money, money, money, mah-nee

I was over at Dadcentric, and saw this post of Metrodad's. I started to reply in the comments, but then my response got into its fourth paragraph, and since I'm already stalking him in every place he blogs, I thought I'd try to restore my own dignity by just posting it here.

Let me just start by saying that landisdad and I do have a joint checking account. We didn't until about six months after we were married, largely because we knew we were about to move, and it seemed like too much trouble to open a new checking account that we were just going to close a few months later. It took LD quite a while to convince me to merge our money, though.

Growing up, I was never really poor. I have friends who once started a 'what was the longest you went without food in the house growing up' contest, and let me tell you, I lost by a mile. A lot of that had to do with the fact that I grew up in a sort of rural suburb, and my mom had an enormous vegetable garden in the back yard–we never went without food, because if my mom wasn't gardening, she was canning or baking or making homemade soup. When I was a little kid, she made all my clothes.

When my mom started working again, I was seven, and there were a few years before my parents split up where we were a happy, two-income family. After the separation and divorce, I watched my parents struggle about money. My dad used money to control his continuing relationships with us, especially during the time I spent living with him when I was in high school. Neither of my parents were particularly good at teaching us financial responsibility–my mom's model was along the lines of, "I went without, and so should you," where my dad was more along the lines of "I'm spending it all, and if you want me to spend any on you, you better do what I want you to." He filed for bankruptcy when I was a freshman in college.

When I got out on my own, I didn't have any clue how to manage money. I survived college without racking up any serious debt (well, what I would consider serious now–but back then, $3,000 was a lot), but I wasn't qualified to do anything. I didn't crack $20,000 a year until I was 28 years old.

Landisdad, on the other hand, grew up in what I consider to be a completely anomalous family–one that had money, but didn't use it as a weapon to bludgeon each other with. I don't begrudge him that experience, but it made it extremely odd for the two of us to move in together. One of the lasting effects of my upbringing is that I am extremely uncomfortable in a position of financial dependence, and it took me a lot of time to work through that shit.

I like to spend money. I like it a lot. What I really don't like is to have someone telling me how to spend my money, or that I'm spending it on the wrong things.

During the time that we were living together, we split the bills for our collective expenses. We'd each write a check for half the rent, half the light bill, alternate paying for groceries. It was a pretty big step for me when we got a joint credit card, because I did some damage to my credit record in my early 20s. After we got married, when we decided to have a joint account, I pretty much insisted on being the person in charge of it. We had a long talk where we discussed the idea, and I told him that I'd do it on a trial basis. Seven years later, we're past the trial basis.

I write probably 90% of the checks, and I'm the person who thinks about the family finances the most. We make investment decisions and major purchases together, and it's worked pretty well. Our division of labor evolved this way, not just because of my own fetishistic need to control my own money, but also because I'm more anal organized about it than he is. I file everything, and I put our tax data together for the accountant. I was paying bills tonight, and it struck me, once again, how incredibly nerdy I am in my approach to money management. Suffice it to say, there are spreadsheets.

It's not like we never worry about money, but we don't ever fight about it.

Now my question is, how do we get our kids to grow up with a healthy relationship to money?

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April 26, 2006. random other things.

12 Comments

  1. MetroDad replied:

    Thanks for your perspective, LM. As always, I enjoyed reading it. Like I mentioned, I’m really curious how married couples deal with the issue of money. I’ve seen/heard so many different approaches. I even know a few couples who are constantly changing how they deal with their finances. It’s interesting. I guess there’s no right or wrong way.

    As for teaching how to get kids to have a healthy relationship to money? That’s another thing I think about a lot. Curious to see what some of the parents with older kids say. Me? I’m still just a newbie.

  2. chichimama replied:

    I used to be in charge of the money, but M insisted on going to Quicken and I couldn’t figure the program out so he took over. But it stresses me out to no end not knowing hwat we look like financially. I grew up pretty poor, and I can’t quite get over the fact that I’m not anymore.

    Everytime we do something like buy a new house I start freaking out again, so right now I’m in freak out mode.

    I haven’t quite figured out how to teach the kids, but we already have discussions about how things cost money, and some things are more expensive than others, and how we an’t afford to buy everything we want. I discuss coupons with C as I cut them out and use them, and I make sure to talk out loud when I am debating whether to buy something or not.

    So far it seems to be working, he now asks when he wants something whether it is “too espensive” or not.

  3. Kate the Shrew replied:

    I had a weird money situation growing up (but middle-class overall), but TechDad grew up poor. I’m not sure how we’ll teach the kid(s) to handle money responsibly, but I’m really hoping we can, without passing along any baggage from our own childhoods.
    I’m looking forward to answers from parents with older kids, too.

  4. NFPD replied:

    The interesting situation for us is that we’re definitely raising our kids with less relative income than either of our parents did (we’re both kids of hot-shot lawyers) — in part due to their advice that we do what makes us happy, not necessarily what will make us rich. There are definitely days where I wish I had ignored that advice and every now and then I threaten the MOWA with a rock-paper-scissors match to decide which one of us will agree to go to law school. With the MOWA as a SAHM mom right now things are really tight — but we’re trying to teach the kids that living simply has its virtues (but dropping hints that law school sure would be nice for at least one of them).

  5. Beverlee replied:

    As in so many parenting issues, the life you live will be the most remembered lesson. Witnessing conversations and decisions around money will be a great example for them.

  6. Leggy replied:

    Oh boy, the screwed up money stories in my family…

    You and I have even more in common than I realized. I am weird about $$ stuff and DH is not because his parents are normal. I do the checkbook stuff, but he does most of the investments/insurance, etc.

    Hmmm, I may have to go write my own post about this. But at the rate I write posts, expect it in about six months.

  7. Daydreams and Musings replied:

    It’s an interesting topic – I started writing a comment that was going to get way too long. I think I need to post about this, too! Bottom line is that I used to say I would always have my own money so I wouldn’t be dependent on anyone. But that wasn’t practical. We’ve had joint accounts since the beginning and it works just fine. Like I said in my comment at Dadcentric – I have a bit of a Starbucks habit that ticks my husband off but he tries to head it off by buying me Starbucks on sale at the grocery store! He does all the grocery shopping, I buy the girls clothes. We make major purchase decisions together and he makes all the investment decisions. He always communicates with me about the decisions he’s making but I’m usually “Whatever you want to do. I trust you.” I know that he wouldn’t do anything to jeapordize our future. Plus what the hell do I know about investing and finance – he’s the one with the MBA and CFA charter. I’m glad to leave it to him so I can go watch Survivor and knit a sweater. I have a good life.

  8. Comfort Addict replied:

    I grew up in a household where money was always an issue. We weren’t poor by any stretch but my parents always argued about money. This made me very conscious of saving and refraining from spending. Mrs. CA, on the other hand, grew up poorer than I did but she is now more of a spender than I am (go figure).

    Nevertheless, we got a joint checking account right away. She took care of the bills at first but, lately, I’ve done it. It doesn’t seem to matter.

    As for giving the Bee and Potato a healthy attitude toward money, I recommend some basic economics education (something I recommend to all kids AND adults). If they understand money, that will help them a lot. The other thing that you can do (which I’ll bet that you’re already doing by example) is show that, like many things, how we handle money is a balance between spending (live now) and saving (live later). Good luck.

  9. elise replied:

    My husband and I have a my money is your money approach but it works because we both are pretty frugal and tend to be very conservative in our investments. I guess the only thing I do differently with my kids than other people do is that I tell them how much money we have, and how much “our” (my husband’s) income is. Most people I know don’t tell their kids how much they earn. I tell them not to tell other people and I explain how it may make other people who don’t have as much feel bad, or people who have more feel superior. I think that some of the problems people have are because finances tend to be so hush-hush in our society. Openess would never work though because people use money as a status symbol and weapon to make others feel bad. For my own kids though I try to be as open as possible so they can learn from me. We really don’t have any financial difficulties and I really don’t know if I’d be so willing to be open with financial stresses. I would have a tendency to protect them from adult worries but I freely admit that may be wrong – a sort of double standard.

  10. Jay replied:

    I think the worst thing parents can do for their kids is to hide the money situation – a lot of things should be family endeavours. You’ve already got some good advice up above – talk about financial decisions for the family. Even small things like doing groceries can add up. Also, giving a small allowance and teaching them to use it in proportion – saving some, spending some, etc, is a good idea. It gets them thinking about money and more importantly, valuing it.

  11. trench replied:

    Bottomline. Dont give children everything they want. Let them work for it. They will appriciate it more.

    I remember saving for 3 months for a damn Nintendo. All my friends had their parents purchase them one while I bought my own. It really teaches you the value of money when you work for it!

  12. Library Lady replied:

    I am the money person in our house. When we first lived together the Man had an account with the Navy Credit Union that was impossible to access–this was long, long before banking on line of course–so I got him to set up a joint account with me at a local bank that had a branch right in the building we lived in. Meanwhile I had a separate account because my job only would pay direct deposit into one bank in the area.

    Eventually, I dropped that bank and the joint account became our only account. And I still handle all the money. The Man has access to it of course, but he’s happy to leave it all to me.

    For SC, several years ago we started an account for her in “The Bank of Mommy and Daddy”. Her allowance went into the account along with holiday money gifts. Any time she wanted to spend a bit, it was noted, and we kept the tally together on Sunday nights.

    Originally she was saving to get a toy from “Build A Bear”, but by the time she had enough, she decided it wasn’t worth it. Later it was an American Girl doll, but Santa (!)came through on that). She occasionally buys books, but mostly she just saves the money, and she’s gotten pretty good at the math involved for someone who’s had such a hard time at math!

    In fact nowadays I don’t even tally it with her–she just keeps a running count. Heaven help me if she ever tries to cash in–in fact, I thinkiing I may take some of the total she’s “saved” and start a REAL bank account for her!

    JR turns 7 (!) in 2 weeks and I intend to do the same for her.

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