Money Management: Need versus Want and Delayed Gratification

Parents everywhere I suppose have experienced the days when our kids would ask for something that we are not willing to buy for one reason or another. It could be because we don’t have the budget for it or we think that it’s just not important.  The usual reply of many parents would be: “We don’t have money.” Or “We can’t afford it.” Or “What do you think?  That money grows on trees?”

I have learned that WORD HAVE POWER.  And as a parent, I decided early that I don’t want my children to grow up with the mentality of lack.  So how do I deal with the situation when my kid wants something that I could not afford just yet?

I never told my kids: “We don’t have money.”  I tell them: “We have money for groceries or for your tuition fees and food right now.  Do you think we should buy that now?  If we buy that, we will have to divert the funds from other priorities. Which do you think is more important now?  Is that a need or a want?”

I think, it is right to treat our kids like adults; talk to them as adults; and expect them to be responsible even if they are very young.  Because, one might be surprised that kids today can be very smart and responsible.  It is wise to introduce our children to the concept of NEED vs. WANT.

If they learn this reasonable concept early on, we won’t have problems with young children, even as young as 5 years old, with throwing tantrums in shopping malls.

I’ve given my kids the power to decide and so far, they have not failed me to decide responsibly.

I remember one time when my 9-year old son wanted to buy an expensive toy.  I told him to think about it.  Just consider the pros and cons.  Whatever he decides, I’m fine with it. (Of course at that time, I already knew that years of need vs. want training has already seeped through his values.)  He decided to sleep over and the following day, he told me: “Ma, I decided not to buy it because anyway, it’s not something that I need.”

It would make every mom and dad proud when our child can already decide wisely on such things.  I tell my kids the story of “Marshmallow Experiment” every now and then since they were young:

A group of 4-year olds were given 1 marshmallow each and promised another piece if they can hold eating their marshmallow for the next 20 minutes.  Some couldn’t wait while some did.  About 30 years later, the scientist followed through with each of the children and found out that majority of those who were patient in waiting for 20 minutes became more successful than the majority of those who could not wait.

The lesson on delayed gratification is a major, major lesson in one’s success in life; whether it’s for one’s career, for relationships, for money or for health.

Delayed gratification encompasses discipline and diligence:  One must make a conscious choice whether you want to pay now and play later or play now and pay later.  If one is not able to put in everything one has while starting his career or business, he will not be able to take his plane to an altitude where he can already relax.

In relationships, how many times do people just could not stop themselves from getting back or just having the last say every time in any argument? Patience in this context does not mean just biting your tongue.  It means knowing that there is a better way of handling the conflict.  Why should you win the battle when you might lose the war? Which is more important? Sometimes losing the not-so-important battle is what it takes to win the war after all.  Is it really that important to have the last say? Or would it be better to delay your need to have the last say for the sake of better communication when both of you have calmed down and are in a better mood? Your relationship after all is more important than having the last say, isn’t it?

In money management, debts that are bad are incurred because of having low EQ (emotional quotient) or emotional intelligence.  Actually, delayed gratification is a manifestation of having high EQ. “I gotta have that NOW!” is one major reason for many credit card debts.  The practice of delayed gratification is not only good at getting us out of indebtedness, but it also helps us get more out of life.  How?  Think of the marshmallow experiment.  If you can just save and invest the small amount of cash that you have now and continue saving and investing; instead of buying just one new gadget now, you can maybe buy a better gadget and a new laptop with the compounded earnings because of your savings and investments.  Don’t you think that it makes sense?

Delayed gratification is just a phrase.  But truly, this is a powerful tool to use for financial freedom, for career growth, for responsible parenting and having a healthy family.

Do you think delayed gratification is important in our life?  When do you think parents should start teaching kids the concept of Need versus Want?

Leadership as a parent

I have always believed in Ghandi’s statement: “We should be the change that we want to see.”

Parenting is truly a huge responsibility and it takes leadership from within in order to raise successful kids without huge troubles.

Which parent doesn’t want our children to be honest, responsible, successful, respectful, abundant in every area of his or her life? (When I talk about abundance, it’s not just about being financially free but in other areas like health, spiritual growth, intellectual and emotional aspects as well.)

“Your actions speak so loud that I can’t hear what you’re saying,” is very much applicable in raising kids not only for teens but most especially for very young tots.

Young kids start to consciously remember what they observe even as young as 3 years old.  But they learn their values and habits way much earlier than that.

The best way for us parents not to have trouble with our teens is to follow certain leadership principles ourselves:

1)  Begin with the end in mind
This is one of Stephen Covey’s famous leadership quotations. True, if you don’t know where you want to go, you won’t know how to get there. So I suggest that you write down what you want your children to be (not in terms of what career but what kind of person) and what values you want them to acquire as early as possible. If you have the chance to mold your children’s future from the day they were born, so much the better.  This “vision” that you have for your kids will be your guide in your day to day decision-making challenges.  Example statement could be:  “I want my child to be a responsible global citizen, manifesting Christian living, generous, helpful, excellent in whatever he/she does and become the best that he/she is meant to be.”  The values I want my child to live include: unconditional love, gratitude attitude, excellence, respect for parents and elders, generosity for siblings and others, integrity.

2) You cannot give what you do not have
Leadership is not something you show.  Leadership is not leading or controlling others.  Leadership is having power over self.  Because once you do, you will exude this aura that others will be attracted to follow.  If you want to be trusted, be trustworthy.  If you want your children to put their stamp of excellence in their homework, you should be doing the extra mile in your work.  There is no shortcuts in being a parent.  You cannot hide from your children.  As a parent, we cannot preach integrity if our kids overhear us tell our spouse to lie for us: “Fred is not here yet.”

Our children see the “values at work” in our behaviors.  How we treat our neighbors, our parents, friends, workers; how we give our best in everything that we do; how we worry over nothing; how we spend our money; how we max out our credit cards; how impatient we are; how we apply delayed gratification for a bigger and better objective; how we give importance to our Creator; how we belittle the government; how much we value further education; how much reading we do; what reading materials we prefer; what words come out of our mouth; how we complain and do nothing over certain matters; how lazy or hardworking we are… all these things have an impact in the way our children’s values are formed.

With these 2 basic fundamentals, parenting is a career by itself.  Funny but it’s really life’s biggest educational flaws:  We have to study all our lives for courses to become expert on things like engineering, math, cultures, languages and arts.  But no formal educational institution teaches us a course on the most important skills in life — raising a family and personal financial planning.

Many professionals have garnered masters and PhD’s but only to have kids on drugs, children turning against parents, or being in huge debts without any idea what hit them.

I’m glad that nowadays, people have become more and more aware of this “lack” and this awareness is the first step in searching for more knowledge to make up for what we missed during the many years of formal schooling.