No matter whether we are living cross culturally or in our home culture, we have the responsibility to teach our children about money. Bonnie Nusbaum, a friend of mine, recently wrote how she and her husband taught their two sons financial responsibility. Although they were not living cross culturally, the principles she shared would work anywhere.
We didn’t have a formal plan with a workbook. Most of the training that we gave to our two sons came through role modeling and casual conversation at opportune moments. To quote Dr. James Dobson, “. . . values are caught, not taught.”
When our sons were born, some generous family members and friends gave cash gifts. We opened savings accounts with the gifts. Whenever they received a cash gift while they were children, we deposited it into their savings accounts. When they were old enough to understand, we would let them go with us to make the deposit and, later, to follow the deposits on their bank statements. As they grew and began to earn money, it became natural for them to deposit most of their earnings into their savings accounts.
When our sons were young, there was a debate about whether or not a child should be paid for doing chores around the house. Some believed they should be paid, others believed they should do chores as a matter of course just because they live there. We chose the former. Our sons were being raised in suburbia where there were few options for a child younger than 16 years old to earn money. The earliest form this took was a “star chart” for each boy. The “Star Warrior” on the chart had certain behaviors that would be rewarded with a penny at the end of each day. Because they were young (three to seven years old), they needed daily positive reinforcement for behavior. Some of the behaviors included making their beds, doing a kind deed for someone else, putting their toys away, and being polite. At the end of the day, when we were having our Bible story and prayers, we would go over the “Star Chart,” looking for rewards. Our model was that God sets before us blessings and curses (Deut 11:26-28). As the boys got older, they grew into greater responsibilities and greater rewards, and being paid weekly, rather than daily.
What did they do with their earnings? From the very beginning of our training, we made four boxes (small, checkbook sized) for each of them. We decorated them and labeled them in four ways: 1) Save for a Long Time, meaning money they wouldn’t touch for many years, 2) Save for a Short Time, meaning money they saved for something in the near future, 3) Spend, meaning money they could spend when and how they wanted, within reason and 4) Jesus, meaning money for the church offering.
They divided their money evenly into the four boxes. We decided that, if they donated a fourth of their earnings to the Lord now, it would be amazingly easy to accept the teaching on “only” giving a tithe! We praise the Lord that now, as young men in their 20’s, they each donate at least a tithe to the church, plus other gifts and offerings throughout the year.
Through casual conversation, financial expectations were seeded. For example, we expected that they would buy their own cars and pay for their gas, insurance, inspections and property taxes on the vehicles. They would pay for personal expenses like going to the movies with friends, or CDs. As parents, we, on the other hand, paid for their food, clothing and shelter expenses, meaning that they did not have to pay us rent when they were older. The exception on the clothing was, if they wanted some name-brand clothing that we considered unreasonably expensive, we would pay the cost for something reasonable and the boys could make up the difference if they insisted on the name brand (tennis shoes were an example of this). As parents, we also felt very strongly that it was our responsibility to pay for their undergraduate college provided that they studied hard and did their best. We wanted to do our part to equip them to be good citizens and providers for their families.
We heard a quote that was attributed to John Wesley: “Earn as much as you can, save as much as you can and give as much as you can.” We have tried to model a simple lifestyle (even though our income could often support a higher lifestyle) with camping vacations, keeping a car for about 10 years before trading it in, wearing hand-me-downs, shopping at sales and having a generous spirit. We believe that God has blessed us and our sons through these choices.
“Give me neither poverty, nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You
And say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
And so dishonor the name of my God”
We appreciate Bonnie sharing their insights and experience.