A Kid’s Concept of Money

My daughter is five and getting to the point where she knows that things exist because she has heard about out them or seen them in a movie, but doesn’t quite understand what it is. Money falls into this category. I know this because she thinks we have “so much” of it.

For the last two weeks or so, we’ve been doing a little exercise at dinner where we write down three things that we are thankful for that day. So far she said been thankful “that we have so much money” at least three times. I don’t know where she got this idea, but I guess I’m glad she is pleased with this lifestyle that she’s become accustomed to. I also don’t know about this “we” stuff. To paraphrase Cliff Huxtable, her mother and I have money, she’s broke.

She doesn’t get an allowance. Her only concept of money is that when we go to the store we have to pay for what we buy, and when we go to the drive-up ATM at the bank we put money into the machine. So I get that as a matter of fact in her mind, it is true that we have money. It is the “so much” part that throws me. I don’t know if you know this, but a part-time side gig as dad blogger really doesn’t pay all that well. Or at all. It actually costs me money. Why the hell do I do this again? Anyway, I suppose from her perspective, we do have so much money.

A friend of mine once said that he’d never wish to have a certain amount of money, but would always want to have enough in his pocket to buy what he needed at the moment. To my daughter, that is what we have. Granted, the things that she wants at any given moment is mostly donuts, but anytime we’ve told her we aren’t getting something, not being able to afford it has never been the reason. Is that where privilege begins? Am I raising my daughter to be some kind entitled brat that will contribute nothing to society? The next time she asks for a treat from the store should I tell her that if we get that then she won’t be able to go to college? Of course I’m just kidding, I wouldn’t tell her that. I’m not going to help her pay for college regardless. Can’t let three kids get in the way of my retirement more than they already have. An important financial lesson for her.

Should I be teaching her more financial lessons? She has a chore, I suppose we could start giving her an allowance. What’s the going rate for putting the recyclables in the recycling bin? Then again, what does it matter? I could give her ten cents a month and she’d be thrilled. Probably think it’s so much money. Though, if I am teaching lessons, I should probably take rent out of that ten cents. Let’s see how she gets by on seven cents a month.

Now I wonder, when will her concept of money reach a pivot point? She is in kindergarten now making friends. What if she makes friends with a kid who really does have so much money? Then again, those kids are in private schools so never mind. But there will come a day when she’ll want something we can’t afford, or at least won’t want to pay for, and she’ll need to learn the value of a dollar. Perhaps there is no time like the present. She told me she wants a puppy for Christmas this year, so I think I’ll tell her that puppies cost a million dollars. I’ll get her interested in saving and investing her seven cents each month, and we won’t have to get a dog. Win-win!

Ultimately, if my kid thinks we have so much money, then I think I must be doing something right. She isn’t into having more and more stuff, and she seems to be happy with what she has. If she can carry that with her through life, she’ll be in good shape. And she certainly won’t mind my charging her rent.

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