While scrolling through TikTok recently, I came across a video of a mother taking her children through a budgeting crash course. With printed out papers and caped amount of money for each, the two boys and two girls were supposed to come up with a comprehensive budget that allocates enough money for their needs, wants and savings.
The four seemed to struggle a lot with budgeting the ‘cash’, and their mother told them that this is exactly what she has to deal with every month as a mother of five, to make sure their needs are all catered for.
What these children were struggling with, is something every adult possibly goes through, trying to manage finances that are seemingly never enough. Unfortunately, only a few children get to learn such lessons while growing up, as most parents deal with decision-making in the family without much involvement of the children.
Are there things you wish your parents taught you about money before you became an adult? DN2 Parenting sought to hear from three young adults about their experiences with money while growing up. We also engaged a financial expert to explore further, how you can impart critical financial skills in children right from their onset years.
Charity Mumbi, 25 – Teacher
For most of my childhood, I grew up with just my mum and my grandmother. We were not the richest family in our neighbourhood, but mum struggled to provide for my needs and give me a good education.
As an only child, my onset interaction with money was defined by a pattern of being ‘spoilt’. Whatever I wanted, I would ask for and mum would make sure I got. Perhaps being an impulse buyer herself fuelled this pattern, a habit I would grow up to pick myself. Whenever we went to the supermarket, she would pick items off the shelve, including those she hadn’t planned for. Sometimes when the money ran out, we would have to forgo or delay some critical needs—a situation that was easily avoidable if she had had a budget.
Unfortunately, I lost my mum in 2019. She left some assets behind but didn’t have much in terms of savings.
Like mum, I am a believer in abundance, and that one should spend on things that make them happy; ‘what baby girl wants, baby girl gets.’
I look back fondly, at all the times I spent with my mum doing things that made us happy like going out on a Sunday without worrying too much about incurring expenses. It is those memories that I am now left with, since she is no longer here to do those things with me.
Still, I am deeply aware that impulse buying has its down side. I wish I had learnt something on budgeting and proper financial planning.
Thankfully, I managed to figure out some things. For instance, when I started working, I went for three months without pay. The money finally came as a lump sum and I bought myself shoes, clothing and a few bags. However, I had moved out of home and I knew I had to spare some money for rent and bills. So in my spending, I exercised some restraint out of necessity.
I think that was the first time I realised that I was in control of making money choices and I had to be smart about it. And so it has been in most money related matters; I have gotten to learn on my own.
Also read: What do your children know about money?
In my profession I get to interact with teenagers, and I have observed that amongst girls especially, there is a sense of entitlement brought about by the culture of being given money from childhood, and not understanding the concept that money is earned through work. This in turn portends a danger of these girls losing themselves trying to achieve the lifestyles that they aspire for, when they come across men willing to fund their lives in exchange for sexual gratification.
I think it is important for children to learn not only how to manage money but also how to earn it because the truth is, once you become an adult it will be unheard of to receive free money.
Meshach Kaburi, 27- Programmes Executive
Growing up, talking about money was one of those ‘taboo’ topics in our family. Therefore, when it came to lessons in financial literacy, it was mostly implied rather than practical. For instance, when we went shopping and we asked for random items that our parents had not budgeted for, they would say that they did not have money.
As a child, I often struggled to understand how this was possible, yet we were in a supermarket to buy things. We would also hear phrases like ‘money does not grow on trees’.
Once I remember I wanted my mother to take different varieties of soap for everyone, as I thought buying a family pack soap was monotonous. She then went on to explain buying a family pack was more economical.
This was one of the few instances when mum took time to actually let me and my siblings understand the essence of getting value for money.
Further on implied lessons, is when it was time to go back to school after the holidays.
I would be given money that was supposed to last me the whole term, as well as cater for whatever shopping I needed. This was without any guidance on the need for budgeting, and I ended up calling back home for more money.
When I got to the university, I started a small business selling phone accessories. I did not understand the critical need to separate personal and business finances, and because of that lack of properly structured spending, I would sometimes end up spending all the profit I made and even nibble on the capital.
I was forced to learn some form of financial planning through hits and misses.
When I started working, I was bound for ruder awakenings. I remember when I got my first pay-cheque, and saw the amount that was ending up in my account after tax and other deductions. As much as I had heard about tax and learnt about it in business studies in school, I did not imagine it would be such a huge slash from my earnings.
I can confidently say I have acquired some financial literacy skills now. I now understand why my parents bought clothes and shoes for us at thrift stores instead of high end stores. I have learnt to appreciate the value for money. Right now I am able to budget, prioritise spending, save and invest in various portfolios. I understand that the saying “when you get money you forget there’s food at home” does not always have to be true. But it has taken me seven years since I got my first pay-cheque to streamline all this.
Jackline Macharia, 23 – Journalist
The way I look at financial skills is the same way I look at other patterns that were conditioned into us while growing up. My parents would say they expected us at home by 7pm, and eventually, it became instilled in us that we needed to be home before dark.
If they had done the same imparting lessons about finances, they would have definitely made it easier transitioning into adulthood where I have to manage my own finances.
I wish I had learnt more on delayed gratification when it comes to spending. Just because I have the money does not mean I must spend it, and waiting to buy things that I desire does not necessarily take away from my life that much.
When it comes to saving, my siblings and I had been introduced to the concept through piggy banks. However, it was not really structured and goal driven, as mostly we would do it as a means of competing and seeing whose piggy bank would be heavier at the end of the year. The saving was not consistent, and I broke my piggy bank a few times when I needed some money.
I think beyond just the concept of saving, having a goal for the savings and consistency are a few simple things that my parents could have easily helped with, especially given the fact that they are both business owners.
Generally, I did not get to learn or discuss much about financial literacy with my parents. Not that they did not have the skills, but I think in our society, parents rarely involve children in financial decisions, but instead just focus on providing for children and ensuring they help them achieve their dreams.
Read more on what children should know about finances here
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