Over at CNN.com, John D. Sutter is talking about how experts’ observation that the “sex talk” is easier than the money talk for most families.
Is it easier to impart basic wisdom to our kids about where babies come from than it is to explain basic concepts of finance?
I’m not so sure that I agree. After all, both topics have a few things in common. Along with politics, they’re both on the list of taboo dinner table conversations. They’re both things that an employer can’t ask about in an interview. We spend a lot of time avoiding conversations about these topics with other people because, frankly, it’s none of their bloody business.
Sex and money can also be very technical or very simple. You can talk all about vaginas, penises, fallopian tubes, menstruation, sperm and the like if you want. Or, you can keep it basic and use nicknames. What parent hasn’t done the “a man put his pee pee into a woman’s hoo-ha and sometimes that makes a baby” explanation in the middle of dinner/a grocery store/Sunday School (okay, maybe not at that last one for most of us, but some of us have to explain the concept of a virgin birth every once in awhile).
Finances aren’t that much different. How many of us avoided business-track majors in college because taking accounting was enough to drive us into less number-driven majors. The thought of balance sheets, amortizations, and accrued interest puts my stomach in knots. That said, some of the best financial discussions I had growing up were the most simple. I thank my dad for gems of wisdom like…
“Is it a want, or a need?”
“Don’t spend more than you make.”
“Always put as much money into things that will make you money, not lose you money.”
“It’s always good to want. It makes you work harder.”
My five year old isn’t quite old enough for an allowance just yet, but the financial lessons have already started. At school, she’s learning that not all money is the same. It takes five pennies to make a nickel, two nickles to make a dime, and so on. The lessons have started at home as well.
Boo: I want (this toy), Mommy.
Me: We’ll put it on your Christmas list, sweetie. Please put it back.
Boo: But Christmas isn’t unil December. It’s Mahwch*. That’s for-eeeeeeever.
Me: It’ll be here before you know it.
Boo: I want it NOW!
Me: Boo, we don’t have the money for it now. It’s good to want. (See how I’m channeling my dad here?)
Boo: You can go to the DOLLAR LOAN CENTER Mommy! They just give money away.
Me: Uh, no. They don’t.
This little pronouncement earned our progeny a sit down on the couch with mom AND dad. You’d think she’d flipped the bird at the parish priest.
We explained how these day loan centers work. We told her that people can borrow money there, but in the end, they end up paying more for that money than they borrowed in the first place. Getting money from these places isn’t smart and it’s much better to save money so we can buy what we want with the money we have.
Now when we drive around town, she can still spot these places a mile away, but her exclamations have changed.
Boo: Mommy there’s one of those Dollar Loan Centers. They’re bad. We don’t go in there.
Now, if talking about boys were that simple.
*My daughter was born in Vegas and has lived no where else. Yet she talks with a Brooklyn accent. Some things I will never understand.
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