Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a very successful entrepreneur who built her business up from scratch to one of the top-consulting firms in India today. We were instantly drawn into a long conversation while we waited for our respective meetings. Apart from her vibrancy, what really struck a chord with me was the way she has brought up her son and particularly the following part-
Birthdays are the only time toys were bought!!! I’m pretty sure she could afford it otherwise but this was their house rule and adhered to strictly.
This family practice of theirs translated into the following incident as narrated by her–
Her grown up son’s friend got gifted a swanky sports car on his birthday. She offered to buy him a car too but he declined her very generous offer.
He said no and followed that no with ‘I will buy my own car when I have earned it’.
She was positively beaming with pride as she narrated this story and I couldn’t help but wonder if Peanut and Buttercup would react like this when presented with a similar situation.
For starters, I rushed home and told hubby no more toys for children other than birthdays ( but then I wondered is that reactive or responsive). 🙂 Then I wondered if we are doing enough to make them secure and less attached to material goods.
A close friend of mine is highly educated and comes from good old money family! When she was studying to get into the top institutes in the world it was made very clear to her that she can only go if she earns a scholarship there. Again, these were parents who I imagine could well afford it, but she toiled hard enough to get a full scholarship and studied at the top institute of her choice.
Money is critical to survival and a certain amount is even critical to happiness (as per my latest read from a wall street journal article). But beyond that, what is the place of money in our lives, what are our children learning about it and pertinently is money being taken for granted?
A few days ago, Peanut was sullen face because he was not allowed to go with his Maasi to London. I sat down with him on the stairs of our house (imagine a scene out of a Bollywood movie, but with a 4.5 years old, complete with ample bawling!!) as he saw the car pull out of the gate and vanish down the lane. I had to get him out of this mood and also explain to him why he could not go.
Hubby and I have decided (with no research backed to this, but just out of instinct) that we would take the kiddos on a nice long vacation abroad once Buttercup is atleast 5 yrs old. Perhaps driven more by our need to extract as much ‘value’ as possible out of the money we would spend on that vacation.
But this is difficult to explain to a toddler. (I bet if I had said this, he would automatically start with his – But IAM 5! Buttercup can join later! Why 5? I will enjoy now! I promise to not trouble you! and so on)
Instead I said – It is very expensive to go to London (4 fully paid tickets is no joke on the pocket) and once we can save enough money we will all go. Still sullen but now brain ticking away pat comes his reply – ‘Tell papa to order the money na!’
I nearly slipped a step down on hearing this. But I could not help smiling at his innocence, after all he had so often seen us use our credit card and use the ATM machine!
A humoured mother replied: ‘We don’t order money but instead we have to earn money and that is hard work. It means going out of the house early in the morning and coming back in the evenings.’
Hmmm thought Peanut now a lot less sullen and eyes brightening. ‘How do I earn money?’
Mother: ‘What would you like to do around the house and I can give you money in return for that? ‘
Peanut now super excited: ‘I can catch insects’ (Animal activists need not worry, he catches them gently and just that instantly lets them go. He loves animals for the record.)
I started the negotiation at Rs 5 for each catch and he quoted Rs10. We settled at 10!
He spent the rest of the day chasing butterflies, following caterpillars in the hot, hot sun and ‘working hard’ to ‘earn ‘his money.
Unknowingly (and hopefully) the journey towards the value and place of money in life has begun in our home. I realize the path is very tricky because more money brings with it the enchanting world of pleasures and privileges. And it is very difficult to turn a rational eye towards an emotive experience.
Philanthropist Sudha Murthy is my role model when it comes to her parenting style around money issues. Excerpts from one of her articles – ‘My parents never bought us jewelry or expensive clothes but we had an extensive library at home…’ It started from her childhood and then followed through to her children.
‘The greatest difficulty in having money is teaching your children the value of it and trying to keep them on a straight line…’ And how they inculcated the value of money in their children – ‘When children see both parents working hard (the Murthy’s don’t have a maid and clean their own dishes and bathrooms!), living a simple life, most of the time they tend to follow. This doesn’t mean we expect our children to live an austere life. My children buy what they want and go where they want but they have to follow certain rules. They will have to show me a bill for whatever they buy. My daughter can buy five new outfits but she has to give away five old ones. My son can go out with his friends for lunch or dinner but if he wants to go to a five star hotel, we discourage it. Or we accompany him.’
To be honest, I doubt I can set such an example to my children as she has set forth for hers. I like to indulge in certain pleasures / luxuries of life (maid is basic, for one). But in whatever sense I can, I try and follow her path.
This is what the Murthy’s do and kudos to them for institutionalizing it in their lives. So, what money lessons are being taught in your homes?