I received a beautiful handmade card from my youngest daughter on Mother’s Day. Not only was I touched by her willingness to craft such a lovely card but I was awed by the words in the card. “Thanks for always teaching me to reach out and be the best person I can be…”
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is a great time to think about family and what family means. Not everyone is a mom or a dad but we are all family in God’s realm. As family, we need to teach our children to be responsible human beings. Are they learning to be active, creative, spiritual, and compassionate, to acquire knowledge, and even create good financial habits? We are living in uncharted economic waters and need to teach our children how to best manage their money based in good stewardship practices.
As parishes, we are responsible to nurture our children of God in as many ways as possible. Do you have a good Sunday School program that helps children understand the importance of sharing, saving and spending? Are you teaching the best practices of stewardship in your youth community?
Nathan Dungan is a speaker and writer who founded Share Save Spend in 2002. His focus is linking money decisions with values. His website, sharesavespend.com, has resources to help parishes with incorporating thoughts about sharing, saving, and spending (in that order!)
In several parishes in the Diocese of New Westminster we are using the concepts of share save spend to help teach our children the importance understanding how money can be used as an interaction as well as for transaction. This idea then gets relayed into the home so that the parents can model this concept.
As a parent, it is important to think about the financial habits you are modelling. Children need to hear and see how decisions are being made. In one of Nathan’s talks, he remembers watching his parents sit at the kitchen table discussing their budgets, how the income would be shared, saved and then spent. I know in my house, my kids never see this! Most of our financial transactions happen online and the children have no way of understanding how it all works. We do need to make the time in our busy lives to teach them. By involving children in financial decisions in an age appropriate way, you give them tools to make their own decisions later in life.
When our children were young we got them to decorate 3 large envelopes that were then pinned on the bulletin board in the kitchen. One was labelled Sharing, the second Saving, and the third Spending. When they received their allowance monthly or received a gift of money, we talked to them about the importance of all three areas and helped them understand the values behind the three “S’s”. The goal is to teach responsible money management. This approach is easy to implement and helps to set important financial boundaries. It eliminates the “I wants” because most of the small purchasing decisions now rest with the children. Having a balanced approach to financial matters means aligning your values with how you use your money.
Why lead with sharing? Sharing comes first because it offers the most effective counter rhythm for all the messages on spending. Emphasizing sharing first reminds kids to look around and develop sensitivity to the needs of others. Doing so counters the relentless message that “stuff” makes the person feel and be better. Children today get over 5000 media hits a day to spend as soon as they have money and more importantly, to spend it on their “wants”.
Saving can be defined to cover all short- and long-term goals in your child’s life. Saving could include money for a trip; saving to buy a book or Ipod; or investing in something long-term like college or university. By creating an environment where saving is important, it reinforces the idea that it feels good to work towards a goal and achieve it. Today, young people only hear messages about getting something today, right now! Getting into the habit of saving early will serve your child well for their lifetime.
In so many instances, spending overrides the ability to share or save. Nathan uses metaphors like runaway trains and cars without brakes when referring to spending! By placing spending last in the Share-Save-Spend philosophy, you get psychology to work for you. It is a very simple way of reminding us to pay attention to sharing and saving before jumping to spending. By teaching and mentoring the discipline behind sharing and saving, the children are likely to gain the discipline in their spending. The ability to say, “No, I don’t need that,” or “No, I can’t afford that right now,” will make a difference throughout your child’s life.
Everyone agrees we are living in uncharted economic waters. Now more than ever it’s critical that faith communities convene multi-generational conversations to help alleviate fear and anxiety and also inspire and motivate youth in the choices they make with their money. Faith communities have a unique opportunity to offer forums for conversation with a hopeful message and practical tools that youth and adults can use to rebalance their money habits in ways that honor their values.