Cheers to the dads who are fi­nan­cial role mod­els

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS - Michelle Sin­gle­tary

I of­ten joke tomy hus­band that I wish he had been my fa­ther.

My fa­ther has never been inmy life. My ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents raised me. My grand­fa­ther, although a good man at heart, had a drink­ing prob­lem. Many ofmy rec­ol­lec­tions of him as a young child in­volve my grand­mother, Big Mama, pil­ing my two broth­ers, two sis­ters and me into our sta­tion wagon to search for Papa on Fri­days be­fore he could drink away his week’s pay.

With­out a fa­ther or strong fa­ther fig­ure, allmy fi­nan­cial lessons came from Big Mama. Sur­veys show that par­ents are the big­gest in­flu­ence on their chil­dren when it comes to money— pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive. Big Mama taught me well, but I also in­her­ited her fi­nan­cial fears.

So, as I watch my hus­band with our chil­dren, I be­come a bit en­vi­ous. He’s the fa­ther I longed to have, par­tic­u­larly be­cause of his fi­nan­cial bal­ance. Think Yoda with a cal­cu­la­tor.

Peo­ple of­ten ask me how we’re teach­ing our chil­dren to han­dle their money, guess­ing cor­rectly that I’m pretty tough, the one teach­ing them to de­spise debt and spend as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. Just re­cently, a reader asked, “When do you start to teach kids about money?”

“The mo­ment they start ask­ing for stuff,” I said.

I’ve got some is­sues I hope to not pass on tomy chil­dren. I’m ob­ses­sive about mak­ing sure all our var­i­ous sav­ing pots are full. I’m of­ten scared to spend. Even when I’ve saved up for some­thing, I have

trou­ble let­ting go of the money. I strug­gle with buyer’s re­morse. If I over­spend on a cer­tain cat­e­gory, such as eat­ing out, be­cause I’ve been work­ing late or run­ning around for ac­tiv­i­ties, I’ll beat my­self up for wast­ing money. I get con­cerned about hav­ing enough in re­tire­ment, even though I’ve been in­vest­ing over the past 30 years.

Butm y hus­band, who is also a good saver, doesn’t have the anx­i­eties I do about our fi­nances. When he makes a fi­nan­cial mis­take, he learns the les­son and moves on with­out let­ting the guilt haunt him.

One of his great­est gifts to our chil­dren has been his eco­nomic equi­lib­rium.

It’s be­cause of his bal­ance that our chil­dren go to him when they want to make a pur­chase with their own money. Last sum­mer, our son worked as a life­guard and wanted to spend a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of his earn­ings on an iPad. I ar­gued that it was a waste. He al­ready had an iPhone (a hand-me-down from me).

So he sought ad­vice from his fa­ther, who brought out his yel­low notepad. It’s one of his fa­ther­ing tech­niques. He jots down notes and lists the pros and cons of a fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion or any choice the chil­dren want to make.

To­gether, my son andmy hus­band looked at the var­i­ous iPad mod­els and op­tions. They read con­sumer re­views. My hus­band lis­tened pa­tiently to our son’s ar­gu­ments in fa­vor of the pur­chase.

He en­cour­aged our son to wait be­fore buy­ing the iPad so it wouldn’t be an im­pulse buy.

In the end, my hus­band, with­out all the fuss­ing I would have done, per­suaded our son to buy an iPad mini in­stead of the larger and more ex­pen­sive model he orig­i­nally wanted. It was a good com­pro­mise.

My hus­band showed our son how to shop smart, to con­sider all op­tions and, most im­por­tant, to en­joy his pur­chase with­out re­morse. He had, af­ter all, saved for it.

There is a grow­ing move­ment to get manda­tory fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy classes into schools, and that’s a good thing. Chil­dren and young adults need fi­nan­cial ed­u­ca­tion— es­pe­cially if they aren’t get­ting it at home, as many aren’t.

But the pro­grams can’t re­place good par­ent­ing. There are so many things about per­sonal fi­nance that even the best fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy cur­ricu­lums can’t teach. Our chil­dren need to see wise fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion­mak­ing in prac­tice. They need to be able to de­velop a re­spon­si­ble re­la­tion­ship with money, and that of­ten re­sults from copy­ing their par­ents’ fi­nan­cial habits.

So, as Fa­ther’s Day ap­proaches, I want to praise my hus­band for be­ing a great fi­nan­cial role model for our chil­dren. And if your dad has been a fi­nan­cial rock, take the time to tell him. Go ahead and get him a gift if you want, but in your card or in a note, make his day by shar­ing with him the things he’s done to help your fam­ily be­come fi­nan­cially se­cure. And never for­get how blessed you are to have a fa­ther who has taught you an emo­tion­ally healthy­way to bal­ance sav­ing and spend­ing.

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