My daughter is engaged.
Before you congratulate me, don’t. I’m not happy.
It’s not that he’s not a nice guy. I mean, no one is ever good enough for your daughter, but he’s a solid kid. Comes from a good family with good values. I’m not totally sure what he wants to do with his life, but who among us knew exactly what we wanted to do when we were that age.
She says they’re best friends, and that’s definitely important. I know every father who marries off a daughter probably feels this way when things get serious between his “little girl” and some new kid on the block, but they just seem so young.
No Laughing Matter
That’s right friends, last week my daughter announced she was getting married…at 4.
I know I should laugh and think it’s cute, but it actually kind of touched a nerve for me. I mean, she’s only 4 and I know, Lord willing, that I’ve got a lot of years left with her before she strikes out on her own. But it made me realize that I don’t have as much time as I thought. It made me think that the time I do have, I need to be using wisely with her.
When we had our first child, I was chatting about parenting with a friend of mine who had kids in their teens. He said that almost all the teaching and parenting he had done happened before 5. After that after that, he said, your job was to support and encourage your children.
I’m not sure I totally agree with him on that, but I will say that most of the impact you have on your kids will happen when they are young. That is, without question, true.
As my wife was relaying to me the particulars of how I would be in the Guinness Book of Records for having the youngest child ever married and I was calculating the cost of the wedding, she told me a few things that stood out as far as the impact we’ve had on our daughter.
First, she is her mother’s daughter in so many ways.
Just like my wife, G knows exactly what she wants. Apparently, she and the new fiance have already discussed getting a dog and a cat. They’ve decided on sleeping arrangements which include a bunk bed. She wants three kids and a house that is “a little bit cool”. And they want a van, because of the sliding doors.
For me, this all seems a bit strange. Not the bunk beds, that makes total sense to me if I think like a 4-year-old, but just the level of dreaming she has done. We’ve taught her, somehow, to dream about her future. I’m not sure exactly how we accomplished this. My wife and I talk about our future plans a lot, what our hopes and dreams are, and maybe that has rubbed off on her.
I’m glad she has dreams. I know they’ll change (I hope the cat never materializes) but I’m glad she feels safe to dream. I want to make sure she never loses that, and to encourage her to think big and not limit her expectations of what life offers.
A Wealthy Life
Second, this conversation reinforced that what we are teaching her about money is sinking in. As she and her new flame were discussing what they were going to spend their money on, he remarked that he was going to spend all the money on “popcorn and candy”. My daughter asked matter of factly, “Why do you want to spend all your money on that? You’re not spending MY money.”
My wife and I have tried to be very intentional about teaching Gemma lessons about money, and how it relates to faith, family, finances, and work ethic. We want to pass on our values for what it means to live a truly wealthy life.
Gemma is on commission at Matheson Inc. She only gets paid if she works, and work she does. Just today, as she was putting her dishes in the dishwasher, she was telling me how she needed to work to earn her money.
We have a chore chart that we keep on our fridge. She has a variety of things she gets paid for, including making her bed, putting her dirty clothes in the laundry, cleaning up, and helping others. I know some parents just expect their kids to do these things, and there are certain things we expect that she doesn’t get paid for (the helping others category is very broad for a reason). But we wanted to reinforce to her that if she doesn’t work, she won’t get paid, and that message has sunk in.
She’s been on commission for about 4 months and it’s been going quite well. Every Saturday she gets paid $1.50, 6 quarters. Some people may think that’s cheap, but I prefer frugal.
My wife decorated 3 old loose tea containers with fancy wallpaper and glitter letters to store her bounty. The first thing we do when she gets paid is put 25₵ in the Give container. As people of faith, we tithe a percentage of our income to our local church and other charities. We want to instill the value of generosity and gratitude in our children, and so before we’ve spent or saved, this money goes into the Give fund.
Last weekend we went out and used her money (she has stockpiled $4) to buy some gifts for an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. Before we went out I showed her a short video and we talked about how some kids don’t have much money, and how we can give to them. It was awesome to see her picking out the items for the box and growing her giving muscles right before my eyes.
The next place money goes is to her Save container. It gets 3 quarters, the most of any jar. Before she’s touched any cash to spend, this “invisible money” disappears into her saving fund so she doesn’t even miss it.
We want to impress upon her the value of delaying gratification. We want her to experience the joy you get from passing on the temporary good feeling of spending now, for the amazing feeling of satisfaction and self-control you have when you buy something you’ve been saving up for.
Right now, she’s not saving for a car, university, or a down payment on a house. We’re not that crazy. She saves for larger purchases that she wants but can’t buy on impulse and that we’re not going to cave in and get her on a whim.
A Teachable Moment
A few weekends ago, she and I were hanging out and she let me know that she had seen a Spirit Riding Free toy that she wanted to buy. (For those who don’t know, it’s Netflix show, which is pretty solid for little kids. It’s definitely better than Peppa Pig or that Wiggles crap. Seriously, people pay to produce the Wiggles? I watched 2 minutes of that show and had a headache bigger than Donald Trump. I digress).
Anyways, I didn’t know anything about this toy but my wife had given it the green light. We had a little time to kill and decided to check out Wal Mart to see if they had it. As she walked up and down the aisles in anticipation, I was expecting a $30 toy, small, doll-sized. You know the drill if you have daughters.
As we strolled the aisles, to my horror I saw a huge, expensive looking toy matching her description. It was sitting on the top shelf. Sure, I could’ve ignored it and pretended I didn’t see it. But this was a teachable moment.
“Is this the one you were talking about honey?” “THAT’S IT!!” she exclaimed. “That’s the Spirit Riding Free toy I wanted!!!” Such glee. And, yet, this glee came with a hefty price tag… 70 bucks!!
Now G launched a very successful startup last summer and the IPO generated a whopping $125. It was a pop-up lemonade stand at the end of our driveway, in which her uncle is the majority owner. None the less, it was very successful.
She decided that she wanted to take some of her lemonade money and use it for the purchase. Right in Wal-Mart I checked her account balance and watched her eyes light up when she saw she had enough.
Money Lessons Learned
We walked out of Wal-Mart that day, Spirit Riding Free in hand, with several important lessons learned:
- If there’s not enough money in the account, you can’t make the purchase. This would be sage advice for every adult. Instead, many of us turn to credit cards, HELOCs, or financing to buy what we want, rather than saving up and paying cash.
- If you want to buy stuff you love, you need money – this sounds really self-evident, but it’s not. North Americans are more in debt today than ever before. This message is not being received by the vast majority of us.
- If you want more money to buy the things you love, working will get you there. Your income is your biggest tool when it comes to being financially successful. And working doesn’t just mean the daily 9-5 grind, either. Passive income can be a big part of your overall income. Whether it’s buying things you want with cash or saving more money for the future (retirement, vacation, child’s university, etc.), having a larger income makes things easier. G understands this. As we were walking out of the store she was already planning on having another lemonade stand next year. She gets it. If you want more money, you need to work.
The final container is Spend. She puts two quarters in it and she can spend it on whatever she wants. She usually lets it build up a bit and then goes and buys something cheap at the dollar store. Even this is a lesson.
If she buys something that is cheaply made but doesn’t cost much, it may break or she may lose interest in it after a few weeks. I’m hoping she’ll learn the value of taking her time to save. We’re working to impress on her that spending a little more to get something of higher quality and for which the satisfaction will last longer, is better than the quick impulse purchase.
Passing on Values
All these little money lessons are allowing us to pass on our values about money, faith, work ethic, and life for that matter, to her. These lessons aren’t just for kids.
They say we learn best what we teach. As a teacher, I can say that is truer than true. We all can benefit from growing in generosity, delaying gratification, and saving for the future.
As she gets closer to the magic age of 5, I hope that we’ve done a good job of teaching her about the things that really matter, the truly important things in life.
And I hope that when the day of her ACTUAL wedding comes, I can look up at her and think that we did an ok job raising an amazing kid.