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Your Money Relationship

My 21-year-old son shares the money lessons he learnt


Kim Potgieter

Kim Potgieter

July 26, 2022
People often ask me what money lessons they should be teaching their children. It’s a topic very close to my heart, especially since the lessons my parents taught me about money were not helpful. The follow-up question is always what the right age is to start talking to kids about money. My answer: as early as possible.

Of course, the type of conversation you have with a small child will be very different to the one you have with your teenager. Remember that children learn from what they see and hear, so you may not realise that you are communicating when, in fact, you are.

As a financial planner, it’s my job to inspire people to pay attention to their money and to engage in money conversations. As a parent, I’m not always sure if I am succeeding with my own children, and the only way to know for sure is to ask them. My son Josh recently turned twenty-one, and this weekend my husband and I sat down to ask Josh what money lessons he learnt from us. Just the fact that Josh was open to having the conversation made me the proudest mother in the world.

Here’s what Josh shared:

Apply the 80/20 rule: put 20% of your money away into savings; the remaining 80% is for spending.
Be generous with your money. Not only does generosity make you feel good, but giving opens you up to receiving. I love that Josh has an abundance money mindset and intuitively knows that one gains so much more from giving.
Earn your money by doing something you love. This was a big one for Josh – and us! Josh is in third-year varsity and has just realised that accounting is not something he loves. He originally planned to study towards a CA professional qualification, and we all agreed that he should instead pursue something that inspires him. It’s never too late to make a change.
The value of compound interest. I have my husband to thank for this one! Gys started share portfolios for our children when they were young and has always included them in choosing shares, monitoring the markets and tracking their investments.

He taught them to trust the long-term investment process and not to continuously check their investments when the markets aren’t doing well. This works as long as you have the right investments.

As much as we need to understand where our relationship with money comes from, it’s also important to understand what our money triggers are. Mine is when I feel controlled by money, while Gys feels insecure when he is not earning. Josh was unaware of money triggers in his life, and I believe it’s because he is not earning his own money yet.

Parenting is not always easy, and we are certainly not perfect. While we try to do – and be – the best parents possible and teach our children the right lessons – we all make mistakes. I do spoil Josh, and he shares my love for brands and good food! He will have to be wise with his money if he wants to keep up with this.

This conversation with Josh was invaluable for us as a family. It’s so rewarding to know that he will take these lessons into his future and use money to enable the life he wants for himself. And I’m already seeing it: watching him grow in confidence, study hard, form meaningful relationships and mature into an independent young man, is the best gift he could ever give us as parents. We are incredibly proud of him.

What did I learn being the mom of a 21-year-old? That I love spending time with all three of my adult children. I love sharing experiences with them and I love the conversations we have. With this in mind, I would like to share as much time and experiences with my kids as possible rather than leave all the funds to them when I am no longer here. Within reason of course. I still plan to invest enough so I am not dependent on them later in life.

If you are unsure about how to talk to your children about money, start by sharing positive money stories or include your children in smaller transactions such as shopping for different brand food items. It’s not important to get it perfect. It is important to make a start.


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