Last night, after having listened to a friend’s tales of financial woe, ‘Love and I got to talking about folks and finances—specifically, our observations about the households people are raised in and the adults that emerge. Here’s what we observed:
- We know a few people who were raised in homes where money was tight and parents were stressed. In each case, the resulting adult has become somewhat obsessed with having a high-paying career and lots of STUFF.
- We know numerous people who were raised in homes somewhere in the middle—money was neither stressfully tight nor blissfully abundant; parents provided what was necessary (usually purchased on sale) and children occasionally enjoyed the perk of a special toy or activity. These children typically seem to turn out to be financially responsible adults, not over-stressed about money but not too cavalier in their spending, either. (In at least two cases I know of, the children later discovered that their parents had been millionaires; in other cases, children later found that they had been living close to the poverty line.)
- We know numerous people raised in affluent homes, where parents spent money generously to provide for their children. Almost every adult we know who emerged from that type of household struggles to manage their money responsibly and live within their means.
The happy medium seems not to come from income level, but from treatment of money. As long as you project confidence in your ability to provide, emphasize responsible spending, and find occasional ways to treat your children—not often enough that they come to expect it, or it loses its potency, and never at the expense of financial stability—children will, hopefully, learn to handle money well.
What do you think? Do your experiences reflect what we’ve noticed about the people we know, or do you have a different theory?