When we learned we were expecting our first child last year, there was a certain excitement just thinking about all the things we would get to do and experience with our future child. My husband, the ever devoted sports fan, couldn’t wait to subject her to rooting for his terrible teams. We talked about where we would travel and what board games we would play. Secretly, however, I had my own mental list of lesson I wanted to teach her, and they’re lessons I think everyone can use in their financial lives. Here are just a few of the big personal finance lessons I plan to teach my daughter.
Good Money Management Comes Down to Decision Making
This is the first lesson I address with students when I speak to them. It seems so simple in theory, but it’s something a lot of adults fail to remember. At its best, money management is just a series of decisions we make. We decide what to do with that extra $10 we were given for our birthday. We can spend it just to spend it, or we can think about what we really want and make our money work for us in order to accomplish that goal. Be purposeful with your money and make a plan to help guide you. Define your goals and make decisions accordingly.
There Is No Such Thing as a Safe Bet
This seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning because there are very few things in life that are guaranteed. This isn’t to scare her away from investing in the stock market, for instance, but instead, it’s meant to guide her towards hedging those bets. Save an emergency fund so that you have a runway should things go awry. Diversify your investments with ETFs and mutual funds. Putting all of your money on one horse is dangerous, but knowing that slow and steady progress is better than volatile individual stocks is important. Never try to beat the market, but instead invest for the long term and stay the course.
Live Below Your Means
I think this is one of the most important lessons that I can teach our daughter not just through our words, but through example. I hope to show her that you can live a great life without a huge house or fancy car and that the real value is in how you spend your time. What you remember at the end of the day is the time you spent with those you love and the memories you created together. Best of all, it takes little to no money to accomplish that, so there’s no reason to be maxing out your credit card to live a life you can’t afford. Appreciate the small things in life and you’ll never be overextended.
You are Your Most Valuable Investment
Obviously as a parent, you think your child is the best and brightest. However, I’m of the mind that there’s always room for improvement and part of what makes us interesting as humans is that we are able to learn, grow, and acquire new skills. Doing so only makes us more valuable to society and gives us more leverage and earning power. The bottom line is that investing in an education has a greater monetary return than nearly any other investment you can make. For this reason, I hope to instill in my daughter a thirst for knowledge and self-improvement that will serve her well in her future career and financial life.
Never Lose Sight of the Long Game
Here’s where I think many people struggle and something I think we could all stand to work on. So often we’re focused on the minutiae of the current day, and to some extent that’s completely necessary. Unfortunately, getting caught up in that minutiae can often limit you from looking at the bigger picture. This can be especially harmful when it comes to personal finances because the longer you put off planning for the long game, the more you stand to lose. Compound interest is a great example of this. The longer your money has to compound, the more you earn in return. This comes full circle back to decision making and the idea that the sacrifices you make today can get you what you want tomorrow. Never lose sight of what it is you really want and what you’re willing to do to ensure that it’s a part of your future.
Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook
Lindsay Dell Cook is a CPA, finance writer, and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband and adorable daughter. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, taking their lovable mutt for walks, or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.