Self-reliance is a major hallmark of the LDS church. And as with many major hallmarks of the church, society trends in the opposite direction. Exhibit A: More Millennials are living with their parents than in any other living arrangement, according to a recent analysis of census data. I don’t know about you, but that’s not a trend I’d like to see continue as my kids get older.
I’m not completely against the idea of living with parents, especially if it’s a dire situation. My wife and I lived with her parents shortly after we graduated from college, but we had an exit plan. We tried not to take their help for granted and we always tried to pitch in financially, even when we were jobless. We’re grateful for what they did for us.
I’d like to think we had that attitude because we were both taught some principles of self-reliance while growing up. Here are just a few things we’ve both learned:
1. Give them an allowance
Your kids will never learn how to manage money if they never have it. Giving them an allowance is an opportunity for you to teach them the value of money. A couple things to note, though. First, they have to earn it. Paying your kids for not getting the job done properly may teach them they can expect to do the same thing in the real world.
Second, be realistic. Your child isn’t going to earn $20 an hour flipping burgers at Wendy’s. But if you pay them that much for similarly simple tasks like mowing the lawn or babysitting, you could set unrealistic expectations. Giving them an allowance for shoddy work or overpaying them for simple tasks can condition them to come back to you for help when real life doesn’t do the same.
2. Loan them money
For many kids, student loans are their first experience with debt. Because of this, it’s hard for them to truly understand all the costs of debt. When I was 15 years old, I wanted a computer. The problem was that I had $750 less than what that computer cost. So my dad offered me a $750 no-interest loan with no set payment period.
I don’t remember how long it took me to pay it off, but I know that it took longer than it should have. Every time I got a paycheck, I wanted to keep the money for myself. He’d knock off a little here or there as I helped him with major projects around the house. After a while, the burden of the debt weighed on me and I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I finally paid off the loan.
I’m sure it was frustrating for him to see how unreliable I was, but I learned from the experience. The liberation was sweet and made me realize that the computer wasn’t actually worth the stress or the price tag. Later in college, I worked full-time while going to school full-time to avoid student loans because I knew the pain of debt — and I successfully did that until we got married.
3. Teach them to save
When my wife was young, her parents encouraged her to live the 10/50/40 rule. She donated 10% of her income in tithing, saved 50% for a mission and could spend the remaining 40% however she wanted. Their plan even made it into the Church News back in 1996 (under Bill Herlin).
My wife’s parents never forced it, and there were times where she didn’t follow the rule strictly. But the end effect was that she had thousands of dollars saved up when we got married (she decided not to serve a mission). That extra cash saved us a lot in student loan debt.
Saving is important, but be sure to teach your kids to have a goal to save for — something important to them. Saving for something you don’t care about is pointless and makes it drudgery.
4. Resist the urge to spoil
We all love our kids and we want them to be happy. But if we’re not careful, we might condition them to think that happiness comes in the form of things. This specific example comes to mind:
5. Lead by example
As I’m sure you know by now, your kids are watching your every move and easily pick up some of your habits along the way.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
Whether you’re not teaching your kids how to manage money, or you are but you’re not walking the walk yourself, they’ll follow your lead. Strive to lead by example and they’ll be more likely to develop the habits themselves.
They still have their agency
In the end, your children can still make their own choices. You can teach them perfectly and they still have the agency to disregard it all. That said, the responsibility still lies with you to teach them principles of financial self-reliance, for the sake of society and their future families.
And hey, if you end up keeping your basement vacant for the most part, I’d say the time was well spent 😉