When I was growing up, my family never discussed money. It wasn’t that my parents or grandparents though that money was “evil.” It’s just that, like many working-class families, we didn’t have much to discuss… or so we thought!
My dad worked as an auto mechanic and my mom, prior to her untimely death, when I was still a teenager, stayed home to look after us kids. So, I never learned about credit, loans, interest rates, savings or a hundred other financial topics that would have come in useful as an adult.
I certainly wouldn’t blame my parents for the financial mistakes that I made in my life. Every single one of them – from not saving enough for retirement to buying at the top of the last housing bubble – were mine and I own them.
That said, it occurs to me that many of the financial problems that we face as adults could be avoided if our parents and grandparents talked with us about money when we were still kids.
Of course, the idea that parents should talk to their kids about money may be obvious. But, many would question the idea that grandparents also have a responsibility to share their financial mistakes with their grandkids. After all, isn’t the world serious enough? Shouldn’t grandparents just relax and have fun with their grandkids?
I don’t think so. In fact, I plan on sharing all of my financial failures and successes with my grandkids. I hope that they can learn from my mistakes… or, at the very least, recognize their own mistakes when they inevitably make them!
If you are still on the fence about this idea, here are 3 reasons to share your money mistakes with your grandkids.
Parents Are Busy, Distracted and Proud
When it comes to my grandkids, I realize and accept the fact that my adult children are in charge. I always ask them before bringing up difficult topics with their kids. After all, it’s ultimately their decision how their kids are raised.
That said, once I got permission from my kids, I started talking to my grandkids about money. There were several reasons for this.
First, parents are busy. I totally get the fact that, after a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is come home and talk to your kids about money. If you get an hour in the morning and an hour at night, you barely have time to ask your kids to tell you about their day before getting them ready for bed.
Second, nobody likes to admit their mistakes – especially to their kids. After all, your kids look up to you. You are their hero. Telling them about your ballooning credit card debt or the bad investment decisions that you have made is about as appealing as getting a root canal.
As a result of this reluctance, kids often go without the financial education that they desperately need and end up making the same money mistakes as their parents.
As grandparents, with the permission of our own kids, of course, we can help to fill in this financial education gap. At age 70, I’m not proud. After 7 decades on this planet, I can finally talk honestly about my financial failures – and successes! I just want my grandkids to be happy and successful.
We Have So Much Financial Wisdom to Share
Do you remember how you felt the first time that you realized that you had gotten in over your head with your credit cards? How about the first time that you received a call from a debt collector? Do you recall the first time that you jumped into a deal that was “too good to be true?” These are all valuable experiences to share with your grandkids.
Likewise, it’s not just the specific examples of our money mistakes that are important. We can also share the money principles that we have learned along the way.
For example, I would encourage my grandkids to apply the following rules in their life:
- If you want to be rich, get in the habit of making other people’s lives better.
- Never use a credit card for personal costs
- Save 10% of everything you earn
- If a financial opportunity feels “too good to be true,” it is
- As Warren Buffett said, “Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful”
- Always be building your own business, even if you work for someone else
- There is no substitute for working hard, except for working smart
These are just a few of the many things that I want to tell my grandkids. Of course, I have horror stories (and a few fairytales) to go along with each of these principles. My hope is that my grandkids remember at least a few of them.
Sharing Your Money Mistakes is Like Therapy
I debated adding this “reason to share your money mistakes with your grandkids.” At the end of the day, you decided to add it because I believe that it is important.
I know so many older adults that feel sorry for themselves when they are approaching retirement or recently retired. From about 50% of us, there is a collecting sigh of “I can’t believe this happened to me. How could things have gotten so messed up?” This question is usually followed by a hundred excuses like “It’s so unfair that I lost my house in the Great Recession” Or “If only my jerk husband hadn’t run off with…”
Sharing your money mistakes isn’t just good for your grandkids; it’s good for you too. When you “own” your mistakes, you have a chance to fix them.
Contrary to popular belief, it is still possible to make serious money in your 50s, 60s or beyond. But, first, you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself. It wasn’t until I admitted my mistakes that I started to get my financial life back on track.
At the end of the day, sharing your financial mistakes and successes with your grandkids is good for everyone involved; your grandkids get the financial information they need to make better decisions, their parents get help with a difficult conversation and you gain new insights into your own situation.
What financial advice would you share with your grandkids? Do you think that grandparents should be involved in teaching their grandchildren about money? Why or why not?