Are You Teaching Financial Responsibility or Promiscuity

by Bill on January 4, 2012

Today’s post stems from another experience I had with people around me; it brought up a question which rings to something I truly believe. Are you teaching financial responsibility or promiscuity to your children This, to me, is especially relevant to people with pre-school children because they pick up so much of what adults around them do.
This is another one of my example family posts. This time we’re dealing with their inability to understand the difference between financial responsibility and promiscuity.

First I’ll give you some first-hand examples that this family actually does; then some warning signs because not everybody sees it when they’re a part of the problem.

Okay, here come the examples –

The Never Wanting, Just Wanting More Scenario
The four-year old can’t be taken anywhere without insisting he gets a toy or something. Yes, this is normal for four-year olds. What’s not normal is he never loses. Every time he goes out, he comes back with something. He already knows which parent he can tag along with for the most toys (and both are good for at least one toy). He also gets a couple of new movies to watch every month (currently he’s closing in on 100 I believe). He also knows he can call grampa and get a Happy Meal just for asking. Now, no I don’t advise not getting the child anything or causing a scene, but people there are limits and this child doesn’t know any. When told there is no money he tells you to go get some.

Don’t Use It, Just Toss It Out
This one has two examples which are both potentially financial problems later in life.

Example 1 – Don’t want it anymore, just break it and get a new one. The four-year old has a couple of people to learn this from. One unfortunately, is the father. Now there is a time to end all use of an item and a time to go get a replacement. These people tend to use shirts as mops and slop towels, and then toss them out after one use. Don’t think you’ll need that shovel after this year’s garden? Break the handle and get a new one next year (yes they actually did that). He breaks toys when he doesn’t want them anymore; that he probably got from his cousin who breaks her cell phone every time she wants a new one (and goes through three a year).

Example 2 – Getting new food means tossing out all the old, expired or not. Here’s one that I’ve had fights with people over because it makes no sense to me at all – especially when you’re on food stamps. Food stamps tend to roll over to the next month when not used. So it makes sense to only get what you need. These guys clean out the kitchen each month just before going food shopping by ditching food. I’ve seen them toss full boxes of cereal because “no one will eat them”; then why did you get them to begin with? Half boxes of cereal, snacks, the unused bread – all gone in the trash. A huge bag of garbage goes out the day before food shopping. Now I know some things have to be replaced if you have limited room: dairy, some canned items, juices, leftovers and so on. But what happened to adjusting your food shopping around what you already have.

Borrowing and Spending
I had to come up with a section title for this one that explained it well enough. This is because I’ve never seen a family do this before. Each month they get paid. Each month money goes out to pay back money borrowed from family members. Each month this family spends money on movies, toys, and one big shopping day (all at once). Each month cigarettes are bought. And each month they’re broke by or before the 15th. And the cycle starts again. Can you see where this is going? By the way they usually need help with heat, gas and are often making deals on the rent.

The family members are always taken care of, and that’s a good thing. But not when it becomes a repetitive cycle of dependence. And that is exactly what this is. And this is what the four-year old is learning; how to rely on others to support yourself and your “wants”.

Now, how do you tell if your four-year old is picking up the wrong signals? Well, what signals are you sending?

Are you getting “wants” paid before getting needs taken care of?

Are you in a cycle of borrowing and spending, leading to more borrowing to sustain your household?

Are you making full use of what you have or do you live in a “throw-away” household?

Is there money for what you want, and are you saving to get what you want?

What are you teaching the children around you – financial responsibility or promiscuity? You wouldn’t believe what a toddler can pick up until they tell you. By then, is it too late to change habits – both yours and theirs.

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