“Don’t be like Grandma Marie”.
Doesn’t sound flattering, does it? Makes it sound like “being Grandma Marie” is a bad thing, as if she is a bad person. Fortunately, that’s not the case.
Grandma Marie is a wonderful lady, a colorful character full of fantastical stories of the motherland (South Korea), a 4’ 11” spitfire who has a way of letting you know she’s not to be trifled with.
When she’s around my girls, she has an intoxicating look of warmth, contentment, and pure joy. I know that sounds like hyperbole but I am grateful it’s not. If you need further proof, this is a woman who unabashedly stated – once to me alone, and again while in the presence of all of her children – “you love your grandchildren more than your own children.” Well then.
I don’t know how that tracks with other grandmas but I believe it with this one. Perhaps, it has to do with the quality of her children … 🙂
So, why the dire “don’t be like Grandma Marie” warning?
I won’t get into all of the details – you can read her story here – but the short answer is my mom was not in control of her financial life.
She was entirely dependent on my father, who at the time, used money to control my mother’s behaviors. She was forced to remain in an unhealthy marriage for far longer than was desired.
Her lack of understanding and access to her own money led to her biggest life challenges and regrets.
My mom’s story is an unfortunate one. It’s a story born more out of circumstance than poor decision-making. (I say this after many years of careful thought and consideration.)
One of my deepest values is my belief that we are responsible for our actions, that we own our decisions and must look inwards first, and that we can’t ever run from the starring role we play in our own lives. Being a victim of circumstance should be a rare thing.
The story behind “don’t be like Grandma Marie” has taught me many things. For the sake of this blog, I’ll narrow the learnings to what it taught me about how important money is when raising strong, independent, formidable daughters.
Looking at my mother’s situation, I can clearly see how not having access to her own money severely affected her ability to live life on her terms.
It taught me “why” it’s critical women gain and retain their financial power.
It also fueled my passion for preventing history from repeating itself with my girls.
It provided me all of the motivation I’ve ever needed to make money mastery a lynchpin of our job as parents. I’ve always viewed our children as “adults in training.” Finance needed to be a foundational piece of their training.
Bottom line: no one should have to go through what my mom went through. If she had access to her own money, she would’ve made different life choices and all of our lives would have been different.
“Prepare the child for the road not the road for the child.”
If my kids fall into the same trap as my mom, it will be by “choice”, not circumstance. There’s no language barrier to overcome. No impenetrable cultural and social obstructions. No valid claims of ignorance or misunderstanding.
No, if my girls become like “Grandma Marie,” it will be because I’ve failed them as a parent and they’ve failed themselves as independent decision-makers.
Sound harsh? Some may think so. I don’t. It doesn’t really matter though. It’s not about me being right and others being wrong or vice versa…. none of us make the rules. I can’t bend the will of society to fit my view of the world. I don’t live in the world as it “should be.” I live in the world as “it is.”
So … I’m preparing my children for the road, not the road for my children.
I know if my girls get their money right, they will accomplish two things:
- Empower them to make life choices that align with the important things in their lives
- Eliminate being forced to take a course of action against their will or desires
KEY LESSON: Money is Fungible
(Big word…. Keep reading!)
Because money is fungible – meaning, it can be readily turned into something else of value – it has tremendous power in society. Being fungible gives money its power. It is why money is so important, and why the pursuit of money isn’t evil or makes you a bad person. It’s smart and practical and NECESSARY.
Education and work/life skills are also fungible.
Your education and skillset have broad applications in the world, which is why they’re so valued. We celebrate our pursuit of education and our desire to increase our skillset. No one looks upon these pursuits as evil or that they make you a bad person. This is also true for money.
The trick, like just about everything else in life, is to know when your motivations for the pursuit of something end up causing more harm than good.
So, yes, being overly focused on money can lead to very bad things. But, so too can be said of food, exercise, looking younger, sex, protecting our children, and on and on and on…
We focus on money in our household not because I’m a financial advisor but because it is important for our kids to not repeat the sins of the father. Or, grandmother in this case.
Women are generally more vulnerable to financial abuse and are far too willing to cede control of their money to men. Being the father of 5 daughters, this makes it even more important to make money an ongoing topic of “conversation” in our household.
I put the word “conversation” in quotes because many of our money “conversations” don’t involve much talking. At least not in the traditional sense.
Much of what we’ve taught our children about money is done through our actions, our observable behaviors.
It’s all around us for everyone to see.
From the cars we drive to the clothes we wear and the food we eat. Where we shop, how much “stuff” we own. It’s visible through abstention – what we don’t have, what we don’t spend money on, what we aren’t doing that “everyone else is.”
Half the time my kids think we have a lot of money. The other half of the time they think we don’t have any. It’s a tough trick to pull off but it’s possible.
It’s taught our girls that money is really, really important in our lives.
It’s taught them it’s 100% okay to pursue a job that pays you a lot of money.
It’s also taught them you may not need a job that pays you a lot of money.
Based on what you value in your life, you can live off a surprisingly low amount of money. Or, it can require you to “need” an equally surprisingly high amount of money.
The choice is yours. There is no right or wrong.
How you live your life is your choice and your choice alone. You shouldn’t concern yourself with what others think, say, or do.
No FOMO. No ‘keeping up with the Jones’. No Facebook or Instagram lives to live up to.
This is big-time stuff.
It’s highly emotional.
It’s the stuff that changes a person’s life.
Strong, independent, formidable women
Being financially strong isn’t a guarantee you or your daughters will be strong, independent, formidable women.
Not being financially strong isn’t a guarantee you won’t either.
But, this isn’t about guarantees. It is about putting the odds on your side. About putting yourself and your daughters in the best possible position to be that woman. And in order to do so, obtaining mastery over your money is essential.
Always keep in mind:
Full equality cannot exist without financial equality.
This is why enlightenHer exists. To help women take control of their financial lives and, in doing so, help them live their life according to their values and aspirations.
I want this for my girls and I want this for all women. And it’s not just wishful thinking.
Despite the challenges, the thought of financial equality between men and women isn’t that far off. It won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. And no one is going to do it for you.
It’s within reach. We just have to go out and grab it. We hope to help you do it!
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Written by: Ed Vargo
Financial Advisor. Father of 5 daughters. Creator of enlightenHer.com.