My wife and I recently entered a new phase of life with all our children (mostly) off the proverbial “payroll.” It’s a great feeling of accomplishment, but it has caused us to reflect on what we have taught them about money over the last nearly 30 years. Did they learn the key life lessons of how to handle money? I think we did pretty well, but on a broader scale, as a country, we are clearly demonstrating low financial aptitude. Take, for example, the escalating level of household debt, which hit an all-time high in 2017. Clearly, we need to help our children learn the essentials of how to be financially responsible.
The Master of Your Money
The Bible has a lot to say about money. In fact, Jesus mentions money more than 250 times in the gospels because it is often the measure of what is in the heart. In Matthew’s gospel we are told to put our faith in God rather than letting money be our master.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:19-21, 24
Jesus set the foundation for how we should view money – not as a source of security and comfort, because he is that source, but as an important means to manage and keep in perspective. He wants our children to know that ultimately our contentment comes from God.
“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4: 11b-13
These teachings give us the perfect foundation to share important lessons with our children about managing money. It begins with an understanding that how we approach money is both a “heart” and a practical issue. Jesus reminds us:
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:34
Parents Aren’t Perfect
I haven’t always served as the best example of financial responsibility to my boys. I often spent beyond our means and didn’t hold true to a budget. Many times, I stressed out over money and having too much debt. Regardless of my mistakes, I knew God had placed me as a dad to serve as a role model and teach my kids how to approach money.
While you may not feel qualified or prepared to take on this responsibility, with God’s help, you can serve as a great influence in your children’s financial education. Our children learn by watching what we do, so let them see the right approach to money. Let them see you live within your means – planning and sticking to a monthly budget, saving for the future and avoiding big purchases on credit. But don’t feel like you have to be perfect. If you’ve made financial mistakes in the past, use them as a platform to teach your kids lessons about the consequences of making bad financial choices.
It’s as Simple as Spend, Save, Share
It is so important to talk with your kids about money. But it can seem a bit confusing, so try a simple approach from ThreeJars.com termed, spend, save and share.
I must admit I am a spender (my wife is a saver). But, I have learned the hard way that by not exercising self-control, spending can quickly lead to feeling captive to the things I have and experiencing the anxiety of spending beyond my means. A real gift we can give our children is the value of spending with self-control and out of a sense of need rather than want. A key to learning how to spend is to help our children understand the importance of budgeting. Teach them by sharing examples of the items in your monthly budget – food, utilities, mortgage – and explain the negative consequences of spending more than you earn.
Take time to teach your kids how to set up a basic budget and track their income (allowance, babysitting money, job) and spending. Depending on their ages, they can use a diary, check register or budgeting software. They can also employ smart consumer tactics to help them stay on track, such as comparison-shopping.
It often starts with a piggy bank. When your children receive or earn money, teach them the importance of saving a portion – whether they are dropping coins in a glass jar or making a deposit into their savings account. Reinforce the value of saving toward a goal – maybe it’s an iPhone or a used car. Overall, your children are more likely to treat the purchases with respect and care because they worked hard for them. Eventually, they’ll apply those same principles to saving for a house or retirement.
One of the most exciting and joy-filled things we can teach our children is to be generous and to give to others. The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Teaching our children to be generous with others and experience the joy of giving begins to open them up to what brings true joy in life – being a blessing to those around them. The best way to teach this is to be an example to them of joyful giving. One great place to start is by giving to the church. By practicing the spiritual discipline of giving to the church, you create the foundation for understanding that all we have belongs to Christ. Other great ways for your children to experience the joy of giving are to “adopt” a child or a cause through one of the many Christian relief organizations that serve those in need.
The Secret to True Happiness
It is often through money and other resources that we experience God providing for us. Over time, our children will begin to experience the amazing ways that God provides for them and know that everything they have belongs to him. I pray that your families will learn one of the true secrets of life – money doesn’t bring happiness. But instead, it is God’s loving care for us as our provider that brings true joy!
Dan Dolsen is the founder and director of The Fatherhood Project-Building Great Dads. The Fatherhood Project’s mission is to build great dads by equipping them with the tools to lead their families in the roles of provider, protector, partner and preparer. The Fatherhood Project is a Christian ministry and a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. The Fatherhood Project may be found at www.buildinggreatdads.org .
© 2018 The Fatherhood Project-Building Great Dads. Not to be reproduced or copied without permission of Dan Dolsen. PLEASE SHARE THIS MESSAGE WITH OTHERS! All Bible quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.