The Toronto Star had a great article today on teaching kids about money and how this teaching should be part of the school curriculum.
While education would be a HUGE improvement on the current situation, what’s missing from this article plan is the poor example set by parents. The sad fact is that kids learn most of their consumption habits from their parents. That includes many parents bad habits of getting whatever you want right away, on credit rather than having the self-discipline to save first.
I’m heartened by some school financial aid offices (such as Ryerson University, which I visited yesterday to discuss how they are helping their students) who have programs, as part of their goals, to teach students about basic money management. This is a step in the right direction, however, my experience is that seminars of this type, that are part of these programs, are usually attended by small numbers. Fortunately, schools continue to try to understand how to reach students to get this important information to them.
Another less-often noted problem is the typical timeline of money in a family. Older children (late teens) grow accustomed to the lifestyle provided by their parents, which they’ve built up over the decades of hard work and experience. When leaving home as a student or newly married couple, young people often expect to be able to maintain this lifestyle, forgetting that their parents had to struggle through the early years to achieve the success they’ve provided to their children. This expectation is part of what leads to the attitude that everything should be available now.
There is much to be said about the years spent struggling and learning through experience how to cope with tough financial times. It fosters sacrifice, humility and a good work ethic. I believe it also motivates the success that comes later in life, from a desire to not have to struggle again. Now the coming generation takes the reverse approach… start with everything and end in ruins and struggles.
Some sacrifice, in the beginning, should be taught both through education and from parents. Parents take heed!