Tracie and I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to teach our kids how to be smart with money. We’ve spent still more time trying to turn all of that material into books, classes, videos, worksheets, and exercises. But what’s it all about? Why are we doing this? I read another blog today that answered this question: We want our children to be rich. Rich not just with money, but with time, happiness, and opportunity.
Will your child be rich?
In his Will your child be rich?, Thomas C. Corley tells of how he frequently talks to high school students. He asks them three questions:
“How many want to be financially successful in life?”
“How many think they will be financially successful in life?”
Almost every time I ask the first two questions every hand rises in the air. Then I ask the magic third question:
“How many have taken a course in school on how to be financially successful in life?”
Not one hand rises in the air, ever. Clearly every student wants to be successful and thinks they will be successful but none have been taught by their parents or their school system how to be financially successful in life. Not only are there no courses on basic financial success principles but there are no structured courses teaching basic financial literacy.
Thomas sounds like my kind of guy already.
Aside from pointing out the sad lack of financial literacy education in this country, it appears his main thesis is that what separates “rich kids” from “poor kids” (classified by how they turn out as adults) is the habits taught to them by their parents.
What habits are you teaching your kids?
And more importantly, are you teaching your kids rich habits? These rich habits Corley identifies aren’t hard to teach:
- Limit screen time
There’s one habit, however, that I’m going to really zero in on:
- Require that children set monthly, annual and 5-year goals
We have seen this over and over with our kids, family members, and friends: kids who have plans and goals are driven to succeed. Kids who don’t have meaningful goal wind up with no focus, and no accomplishments. It’s amazing to see the laser focus a kid can develop – if only they have a goal to work toward.
The other thing we’ve seen over and over, is that you can’t choose goals for your kids. You want to see resistance? Start setting stretch goals for your kids. “I want you to run for Student Council.” “I think you should mow lawns all summer to save up for a new laptop.” “If you study every week, you could get add four points to your ACT exam score.”
Start telling your kids what their goals should be, and you’ll see just how quickly they can subvert your plans. It’s actually worse than not having a goal at all, because they’ll find ways to waste their time and energy on trivialities – wasting your time AND theirs. So be sure that you help them to set their OWN goals.
Get Your Kids to Set Their Own Goals
So, how do you get your kids to set some goals? Well, there’s really three options:
- Use the Stick: threaten them until they set goals
- Use the Carrot: bribe them to set – and achieve – goals
- Rely on the golden child: they don’t need your help, they’re already setting their own goals. Just get out of their way.
Number three is a rare breed, and you don’t need any help there, so I’ll ignore the golden children. The other two examples, however, we are well versed in here. I’ll share a couple of real life examples.
The Stick: Elder son was floundering. Busy with everything, involved in everything, couldn’t say “no” to anything. Not keeping a calendar, missing a lot of deadlines, always felt stressed and in a rush. So we sat him down and said, “You have to prioritize your life. What’s important to you? What do you want to be good at next year? What do you want to look back on as your major accomplishments? (This is a sneaky way of asking your kid to set some goals.) Then we kicked it up a notch. “Put those accomplishments on your future calendar. Now figure out the activities and events you need to be a part of to meet that goal. Put those on your calendar. Then, start putting everything else on your calendar. If your calendar is full, you’ll know what you don’t have time for – these last activities that you’ve just decided aren’t as important.
“Take as long as you want to do this, but just know that you’re going to put off going out with your friends until you have your plan on your calendar.” Lo and behold, within 24 hours he had established his goals, his plan, and had put it all on his calendar.
The Carrot: Younger son does well on standardized tests. (That’s humblebrag for “kid is pretty smart.”) He took the ACT early, and we knew that with a couple more years to continue taking the exam, he should be able to add quite a few more points to his score, and maybe get some better opportunities at scholarships. So we wanted him to set a goal – how many points could he improve in the next year? His response? “What will you give me?”
This kid haggles, so we knew a negotiation was probably coming. The bidding started. “For one point? Nothing.” “How about two points?” “A pack of cards.” “How about three?” And so it went. He decided that four points – reward being I pay for summer camp – was as high as he could go. No prize for three points, no added bonus for five. He got to choose his goal, he’s motivated by the carrot, and we’re happy with his choice.
Now Go and Do: Get Some Goals Set!
Without some action, this is just some meaningless words. So go now, and talk to your kids. Figure out if they’re a Stick, a Carrot, or a Golden Child. Have them set up some goals, and then have fun watching their dreams come true! And by all means, if you have an interesting conversation, or even a challenging one – let us know in the comments below. We’d all love to know how things are going in your world, and lend a hand if we can.