Should Parents Affect Their Kids Perception of Money?


When I was in 4th grade my parents scared the living daylights out of me. I was crying/complaining on the way home from not getting a toy at the store, and my mom slams on the car breaks. Immediately she burst into tears, and says, “Charlie! We can’t afford the toy! The farm isn’t doing well. Corn and bean prices are down, and Dad is struggling to make money. We need to do everything we can as a family to pull together. We just don’t have the money right now. I’m soooo sorry.” 

Boy did I feel like crap! This one incident revolutionized my life and perception of money with one slam of the car brakes! I felt so convicted and devastated of my own selfishness that I went home and got all my money from my piggy bank and gave it to my mom. She refused to take it, but I learned a lot from this pivotal moment in my young life. Years later, I realized that my parents influenced my perception of money. Consequently, their influence is now impacting my thrifty 5, 6, and 11 year old boys.

parents affect kids perception of moneyFamily sticks together

I was truly blessed to have such great parents. They feared the Lord. They loved their kids. They were some of the cheapest people I know – but we always stuck together. What does that mean? Even through the tough times of the 1980’s farming crisis or through record crop prices, our family was always willing to do things for the mutual benefit of the entire family. We would work together to butcher our year’s supply of chickens, plant sweet corn or get everyone helping out with harvesting the corn crop before the first snow fall. It didn’t matter. We did whatever needed to be done.

Everyone makes sacrifices

For example, during the Great Depression all the kids and relatives participated in saving the family money. There was no blurred lines. Everyone was involved in planting and harvesting garden veggies to feed the family. On top of that everyone did what they could to make the family money. From helping out neighbors to even dropping out of school at 8th grade to help dad on the farm. My grandpa talked about his experience in leaving school at 8th grade so he could work for dad full-time. It wasn’t his choice, but in 1934 they were in the depths of the Depression and everyone needed to help out.

Invest in your children – Start a Mom and Dad 401k plan (aka 401kmd)

With my own children we started this cool program that encourages our kids to save their money. At age 5 years old we open up a bank account at a local bank with each of our kids and we tell them, “For each dollar you invest in your savings account, we will match it. If you invest $100, then we will put in $100 too.” At age 18, each of them will be allowed to withdraw it or use it as they want. Hopefully this will motivate our children to participate in their own to participate in their company 401k or 403b.

Well, as my 5, 6, and 11 year olds group up, I wanted to describe a few ways that our family is influencing their financial behavior. I’d be interested to hear from some of our readers on what you are doing to both positively and negatively influence your children? It’s an open forum here!

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  1. Kathy says:

    I don’t know if parents should alter a kid’s perception of money, but if not them, who? My mom always talked about how poor we were, to the extent that she had to borrow a paid or hosiery to attend a funeral one time. But we always had a roof over our heads, and plenty of food to eat. In fact, they frequently bought 1/2 a beef at a time to have in the freezer. They always taught me to pay bills before spending money on fun. My mom was probably excessively thrifty and I do follow in her footsteps more than not, which frustrates my husband. But overall, they were good lessons learned.

    • Charlie says:

      Kathy – I definitely know what you mean! Being raised by different parents than your spouse definitely comes with its set of baggage. Thanks for the comment!

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