by Dr. Boyce Watkins
As part of our project on “Financial Lovemaking,” S Tia Brown and I explore the roots of our connections to money and why it makes us do what we do. Most of us are deeply linked to our financial situations yet do not realize that our relationships with money tend to start at a very early age. When I wrote my dissertation on Financial Psychology, I often consulted with my late grandmother Felicia, who was my first Finance professor. She always taught me that how you think about money is more important than how much money you have or how much money you earn.
With that said, here are four things I argue that you should NEVER teach your children about money:
1) That it grows on trees: A lot of parents are appalled by the idea of expecting their kids to earn the extra money they put in their pockets. But the problem is that, by giving things away for free, you are setting a trend that may continue for the next 30 years. If you turn yourself into a walking welfare office, then your child will naturally morph himself into a welfare recipient. Teaching your children the value of money at an early age is beneficial to their development, along with teaching them that financial rewards come with investment, sacrifice and hard work. A simple procedure might be to make sure they work for every penny they get, even if it means just sweeping the floor or making up their bed. This correlation between work and reward will stay with them for a lifetime.
2) That they should worship it: We live in a society that usually loves money more than life itself. We let people die because they can’t afford health insurance. We act like someone is suddenly a good person because they are rich. Some of us ruin our lives over money. Teaching your child that money is important, but that it is just one tool in the path toward fulfillment can help them develop healthy financial habits that don’t turn them into a corporate hooker or someone who destroys their family over a little cash.
3) That it should be used to define their relationships with other people: We are taught to date people who are financially attractive or gravitate toward affluent friends. Some of this is natural, since biologists argue that women are more attracted to men who are good providers. But there is a line between desiring the things you need to survive vs. allowing money to make you gluttonous and ignorant. A lot of people have had their lives destroyed or ended up in terrible marriages because they were defining their love by the number of digits in another person’s bank account. Nearly all relationships, of any kind, should matter more than money. Teaching these values to your kids might help them avoid the temptation to cut off a relative because they didn’t get their $50 back.
4) That it is solely a tool for consumption: If you drop a million dollars on some households, the first stop is going to be to the mall. The story about the poor man who spent all of his lottery winnings in four weeks is not as uncommon as you might think. Part of the reason that black people can’t get ahead financially is because some of us are in a rush to give our money right back to the same corporations that won’t even hire us. A child should be taught that money is a tool for investment and that capital is something to be accumulated, not consumed. It’s OK to have nice things, but it should be done in moderation. The culture of consumption is destroying America’s financial future, so teach your child to buck this ridiculous trend.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Financial Lovemaking 101: Merging Assets with Your Partner in Ways that Feel Good.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.