I really wish I had known more about the practical costs of living when I was much younger.
I had the great blessing of having parents who had enough to take care of me, and enough to shelter me from knowing the costs of many of the things that they worked hard to provide. Our grocery bills, utility bills, house payments, credit card bills – these were all just things my parents looked at. I worried little about money when I was a kid, and that was largely a positive thing. But it did mean I was ignorant.
Now I wasn’t completely clueless or helpless when I moved out at 18, but I definitely started out behind in terms of adjusting to the real world. My financial forecasting and discipline could be better, and I’m still discovering how significant some of the costs of living can be. So with all love to my parents, I’m going to do the home economics/financial literacy thing a bit differently.
I might just send my kids a monthly invoice.
Oh, it will be marked as paid, of course, but at some point in their development (maybe around age 13) I think they’d be ready to see an itemized receipt for the costs of their existence.
Gas, housing costs, education costs, horseback riding lessons, swim class, clothes – you name it, they should (probably) see it. I’ll do all this in the spirit of sharing access and insight – not imposing guilt. And I won’t be a miser – I’ll occasionally pay for something without ever telling what it cost (there is an important kind of generosity in “not mentioning it”). But I really want them to have the information it takes to plan and to be frugal. Scarcity can be a powerful motivator toward creativity and money-making.
We tend to underestimate young people and what they can handle. It tends to make them weaker. I want to give my children a great childhood, but I also won’t deprive them of difficult realities.