8/20/2012 2:15 PM ET|
Do you teach your kids to be poor?
Sometimes parents pass on to their children poor advice about handling money. Here are some messages that won't be helpful when those offspring strike out on their own.
Lots of people complain to me that their parents didn't teach them about money. Maybe they're the lucky ones.
Sometimes the lessons parents teach about finance are just plain wrong. It can take years for their kids to recover, if they ever do.
Kelvin Leeds of Seal Beach, Calif., said his parents had told him that rich people were lucky. "Fortunately," he wrote on my Facebook page, "I learned that it mostly involves hard work."
Colleen Sluss Gorman of Champaign, Ill., absorbed an even worse message.
"Growing up, my folks were poor," Gorman wrote. "I learned that all rich people are evil, all corporations are rich, people who are 'well off' (earning more than around $50,000) were overpaid and lazy."
If you're taught that wealth is the result of luck or misdeeds, what would motivate you to handle money responsibly, grow your income and increase your net worth? Gorman eventually realized the shortcomings of her parents' worldview, but it still affects her.
"I occasionally feel guilty about the amount of money I and my husband make and the amount we have in savings," she wrote.
If you're a parent, you should think twice about passing on these messages. If you received them as a kid, now is the time to shake yourself free from unhelpful lessons, including:
'The universe will provide'
In one sense, it's true: A lot of money will flow into your hands during your lifetime. What counts is what you do with it.
Allison Burnell of Reston, Va., grew up in a family of six and wrote that her parents had "never planned ahead for anything (or maybe they couldn't afford to, raising six kids)."
"Their attitude was more or less 'God will provide' or that things would take care of themselves," Burnell wrote. "I grew up never learning to plan ahead or save for things as a result."
Often, failure to plan can mean ever-deepening debt, as the grasshopper (of the ant-and-grasshopper fable) reaches for a credit card to handle "unexpected" expenses.
"My mother is of the belief that it's just money (and) not a big deal," another reader wrote. "She figures there will always be more coming in, and is in more debt than I ever care to encounter."
Another reader who has parents with the same attitude despairs that they'll ever change the behavior that causes the need for "another windfall . . . (to) save your financial butt."
"What??? Use the financial windfall to save or get ahead??? What's that about?" she wrote.
'You can't trust anybody'
You have to wonder about someone who thinks no one else is trustworthy. Is he not trustworthy himself?
But the reality is that money can get complicated, and you need to build some reliable resources to help you answer questions about taxes, insurance, investing and estate planning, among other topics.
If you never learn to distinguish between honorable, upright people and their opposites, you're likely to get burned when you try to get help. If you avoid others' counsel entirely, you could make some costly mistakes.
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