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What Did Your Parents Teach You About Money?


This is a picture of my dad with LO in 2010, when LO was no more than a few months old. LO asked me about this photo this morning, and we spent a lovely few minutes talking about Grandpa, who passed away in 2013. I mentioned to LO that Grandpa was a financial planner, at which point I could see lightbulbs going off in LO's head.


"So Grandpa's the one who taught you all about money!" he said. LO knows that I write about money and that I spend time each week managing our money. He's also at the age (nearly 9) where he's trying to make sense of everything. So Grandpa teaching me about money fits into his orderly world.


"Sort of," I told him. "Grandpa definitely taught me some things about money. He'd say things to me about money that stuck. But other things I taught myself."


LO asked me what I learned from Grandpa. So I told him about how when I was only little older than LO is now, Dad taught me that the ideal outcome when you file your taxes is to receive a modest refund of $500 or less. That way, you're not chewing your fingernails that you might owe some money, but you're also not giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan out of your paycheck all year long.


Of course, explaining this to LO took a little while. I had to make sure he remembered what income taxes are. I had to tell him about filing your taxes in April each year. And I had to explain what "interest-free loan" means.


To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why Dad's tax refund opinion stuck with me--other than the fact that I've always been a bit of a money nerd. I wonder if Dad had my rapt attention anytime he opined on taxes, insurance, financial planning, retirement, and the like, just as I seemed to have LO's rapt attention this morning.


LO soaks things in and then thinks deep thoughts about them. I am curious to see how the things I talk about with him will pop up again in conversation, action, future choices.


I wonder if he will conclude that Grandpa and Mom are right or if he will form his own, differing opinion.


And I wonder if thirty years from now, LO will tell his own rapt child what Grandma Emily and Great-Grandpa Jim used to say about money.


What did your parents teach you about money? What are you teaching your children about money?

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Milwaukee, WI

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© 2020 by Emily Guy Birken