Money, Freedom, and a Lesson on the Importance of Saving

freedom2One of money’s best characteristics is its ability to bestow freedom upon those who possess it. Unfortunately, the amount of freedom that money provides is directly proportional to the amount of cash available — not only in our wallet, but in our checking, savings and retirement accounts as well.

After all, more money means more choices — for everything from the food we eat and the clothes we wear, to the cars we drive and the homes we live in.

Of course, there’s the flip side too: Less money provides fewer choices. My fantastic free-spending teenage son, Matthew, discovered that for himself last week; and it all started with an innocent question …

“Hey, Dad! Can I go to Disneyland with Brandon and his parents tonight?”

“Tickets to Disneyland are very expensive, son. Do you have enough money?”

“No. I was wondering if you could buy my ticket and I’ll do a few projects around the house to pay you back later.”

“You’re asking for a lot of cash, Matthew. Did you know Disneyland tickets are $96 now? And that doesn’t include food or anything else.”

“Wow.”

“‘Wow’ is right. So now you know why we’re always nagging you to set aside at least some of your money for a rainy day. How much do you have saved up right now?”

“Zero.”

Nothing? Didn’t you get almost $100 for your birthday a few weeks ago?”

“Yeah, but I spent it already.”

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that. But I’m not going to just give you $100 today.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really. I’m sorry, son.”

“But what if I put that fence screen up for you? How much money would I earn for that?”

“$20.”

“Okay. What if I wash your car too?”

“Ten bucks. Unfortunately, son, there’s just not enough time left today to earn the money you’ll need for tonight. The trick is to have the cash before you need it.”

“But I didn’t know that Brandon was going to ask me to go to Disneyland until today!”

Exactly. Thanks for making my point on the importance of saving.”

“But that’s not fair at all, Dad!”

“Boo hoo. Look … If you had $30 or $40 in savings, coupled with money earned for the fence screen and car wash, then I could have helped you out with a small loan from the Bank of Dad — but you don’t.”

That was no comfort to my son. “Whatever, Dad.”

“Look at the bright side,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“Since you’re not going to Disneyland, that means you get to join the family when we go out to dinner tonight.”

“How is that better than going to Disneyland?”

“Because,” I said with a smile, “It’s my treat!”

My son didn’t find that quip to be very amusing. But hopefully, he’s learning that, just as accruing excessive debt makes us indentured servants to our lenders by severely limiting our future financial flexibility, failing to save money — or being dependent on friends and family for income — severely limits our choices in life too.

Photo Credit: pasotraspaso

Comments

  1. 2

    says

    Hopefully it clicked with him and he’ll start to learn. My brother was the same way, but I think he’s learned now that he’s out of college and in the real world.

  2. 4

    cherie says

    EXCELLENT lesson for him – hope he doesn’t need too many more – but some kids [and adults] surely do LOL – funny my son is not that different – and I handle him the same way – one of my daughters gets it already and is fine when she just ‘can’t’ though it doesn’t get her not to waste money – the other is a saver pure and simple – lucky her!

  3. 5

    says

    Hahaha good lesson. Hopefully he’ll learn something from it – I didn’t learn until I was already in my 30s! Oh well, now I know better.

  4. 6

    Morgan says

    Great job dad! My kids are young, but are already trying to instill the value of a penny saved!

    I think its awesome that you let this particular lesson sting a little. The burn of not getting to go to Disneyland because of his own choices will surely influence his next financial decisions!

  5. 7

    Rose says

    The discussion between you and your son sounds like one each generation of my family has with the next one. My grandfather to my father and his siblings, and my father to me and mine. My family has a 2 in 3 success rate for two generations. Keep on trying with your son! It is possible he just needs to feel more responsible for his own well-being to start saving for the dreaded”Day With No Money”. It took being on his own for my brother to learn.

    The saving lesson can definitely be more useful when you’re younger, though. My dad started teaching me about compound interest in savings accounts at eight years old. That really motivated me to start saving.

    P.S. My other sibling might be coming around as well (with guidance), so it is possible to learn later too.

  6. 9

    says

    Might seem tough, but it’s a good lesson for a kid, especially one that’s not too small anymore. He’ll learn that it’s always a good idea to have some money saved, since you never know what opportunity might arise. Teaching them values this young will prove helpful in the future, there are way too many adults who are making huge money mistakes.

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