My father emigrated from Taiwan in the 1960s with only $17 to his name and the clothes on his back. Even though he was poor in the material and financial sense, he never considered himself poor.
His mantra was that financial wealth alone did not represent one’s “true wealth.” He stressed the fact that he was rich in spirit and blessed with his education.
The most valuable financial advice that my dad instilled in me was not to define myself by what I have, but rather by my accomplishments and education. He insisted that while money did not buy happiness, it did provide peace of mind, freedom, and flexibility.
I learned that money should not be the sole determining factor for the decisions I make in life. His financial wisdom and insight have enabled me to adopt a balanced, holistic approach to financial matters, for which I am eternally grateful.
The Circle of Life
I hope to further my dad’s legacy and instill values of financial stewardship and reverence for one’s elders. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet any of my grandfathers, as they passed away even before my parents got married.
My three children are fortunate to know my dad, and though he now faces the physical challenges that accompany Parkinson’s Disease, my children treat him—and other individuals with physical limitations—with patience and compassion.
True to my dad’s advice, I don’t define success merely by accomplishing what I desire to achieve.
As parents, we all aspire to bestow our children with the tools, knowledge, and resources to achieve academic success. I also impart the importance of prudent money management and effective time management.
My moment of clarity occurred when my eldest daughter Sarina proudly exclaimed, “Mom, I realize that if I continue to manage my time and money well, as well as believe in my ability to overcome obstacles and challenges on my own, there’s no limit to what I can achieve.”
Financial literacy is the key to economic success.
Keeping that goal in mind, consider these three money-saving strategies to help teach your children how to best manage their money. They are simple and effective, even for children in elementary school.
1. Create a family financial mission statement
Solicit input from your family about what each member thinks is important. Is it eating out, taking vacations, saving for college—or all of these goals? Have an open conversation with your spouse and children to get them thinking about the meaning of money, the challenge of earning it, and importance of saving for what you truly value.
2. Take opportunities in your daily activities to model how you make money decisions
By discussing money making decisions as you shop, cook, and pay bills, you provide concrete examples that your children can model. Plus, taking the kids to the grocery store and cooking dinner afterwards teaches them to apply their math skills in the real world. Having them bag groceries with you at the check-out shows them how much it really costs to fill up the fridge each week.
3. Allow children firsthand experience in earning, saving, and spending their own money
Allowances are great—so long as the kids actually do chores to earn the cash. Be sure to set up a savings account for them early, and let them manage the records so they can see how much money they are saving over the years. By the time they hit their teens, this will be a valuable lesson when it comes to wanting to spend their savings on clothes, food, and friends—and still save for college. Then, by the time they head off to the university of their dreams, they will be more likely to have a savvy sensibility about managing their expenses. Remember, children need to have the benefit of making their own decisions—and learning from their mistakes—so that as adults they are as wise as my dad.
Try using these simple ideas at home with your kids, and let me know how it goes.
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