This special series is part of CentSai’s commitment to financial literacy at every level. We’re collaborating with financial-education advocate Sam X Renick on a series of short interviews, videos, and tips. In this installment, Prudent Money radio-show host Bob Brooks tells Renick the most important money lesson he learned as a child and shares a tip for teaching kids about money.
A Childhood Money Lesson
Sam X Renick: What is the most important money habit you learned as a child? Briefly share the story of how you learned the habit and what impact it has had on you throughout your life.
Bob Brooks: This is an interesting question, because nothing comes to mind immediately. But now it dawns on me that the lesson was I was never taught money habits. I generally always received what I wanted. My parents were middle class and always provided for us.
After college, I continued living as I had always lived as a result of this lack of financial education. That meant not living within my means.
I racked up lots of debt to fund my lifestyle. It wasn’t the way to start off my career and young adulthood.
I don’t blame my parents. They were awesome parents. It was just something that wasn’t talked about. They were very private about money. And it didn’t matter to me, as I was getting what I wanted.
The lesson here is that it is crucial for us as parents to teach our kids about money. I always say, if we don’t teach our kids about money, the Kardashians of the world will do it for us.
The Most Important Money Lesson to Teach Kids
Renick: If you could teach a child only one money habit, what would it be? Briefly explain why.
Brooks: When I give the kids allowance, I teach them to tithe (or give back) 10 percent; save 10 percent; and reallocate the remaining 80 percent and make it last. I have to admit I’m not always 100 percent on doing it.
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However, I will say that they are not big spenders, they look for a bargain, and they save their money for what they want. Most important, they act grateful for what they get.
A Final Thought: What if the Research is Wrong?
Renick: Cambridge University research indicates that adult money habits are set by age seven. What if the research is wrong and adult money habits are formed earlier, perhaps around the age the “give mes” set in? What does this mean for families, schools, and the financial-education industry?
Brooks: Well, confession time — as a parent, I have a tendency on occasion to skip the hard lesson and give in. I think many parents are like that. So we are teaching kids from an early age that they never have to do without. I see that as a conditioning that influences who young kids are. It is all about immediate gratification.
Parents should consider how they react to their kids’ requests. I am not a big fan of the word “no.” I would rather tell them no in a more positive way. We need to say “yes” a lot as parents, but only to the things that don’t create entitled children.
Discover more about Bob Brooks at the Prudent Money website.