When we’re kids, we learn plenty of things from our parents. Our values, belief systems, and approaches to different aspects of life are greatly influence by our parents. Whether growing up in a 2-parent household or single-parent household, we are shaped by our experiences at home. This includes the way we handle money.
I have discovered, as I have gotten older, that we can also learn from people in different generations than our own and our parents’. As I reflect on conversations over the last few years, I realize that I have also learned some things from two other special people in my family: my grandmother and my daughter.
My grandmother is a really neat lady. She’s 97 (at least I think she is…it’s hard to keep track at some point!), and has lived a remarkable life, in my opinion. She worked very hard to raise her kids (including my mother), and has probably learned a lot of hard-earned lessons over the years. Someone of that age clearly has the benefit of life experience.
The thing is, I don’t see her as much because she lives hours away by plane. So, I catch up with her on the phone once in a while, or visit maybe once a year. She lacks energy and has trouble hearing everything I say, so sometimes the conversations are limited. But she really takes such a great interest in knowing that I’m happy and that I’m ok.
What I have noticed in recent years, as I have gotten older, she will ask me how my job is going. I’ll say “fine”, and she’ll sometimes follow by saying “save your money”. As I think about it, she has been saying this for years. However, it’s just been in recent years that it hit me why she’s saying that. It’s her life experience, knowing how the world works, that tells her that it’s important so save. I might not have totally grasped that when younger, but I do now.
My daughter, on the other hand, does not have such life experience. She’s 7 years old:) She likes to get things (like many kids do), and is often trying to convince us to get her different toys. It’s funny how she learns to sell me on things, like “If we get that dollhouse, we can play together. Won’t that be fun, Daddy?”. I melt like a stick of butter that’s under a heat lamp when I hear things like that, but I pull it together to be the grown-up and say no. She knows that Daddy doesn’t like to spend money all the time:)
That said, she has a real sense of right and wrong. She wants to be fair, and doesn’t want to take advantage of people. She’ll be much more likely to share a toy with a friend than ask for one from her friend. Actually, she gives willingly and proactively, out of generosity and fairness. Now, she does know what’s “hers” and treats it as her property. But she shares well, which I like. To her, it’s about fairness and treating people how she wants to be treated. She’s better than I was at that age, which makes me happy.
Anyway, there was a situation recently that brought the two of them together in a money situation. It was a girl and her great-grandma, teaching me a thing or two about generosity. It involved my grandma (the aforementioned great-grandmother to my daughter) sending a very generous gift of $100 to her grandchild. Note that my grandmother doesn’t have much money, and doesn’t have much in terms of health. But she thought of sending it to a grandchild, which was very nice of her.
So, I received the check, and decided to take my daughter to the bank to deposit it (and take put the funds elsewhere). Part of my doing it this way was to show her one way that money can be transferred (aside from ATMs, which is all she probably knows now).
On the way to run errands, I informed her that we were going to make the stop at the bank. She asked me why. I then realized that I never told her about the gift, and explained that her great-grandmother sent her a very nice gift of $100 and that we were going to get cash for it!
Her reaction surprised me, but in a good way. She paused, and then asked me how come she got the gift. She wasn’t used to such big gifts. I told her that her great-grandmother loved her, and wanted to give her this gift. She then told me that she didn’t want to accept the gift, because it made her feel guilty to take it. I told her that it’s ok, she doesn’t have to feel guilty, as it was a gift from family.
She proceeded to push back more, and explained that her great-grandma was really old and might need the money herself. Now, my great grandmother lives with family, but my daughter didn’t connect those dots. All she knew is that a really old, frail woman sent her money, and she felt guilty about it.
She said, “Daddy, what if she runs out of money?” To which I told her not to worry, without going into details.
She then follows with, “But she’s really old. She might run out of money. I want to send her money to help her in case she runs out.”
We went back and forth, and ultimately I told her that this gift was given from a great-grandparent to a grandchild, so I needed to accept it with respect and love. I do think that was the right move, but my daughter did get me thinking about the whole dynamic.
Here is a 97-year old, frail woman, who is not of great financial means but is sending a gift for a great-grandchild. Very generous of her.
Then, we have a 7-year old, innocent little girl, who feels guilty accepting money and instead wants to send all her money (as if she has much, but still!) to her great-great grandmother. Very generous of her.
It did make me feel a bit guilty depositing the check:) But what I discovered is that a really good lesson can be learned from unlikely sources…including people much older and much younger:
Fairness, generosity, and pureness of the heart wins out over greed any day.