Growing up in Peru, I watched my parents build a happy life from nothing. Each of them are small business owners, and it was part of my upbringing to help out at those businesses. I used to enjoy helping my mom by pulling elastics for fabrics in her shop when I was 6 years old. At 13, I would assist my dad’s accountant by filing and organizing documents and bills, then at the end of each month I was given a paycheck for all that work. I remember how often my family’s financial stability would shift throughout my childhood as my parents worked to make their own businesses successful. That upbringing had a huge impact on my life, even now; I’m always trying to save money where possible, or buy things for my family with a discount.
When I met my husband, it was clear we had nearly opposite relationships with money. He’s always been a giver and is very generous with his money, and his family was able to send him to boarding school growing up. As our relationship progressed and we moved into stable careers, we learned to play to our own strengths when it comes to our finances. I am the one that handles our bills and our investments, and since my husband is very organized, he manages savings for trips and our emergency fund. This strategy worked well for us for a long time, but when we had kids it became clear it was time to think about what we wanted their relationship with money to be like.
When our son, Gunnar, was born in 2012, my husband and I were at a point in our careers where we had managed to pay off our mortgages and student debts. As our first child, we wanted to give our son everything, but when he was 4 years old, we started to notice that he felt entitled to things, like toys and even trips overseas. That’s when as a couple, we decided we needed to teach him from early on how to save money and live frugally. And more importantly, I wanted to teach him the difference between wanting something and needing something.
As a kid, I was always taught at home that you have to earn your money to get what you want, because nothing in life is free. My dad was born in a small town in Peru, and he left his home at only 8 years old and went to Lima to make a better life for himself. He worked for his uncle, who was a tailor, and he studied so much that he earned a full scholarship in one of the best boarding schools in my country. That pretty much summarizes how I live my life: work hard and always strive for success. But as mom myself, my little ones were born into a very financially stable home. My husband and I aren’t struggling over money in the same way my family did growing up, so it’s been really challenging to make my kids understand the value of money.
Making things trickier, my husband and I still have our own beliefs about money and parenting. My husband is a bit softer than me when he wants to buy them a toy or a treat, but I’m still very money conscious and want to embed that mentality onto my kids. It’s important to me that they can learn to make their own smart financial choices from an early age, and that they know how to be successful on their own.
Navigating our different upbringings with money isn’t easy, especially in the beginning. We were still in a phase of our relationship where we were learning so much about each other, but eventually I began taking the initiative to make open, honest conversations about money a normal part of our relationship. I started scheduling a monthly, hour-long meeting where we would sit down and discuss the important financial topics: how much we’re spending on home maintenance and repairs, how much we’re saving for retirement, how our investments are doing. Over the years, that meeting has evolved to include what’s most important to each of us when it comes to our kids’ success.
We agreed that teaching them to earn their money is important to both of us, so they each do their own chores around the house and earn money for them. I want them to know how to save, so I’ve gotten each of them their own piggy bank that lets them watch their money grow over time. When we are at the gas station, we point out what we need (gas for our car), and what is something we want (buying ice cream before we leave). We are trying to teach them that every time they spend money, they are making a choice.
I believe even though my husband and I were raised differently, as parents we share the same goal which is to raise our kids to be successful on their own, because let’s be honest, we won’t live forever. I want to provide them with the tools to be successful in life, and starting an open dialogue around money and making it a normal thing for them to talk about from an early age helps me do that.
Time will tell how these strategies work out for both of my kids, but in the meantime we’re always creating new, fun ways to talk to them about financial success. Lately we’ve been spending a lot of time explaining the fundamentals of saving and more importantly, encouraging giving back, and I think that part’s starting to shine through: Last month, my little boy treated his sister to a new toy using his own money. I wish you could have been there to see how much pride that gave him, and just how happy that moment made me feel.
This post is sponsored by Visa.
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