By Judith Lavori Keiser, The Culture Company
Money can buy you a fine dog. But only love can make him wag his tail. — Kinky Friedman
It’s important to teach our children solid principles of money management. They’ll use those lessons their whole lives. For instance, they need to understand the elements of a bank account: deposits, withdrawals and interest earned.
It’s even more important to teach our kids relationship skills. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, author Sean Covey talks about relationship bank accounts, or RBA’s. In some ways RBA’s work like financial bank accounts: there are deposits, withdrawals, and earnings, though the yield is connection and love, not pennies on the dollar.
Let’s look at money management skills first.
When my son was 5, my mother shared one of many “teachable moments” with him and his three cousins. It was a sweet gift – literally - that taught them valuable lessons about money.
Each child received a charming blue and grey rectangular tin, a little larger than a checkbook, containing a crisp new five dollar bill. Grandma then drove the excited kids to a penny candy store where five dollars bought a lot of chocolate bars and jelly beans. Grandma even taught them about sales tax. They had a great time learning the value of money while enjoying the sweetness of the candy and Grandma’s company.
My mother’s delicious money management lesson inspired a system for teaching my son how to set financial priorities. That tin became his first piggybank. I divided each monetary gift into four parts: Save, Share, Spend and Special. He learned to put money away for long-term saving, share with those less fortunate, spend some on small treats, and keep some back for something special. It was a simple guide to spending and saving, and a good foundation for later money management.
Even adults can benefit from the four S’s: long-term savings from regular small deposits provide security for lean times; many people tithe to their spiritual communities or other worthy causes; money must be allocated to housing, food and health care; and whatever remains can give joy and happiness if spent for special occasions.
Now let’s look at relationship management skills.
The concept of the four S’s applies to relationships as well as finances. Our lives are a series of choices:
• What things do we save our energy for?
• How do we share our talents?
• How do we spend our time?
• What (and whom) do we treat as special?
We make these choices through our relationships. According to Covey, “your ability to get along with others will largely determine how successful you are in your career and your level of personal happiness.
” As he sees it, the higher the level of trust, respect, and connection in our relationship bank accounts, the more harmony and goodwill there is between us. We can affect the balance: being truthful, loyal, and kind raises it, and being dishonest, disloyal, and unkind reduces it.
Some financial concepts translate easily to RBA’s:
• The best return on investment comes from many small deposits made over time. Examples listed by Covey: keep promises, do small acts of kindness, listen, and say you’re sorry.
• Sharing both good times and bad can strengthen relationships – under Covid-19 quarantine, many people grew closer to family members.
• Spending time and energy on loved ones shows that you value relationships highly.
• Special times provide lasting memories; that tin from Grandma is still a treasured possession for my son, 20 years later.
In other ways, RBA’s are very different from regular bank accounts:
• Unlike savings, which can only grow at the current interest rate, there’s no limit to the amount of love that a close relationship can generate.
• The more money you spend, the less you have; the more time and energy you share with people close to you, the more they - and you - grow.
• Giving feels good to the giver as well as to the recipient; it feels great to help someone you care about. So spending time on your relationships benefits everyone.
• Special experiences are enduring investments, not merely transactions. They yield value in the anticipation, in the moment, and in our memories.
Financial literacy is a valuable lesson: my adult son still remembers both my mother’s yummy budgeting lesson and my priority-setting system. The ability to get along well with others is even more valuable. Financial concepts like Save, Share, Spend and Special can enrich our relationships. Making deposits into relationship bank accounts Saves us in times of trouble, Shares our talents, is time and effort well Spent, and shows our loved ones how Special they are. Best of all, love’s “returns on investment” are sweeter than any candy.
The Culture Company’s multicultural peacemaking programs helps children develop empathy. She guides adults and families through life’s stages and transitions through her “Preparation Pearls” book series and workshops. Reach Judy at email@example.com.