Financial role models

Does Your Money Talk Match Your Money Walk?

If you’ve been around awhile, you know that my focus on National Bank of Mom is 1) teaching my son kick-ass money management skills and 2) fostering good communication between us.

I teach him how to balance his savings, spending and giving accounts, how to plan for a large purchase and how to save at least 10% of his income.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that talk will only get me so far.

If I want to instill these skills in my son, I have to make sure I’m walking the talk. I have to look at my own actions and behavior and ask myself, “Is what I’m doing contradicting what I’m saying?”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”

That couldn’t be more true. So much of what we learn is unspoken. We pick things up from our friends, family and society around us — what’s “normal” and expected. How life works.

To that end, ask yourself the following questions and examine your behavior:

  • Do you complain that you never have any money?
  • Do you comment on how expensive something is or how much it costs? (Guilty here! I should focus not just on the cost, but the value of the item or experience.)
  • Are you an impulse buyer? Do you have a waiting or cooling off period before making a purchase?
  • Do you save up for big purchases?
  • Do you say yes every time your kids want something? Do you say yes to yourself every time you want something?
  • Do you use what you already have? Do you buy new things and not use them?
  • Do you always have the newest gadgets? Do you buy only name brand clothes and shoes?
  • What do you value? Do your actions support what you say you value?
  • How do you spend your time? What are your hobbies? Do you spend time investing in yourself?
  • How do your kids see you interact with money? Do you keep receipts? Is your wallet organized? Do you track your expenses?
  • Do you use cash or credit? If credit, do you talk to your kids about how that little plastic card actually works?
  • Do you pay your bills on time?
  • Are you in debt? Do you have a plan to pay it off and not incur further debt? Or is it one step forward and two steps back?
  • What money-related behavior do you normalize?
  • What does money mean to you?
  • Do you talk about money as a family? Do you have family meetings?
  • Do you give your money and/or time to worthwhile causes?
  • How do you feel about work? Are you working a job you don’t like just for the money? Do you feel trapped?

There are no right or wrong answers here. (Well, some answers are probably better than others in some cases.) You also don’t have to be perfect in order to start talking about money, but if you are talking about it, start to think about the alignment between what you say and what you do. Your kids are watching!

What other questions did I miss? Leave a comment below!

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