What I am noticing as a parent and as a grandparent is that we have the privilege of passing on a legacy to our families and friends. One part of the legacy we pass on is the fiscal responsibility that got us moving towards our goal of financial independence. Financial independence is reached incrementally over time and is not typically obtained by winning the lottery. It doesn’t happen by accident.
I just celebrated my parents’ 90th birthdays this year along with their 66th wedding anniversary. At their 50th wedding anniversary, we had a party at a restaurant for family and friends. I think the group then was around 60 to 70 people. This time, it was a little over 20, and we held it at their home. The event was just after Mother’s Day, when my wife, Susan, had her first Mother’s Day without her mother. As a couple, we only have one set of parents still with us.
With my parents being in the stage of life where they do not want or need more stuff, we asked people to bring stories to share along with any photos they had. The stories were great, and I even learned some new information about my parents. What I heard from those in attendance was my parents’ legacy, from their vantage point. Since some of their history together is longer than I am old, I was amazed by some of the stories I heard.
In our office, we typically share about our weekends. So, when I returned, what I was sharing was the legacy my parents have. We ask a legacy-related question during our first meeting with new prospective clients. The question we ask is “What lessons about money did you learn when you were growing up?” This question provides valuable insight. It helps us understand your views on money management and how you relate to money. The reason we ask this question is to better understand your values, so we can reflect back to you with clarity about opportunities that are in line with your values.
You can think about how you would answer this question given your own situation. Then, ask a friend to learn how they would answer this question, and compare the differences. Ask this question around 100 times, and you start to see patterns develop.
The answer to “What lessons about money did you learn when you were growing up?”, can be summed up in these typical responses: “We didn’t know we were poor”, “We had to work for the extras we wanted”, “My parent worked two jobs to provide for the family”, “They were frugal”, “My parents never talk about money”. I have yet to have one person say that their parents sat them down and had a long meaningful conversation about fiscal responsibility and money management.
That last one, “I never heard my parents talk about money”, is a very common statement. Once I hear this statement, I follow up by asking about how money was talked about in the home growing up. I learn a lot more from these stories. I’ve learned that many people just don’t like talking about money. If they do talk about money, most people start to feel uncomfortable. So, in the end, many of us don’t talk about money other than to complain about not having enough. What we do instead is talk about money through different phrases we use and through our behaviors. We illustrate our relationship with money through our actions and word choices.
I am sure you have heard various phrases from your parent(s) over the years and even used some yourself. What I have learned from asking these types of questions is that a lot of our relationship with money was established early in life and was learned from our parents and family members. We learned the good habits as well as the bad habits. Over time, we decided which habits we wanted to have.
One common theme I hear from all our clients is, “I am working towards my financial freedom, can you help me get there?” Financial freedom is usually defined, “I want to retire when I want with a lifestyle I will enjoy”. We all start off with the family norm of our family’s financial behavior. Then, over time, we develop our own relationship with money, finances, and goals. Could we help our families start off better by teaching our children/grandchildren about fiscal responsibility?
What I have learned from asking questions about money and learning clients’ stories is that those who share stories about parents who presented the idea of fiscal responsibility seem to have an easier time adopting fiscal responsibility. It might just be that I work with individuals who are motivated to achieve their financial freedom. After all, those who seek out a financial advisor could be more concerned about reaching their financial freedom than those who feel they will never be financially free.
What would happen if we worked on passing along responsible fiscal behaviors that we illustrated through our actions and word choices when interacting with our family? It is a great opportunity to teach the next generation. Remember, we are teaching by default, even without having the hard conversations about money and fiscal responsibility.
Here is a link to Focus on the Family’s Teaching Kids About Money to give you some ideas on how to pass on your own financial legacy: Focus on the Family – Teaching Your Kids About Money
Schedule an introductory phone call with John at this link: John Simkins – Introductory Phone Call
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