’re teaching our kids to take care of themselves and to contribute to the family – we want our money to contribute to our wealth. That means investing.
First of all, the investment shouldn’t require constant supervision. Just like we don’t want to do our kids’ laundry after they move out, we don’t want to check our accounts every day to make sure our money’s still there. That’s why we have a bunch of our money in simple ETFs.
We also used our money to buy real estate property to have rental income and continue to build our wealth.
DON’T put too much pressure on them
What’s a recipe for miserable kids?
- Tell them their grades aren’t high enough, even when they get straight A’s
- Schedule every minute of their day
- Force them to dedicate all their free time to something you love, even if they don’t
- Never let them make a mistake
In other words – put too much pressure on them.
This recipe not only creates miserable kids – kids who can’t wait to move out of home and only talk to their parents when they have to – it also makes miserable parents.
When you’re trying to control every aspect of your kids’ lives, anything less than perfect feels like a failure. You’ll constantly blame yourself and everyone else anytime anything goes wrong, and you’ll lose sight of the fact that families have ups and downs, but overall it’s all good.
I get it. You want to prevent pain and mistakes. You probably think – if I had all the things I’m giving my kids now, I’d be so much better off!
But the real growth happens when kids make mistakes or have to figure things out on their own. Don’t rob them of that.
Okay, so we know better than to put too much pressure on our kids. But are you putting too much pressure on your money?
- If you put all your money into one investment
- If you expect your investment to immediately yield high returns
- If you beat yourself up over making any mistake
- If you freak out at the slightest drop in the market
If you do any of those things, you’re expecting too much from your money. That means you’ll be in reactive mode and sell a good investment at the slightest drop, or double down on a bad investment to “make your money back.”
So instead: diversify your investments, have an emergency fund, and stay on track.
Remember that there will always be ups, downs, and opportunities to learn. Take a step back and look at the big picture.
DO: be proud of them
And on the topic of taking a step back and looking at the big picture…
Sometimes I hear something so painstakingly obvious my only reaction is “why did you even bother saying this out loud?”
And then I remember. They’re toddlers and figuring this out took work. So I get excited with them.
Our kids are always learning, trying new things, and reaching new peaks.
Congratulate them. Celebrate them. Pay attention to them.
That’s the kind of reaction that will keep them encouraged to keep learning, keep trying new things, and keep reaching new peaks.
Whether it’s reciting the ABCs, doing a pirouette, or figuring out that 2 and 2 make 4, it’s an accomplishment on their part. It took work and that makes me proud.
Always take a moment to feel that pride, and you’ll never feel like what you have is not enough.
Do you remember what it was like to hold your own money for the first time? It was like a new sense of possibility and responsibility. It meant something.
What about saving your first thousand dollars? Wow. I didn’t know I was capable of holding on to so much money!
When money was new and exciting we paid attention to it.
Now that we’re older we have a tendency to either not pay attention to our money at all or to always look for the “next thing”.
Did you just set up an investment account? Give yourself a pat on the back. Pay off a bad debt? Celebrate it. Save up for an emergency fund? Take a moment to feel some pride.
This is what will encourage you to keep making good money decisions and will let you feel like you have enough.
And now let’s recap:
- DO: be prepared to make tough choices
- DON’T: be too lazy
- DO: give them a nurturing environment
- DON’T: let them party their lives away
- DO: teach them to be self-sufficient and to help you out
- DON’T: put too much pressure on them
- DO: celebrate and be proud of them
So can you think of other ways that raising your kids is like building your wealth? I’d love to see what you think in the comments!