How many parents have lovingly said that to their little child over the millennia? Of course, they don’t consider their child a haplorhine primate. They’re calling their child a playful, cuddly, cute little person that they love.
However, they’re closer to the truth in one area than they’re probably thinking.
The old saying, “Monkey see, monkey do,” is how most of us learned many behaviors from our parents. Everything from the way you eat pizza to your favorite baseball team may well be mimicry of mommy or daddy’s patterns.
And that’s WAY true when it comes to money.
My dad thought credit was the 8th Wonder of the World.
He was just a guy in Chicago who was trying to keep a wife and eventually 10 kids fed and clothed. He worked hard all the time to stay at least one paycheck ahead of insolvency. And when payment plans began appearing in stores, he thought it was a gift from God.
I remember one time when the washing machine broke, and he took me with him to the appliance store. Dad couldn’t believe that they would let him take a $200 washing machine home for just $24…if he promised to send them another $24 every month. What he didn’t think about was that, after just a year of payments, he sent the appliance store $288 for that $200 washing machine.
He was so excited that he looked at me and said, “Let’s take two!” He was kidding, but in his marveling, he didn’t see the real cost of that credit purchase. And because I thought my dad was the 8th Wonder of the World, I didn’t question his judgment. I just imitated it when I grew up.
Fast Forward to when I had 2 little monkeys.
I was making good money in a business of my own, and – like dad – I was enjoying everything on those “easy monthly payment plans.” Most of the stuff in our home was financed or purchased with credit cards, as were our vacations, meals out, and other experiences. The garage held 2 leased cars. We lived comfortably in payment heaven…until the rug got pulled out from under us and my business income went away.
The full cost of imitating dad’s proclivity for credit hit me over a weekend.
I got to experience, all at once, what most people build up to over decades: the inability to cover all those promised payments…at least not without a struggle. Thankfully my wife Lois and I were able to dig our way out, and that experience actually led to my becoming a personal finance educator and advisor. But all this begs another, more important question.
What are you teaching, or what have you already taught, your little monkeys?
Your children will assimilate your behaviors, good and not so good. What have you been teaching them with your money philosophy and behaviors? They’re watching, even as adults.
There’s a rule of thumb that says most people’s level of financial wealth will approximate the average of the 10 people they associate with most. For most people, that’s their family members; and they associated very closely with their parents for the first couple decades of their lives.
Parents have a major responsibility to exhibit sustainable financial behaviors to their children, as a gift that will keep on giving throughout each child’s life.
If you don’t have good financial behaviors, we can help. That’s what we do.
Got it? Good. Now please pass me a banana. J