5 Tips for Talking to Your Kids About the Family Finances

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The “Friday Five” features five items to help you in your journey to financial freedom. They might be 5 tips, 5 tricks, or just 5 ideas. In any case it’s Friday, so here we go!

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My parents never talked to my me or my Sister about our finances. To be fair, my Dad really didn’t talk to us about much of anything at all other than how terrible the Seahawks were (this was the early to mid 80s, and they were stupidly awful), his fleet of semi trucks, or the chores we still hadn’t done.

I’ll retract that statement almost immediately, because my Dad did talk to us about money. Here’s how it went:

“Hang on to that Sports Illustrated with Michael Jordan on the cover. That sucker is going to be worth money one day.”

“Hang on to that Bo Jackson rookie football card. That sucker is going to be worth money one day.”

“Hold on to that Coke bottle telephone. That sucker is going to be worth money one day.”

You know what my Dad never held on to?

Money.

I’m not bagging on my Dad at all. My Dad started a business at the age of 18, built it up and sold it in his 40s, then parlayed that into a business that grew in value in the millions before losing it all due to circumstances FAR beyond his control.

Now in his late 60s, my Dad owns several small businesses in my hometown and is a staple of his community.

That doesn’t mean he was necessarily good with money.

As a kid I never knew how we were doing financially. I saw my parents buying lots of things; spots cars, satellite dishes, pools, ATVs, etc., but I never really knew if we had money in savings, or if all of that junk was purchased on credit and we were teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

It’s understandable why they didn’t share any of this information with their kids. Their parents survived The Great Depression, and was a generation that tried to forget about finances in general, not discuss them openly. They sure as hell didn’t share with their kids during that generation, and so my parents never felt the need to be super open with us.

When our finances took a dump on our collective heads in January, my wife and I decided that we would start talking to our kids about finances. We did this not to freak them out or add stress to their lives, but because we wanted to start teaching them to be financially responsible so that they can hopefully avoid our mistakes and live a financially independent life of their own one day.

We’ve learned some valuable lessons about how to approach kids when it comes to discussing finances, especially if you’re in a bad way. Here are some of our favorites:Read More »

The Money Was Limitless… Until it Wasn’t

A pretty small percentage of people born in my home town ever leave my home town. As a kid, I used to hear jokes from people in the town that went something like, “Here in Kittitas (*real town… look it up) you either die a farmer, or you die a farm equipment mechanic.”

There were obviously more jobs than just those two, but reflecting back on things it was the distilled belief that opportunities were limited, and that was okay.

My father was not a farmer, or a farm mechanic. He owned his own business from a very young age. My father had a fleet of semi trucks that hauled hay from those farms to the thriving dairy country of western Washington state.

He started with just a couple of trucks purchased from a relative when he was barely of voting age and a partnership with his brother. Through hard work, waking up every morning at 3:00am to start his hauling, my dad and my uncle slowly amassed a fleet of trucks and drivers. They called their company Johnson Bros. Hay, and by the time they reached their peak in the early 90s, my Dad was making a really good living.

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As a kid, I had a lot of amazing stuff. We were one of the first families in the town to have a satellite dish, and not one of  those tiny little ones you see now. This sucker was the size of a small pool, and took around 3 days to slowly rotate if you wanted to change to a new satellite in the sky. And speaking of swimming pools, we had one of those too. My dad had two beautifully rebuilt classic muscle cars, we had ATVs, a camp trailer, a classic pick-up, a motorcycle, snowmobiles, and a massive shop to store all of it in. If my dad earned money, my dad found a way to spend the money.

Growing up I had lots of stuff too. I had toys, videogame systems, computers, and really anything I could ever want. I learned that having a lot of stuff was awesome, but do you know what I didn’t learn about?

Investing and saving money.

So I’m in some financial distress now and it’s all my Dad’s fault. Right?

Nope. It’s mine.

The point I’m making is that long-term financial security wasn’t even a thing in my world. The money seemed limitless, and there was simply no reason to worry about whether or not we had a plan for if it ever ran out. There was no need.

My Dad eventually sold his half of his business to his brother and built a state-of-the-art cattle ranch that could hold upwards of 3,000 head of cattle. He invested almost every dime into the facility, and used his wealth of connections to the dairy farmers he had been hauling hay to for years to fill up this cattle farm to the brim. Within just a couple of years he was entertaining (and rejecting) 7-figure offers from business people to buy the business out. He rejected every one of them.

As sometimes is the case in business, things started to go sideways for my Dad. I don’t need to go into details, but I eventually left his company and ventured out on my own, and my Dad lost it all. He lost his business, his house, all of the cars and toys. Everything.

He had started and built two businesses to a very successful place, but he neglected to plan for his long-term future.

I would almost certainly learn from my father’s mistakes and take a different path right?

If you’ve come this far with me, you know that almost certainly isn’t the case.