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Seven Financial Dwarfs – Are Your Kids Getting Off the Right Track?

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Although I wouldn’t characterize myself as necessarily religious, there are often a number of great lessons one can learn by looking to biblical wisdom.  The seven deadly sins tell us that many things that are inherently beneficial to our souls and spirits can rapidly degrade into destructive behavior if driven to excess.  Self confidence is good, but excessive pride is a detriment.  Slowing down to enjoy life is great at helping us to appreciate what we have and where we are, but sloth prevents us from moving forward.  Eastern religions also revere the concept of balance.

Much like the seven deadly sins, there are seven types of financial “people” which although based on a good foundation, will cripple your child if he or she relies too much on one type of character.  Like everything else, balance is the key.

Scroogy – Like Scrooge from A Christmas Carol, when these kids get their hands on a dollar, they tuck that dollar away.  They enjoy watching their hoard of gold grow.  Saving is a great skill to master, but Scroogy kids take saving to an unhealthy level.  Money is a tool.  If kids hoard their money, they are not developing the skills to manage it.  Money is a medium of exchange.  You can’t eat money.  Kids must learn to use money to fulfill their needs and to the extent practical their wants.

Spendy – Like all people, kids like stuff.  Our commercialized culture sends our kids messages on a continual basis that consumerism is the way to happiness.  Adults, with supposedly more refined critical thinking skills, often fall victim to the messages, so is it any wonder that our kids are often more susceptible.  Spenders believe that the stuff they have will bring them respect and acceptance from others.  These kids need to learn that stuff won’t bring them happiness and the good feeling they get from showing off something new will quickly fade.  Kids must learn what adults must learn if they ever want to get ahead. The race to keep up with the Jones’s is one that only produces losers.

Scrapy – Scrapy kids are ones that have taken the concept of frugality to an extreme and have crossed over to cheap.  They beat up vendors on price and they don’t like spending money at all.  Rather than go to the movies with friends, they’ll stay home and watch TV.  Frugality and bargain hunting are good skills to develop, but should not take a back seat to enjoying the zest of life.  These kids turn into adults that have a hard time indulging themselves in anything.  They lose out on opportunities to connect with others.  Finally, they have a hard time giving.

Wanty – All of us have wants.  One step on the road to maturity is the concept of delayed gratification.  Another is the realization that sometimes wants must go unfulfilled in life.  Asking for what you want is not necessarily a bad thing.  Desire is healthy, but that desire must be matched by a work ethic that will push our child to achieve those desires.  The sooner kids learn this, the better off they are going to be.

Givey – Some kids are just naturally generous.  They give away everything.  I, myself, gave away a bag full of matchbox cars to a friend down the street when I was about 5.  They know it intrinsically feels good to give and they know they get great messages of approval when they do so.  Generosity is noble, but generosity without a willingness to look after oneself through life actually promotes lower self esteem and an unhealthy level of altruism.  These people are ready made victims for con artists, moochers and abusive spouses.  When your children choose to give, make sure also to give them messages that promote self worth and how worthy they are to keep things too.

Whiny – Whiny kids have achieved success in nagging parents about things they want until the parents finally relent.  They are learning that “work” consists of scheming or begging others until someone else fulfill their needs and wants for them.  The epitome of the entitlement culture, these kids are on course to becoming passive souls clutching at victimization to explain their lack of success.

Trader – Kids are excellent negotiators.  Few parents have not had an experience where the reflect upon a conversation with their child and ask themselves “Why did I agree to that?”  It’s hard to say no to our kids and most kids know this.  Traders, however, take advantage of this excessively.  These kids learn that everything is negotiable, without regard to the merit of the idea.  Parents who tolerate their kids to be Traders run the risk of their kids becoming amoral – people who truly believe the ends justify the means.  Negotiation skills are important to develop, but kids who are used to always getting what they want through bargaining often end up without a moral code, because they’ve never had to fight for what they really wanted.

Conclusion

Take time to observe your kids.  Chances are your kids show signs of one of more of these characters.  Remember that balance is what to strive for.  Balance is what will help kids to become well rounded, mature kids with good notions about handling money, versus kids with significant financial blind spots and life-long money problems.

 Seven Financial Dwarfs – Are Your Kids Getting Off the Right Track?
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Water Works – Managing Personal Cash Flow

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Analogy is one of the most effective teaching tools.  By showing similar relationships in the familiar and concrete to the new and abstract, it becomes much easier to illustrate the relationships to the inexperienced.  One of the most concrete analogies I have seen to explain abstract concepts is in plumbing.  I have seen plumbing used to explain such diverse fields as electricity to organizational systemic behavior.  Plumbing also is a great way to illustrate the flow of money.

In every household, there is income which consists of the water source and a set of expenses that serve as a drain.  Most people have a drain that is large enough to drain the bathtub nearly as fast as the water flows into it.  Not only is one required to keep filling the tub by working hard, but also should something disrupt the flow of water, such as a bout of unemployment, the tub quickly drains and fundamental needs of food and shelter become difficult to have.

I started working when I was 13 years old.  I have always worked and worked hard.  One of the best things that can be instilled in a young person is a work ethic, but a work ethic without an ability to manage personal cash flow only serves to help make everyone else more well off.  When I started working, I earned some money and I was able to buy a few nice things, but one of the lessons I learned far too late is that when you buy something that doesn’t pay you back, that purchase only serves to make the seller richer and you poorer.  Diligent efforts must be made to make some portion of your earnings work for you over time and that only happens with a combination of saving and investing.

I will be discussing more about how to manage cash flow in the weeks to come.  But it is fact that one will never get ahead financially unless one learns to reduce expenses sufficiently to divert some income into savings and investments.

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Book Review: The Richest Man in Babylon

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5198kPizgPL. SL160  Book Review: The Richest Man in BabylonThis site is all about education.  One of the best ways I have found to learn is through reading.  Therefore, I will provide book reviews from time to time of books which have taught me much about personal finance.

I have chosen to discuss the first book I ever read about personal finance.  It is also one of the best. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason is a collection of very readable and interesting stories which teach fundamental financial lessons.  Written from the perspective of people living in ancient Babylon, it teaches through story, which I think is one of the most effective ways of learning.

The book provides a simple plan for financial success:

1) Save at least 10 percent of your income.

2) Wisely invest your savings so that it can multiply.

3) Find people who have industry specific knowledge who you trust to help you invest wisely.

4) Don’t invest in things you don’t have knowledge of or things of which your trusted industry experts do not approve.

5) Don’t invest in things that appear to good to be true or with people without integrity.

These five laws, collectively referred to as “The Five Laws of Gold,” are a great foundation into effectively handling money.  What I learned too late is that building wealth is very uncomplicated.

Sometimes when it comes to investing, we try to be sophisticated.  There is a time for sophistication.  But most investing, particularly when you are just starting to build wealth should be kept as simple as possible.

There are many other lessons in this book, such as making the most of opportunity and the value of hard work.  The wisdom gained from reading this simple book is a great primer into the fascinating world of personal finance and investing.

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