(You’re J. Money’s kid. My bet’s on Benjamin. If you were a girl, Penny.)
(Guest Post by Alisa T. Weinstein)
In about one week’s time—give or take, depending on how much hot sauce your mom eats near your delivery date—you’re going to make your grand entrance into this big ol’ world. From that day forward, your parents are going to love you and cherish you and photograph the crap out of you. Most importantly, they’re going to teach you.
They’ll teach you little stuff (country music is cool) and big stuff (stick to your guns. country music is cool). They’re also going to teach you money stuff. And here’s where you may need a little advice.
I know that prenatal brain of yours is thinking, “Alisa, my dad is J. MONEY. He’s got this financial thing down pat. What could he possibly, accidentally, totally-not-on-purpose leave out??”
Well, Benjamin, I’m glad you asked.
You needn’t be worried about him teaching you concepts like saving, budgeting, investing and (we can only hope one day) personal finance-blogging. You’re in exceedingly capable, deliciously irreverent hands. And even if you weren’t, there’s tons of great kids’ resources that may not be as deliciously irreverent, but get the job done.
No, you should be concerned with how you’ll get the money to practice those concepts. Why? It could change how you live the rest of your life.
Get this: when you’re about four or five, Dad may start paying you for household chores or giving you money without strings. Both sound great at the start. But earning money for making your bed can teach you that work isn’t necessarily interesting, challenging or (alack!) fun. And getting money without strings is kinda, a tiny bit, not really anything like how the real world works.
What you want is something that can set you up for a lifetime of self-fulfillment. Something that gives you the real-world skills you’ll need to succeed as a grown-up. Something like… earning money for having a “real” job as a “real” professional.
You could be an Astronomer who makes a nighttime star map. A Chef who reports about the Earl of Sandwich. An Investigator who creates a Family Fingerprint Log. Even a Travel Agent who exchanges some real foreign currency!
Yes, I can see you now, bouncing all around that amniotic fluid, exclaiming, “One day I could get paid for doing that?!” But that’s not all. And since you’re a captive audience, I’ll explain.
When you earn money for completing professional-style tasks, you “get” where money actually comes from. You sharpen your ability to think creatively (today, crayon and paint sets; tomorrow, a vital leadership skill). And you’ll practice being self-motivated, seeing a project through, even devising Plan Bs. All this from doing something fun with your folks.
But my favorite part is that instead of learning that adults work only to buy things, you’ll learn that the reward of work can be the work itself. Which means (drum roll, please), you’ll better understand that “quality of life” is not tied to the amount of money we make and things we own.
I’m not saying you’ll grasp these concepts right away. You’re not popping out of the womb a self-respecting, self-reliant, financially literate, socially conscious global citizen. But that’s OK: there’s some pretty important skill building going on here. Just like learning how to use the potty and throw a fastball, the more you practice, the better you’ll get. In fact, feel free to practice up the wazoo.
That’s important because, between you and me, the practicing is often the chink in the financial literacy armor. It’s easy to get excited to learn about money and work ethic. It’s harder to keep the momentum going. So nudge Mom and Dad to make it a regular priority. It ups the likelihood those fabulous habits will stick long-term.
Which brings me back to getting the money to practice with. If you need to learn how the real world works (you do), and lessons tend to be more meaningful when they’re repeated over time (they are), why not earn money the way we grown-ups do? It’s fun. It’s simple. And it’s a touch more educational than making your bed.
If you ask me, that’s right on the J. Money.
P.S. Both our dads love Long Island Iced Teas. We have so much in common already. [J$: It’s true!]
Alisa T. Weinstein is not only a DC neighbor, she’s the Creator/Founder of Earn My Keep — an award-winning financial literacy program that teaches kids how the real world works by letting them test-drive real careers. You can watch Alisa regularly on Nightly Business Report and read praise for her work in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, and more. Her book describing the Earn My Keep program — Earn It, Learn It: Teach Your Child the Value of Money, Work, and Time Well Spent (Sourcebooks, 2011) — just earned the 2012 Children’s Book of the Year Award from the Institute for Financial Literacy. I’ve also got her seven-year-old sewn up for future babysitting.