Many parents get angry or give in when children ask for the things they can't really afford. Picture: 123RF/LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS
Many parents get angry or give in when children ask for the things they can't really afford. Picture: 123RF/LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS

I have two young children and often, as I presume many parents do, I find myself imagining them in their 20s, 30s and even 50s — how they’ll look, the kind of people they’ll be, what they’ll be up to, and so on.

One of the many things that keeps me awake at night is the lessons I need to impart to them that will have a positive impact on their lives. What can I teach them that they will remember for years to come?

Lessons about love, respect and honesty top that list. Every parent, I imagine, wants to raise upstanding adults with sound values and who’ll make a positive contribution to society. Invariably, however, we pass on many negatives, too.

There are many things we’ve learnt from our parents, good and bad, that we will pass on to our children unless we make a conscious decision to change their path. This heritage month, I’m thinking particularly about the financial lessons passed on from our parents. Many of us were never really spoken to about money, such as how to look after it, grow it through investing, and possibly leave some for the next generation. 

Two things I learnt from my mom, a single parent with two children, was how and how not to spend, two very different sides of the coin. I was often told that we simply didn’t have enough money for all the things I wanted, but we never really sat down and discussed our household budget and why there wasn’t enough money. It was always a one-liner: There is no money for that. 

On the other side, I remember watching my mom spending money very well, particularly for clothing. She often used store cards that she would pay off later. My mother, to this very day, enjoys shopping and spending on herself and on others, and this is what I found myself doing in adulthood — with or without cash of my own! 

Our responsibility to our children goes beyond feeding, clothing and providing a formal education. We also have a direct impact on how they will eventually manage their finances. And as we know, money affects everything.

As an adviser, I meet many parents who want to improve their finances and tools to create a better future for their children. Leaving them with a lot of money is great but the best financial gift you can give your children is that of financial literacy and healthy financial habits, which, as with our biases and general personality traits, are formed by the time we’re seven years old. 

So when you think about all the earthly wonders to give your children, make financial literacy the top priority. Here are a few ways to start the conversation:

  • Talk to your children about wants and needs, the difference between them and why needs come before wants when spending.

  • Get your children to help you draw up a shopping list. Let them identify the needs and give them the maximum amount to be spent. Children need to know that money is finite and expenses must be prioritised.

  • Talk to your children about how you make money. They need to know how hard you work for every cent and why it must be treated with mindfulness and respect.

  • Learn to say no to some of their requests. Children need boundaries with money and must learn delayed gratification. This is an important lesson as many adults, who are deeply in debt, never learnt to have boundaries with their money.

As a parent, I know how difficult it can be to implement these as it is in our nature to want to give our children the world. However, whenever you are tempted to give in, think of them as adults and how wonderful life will be for them, regardless of how much or how little they’ll be earning.

They will be living well, as they will have learnt the most important financial lessons from you.

• Sidaki is a certified financial planner and director and wealth manager at Wealth Creed.

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