“Perfect is the enemy of good.”
So goes the aphorism popularized by Voltaire. Translation: you may never complete a task if you fixate on doing it to absolute perfection. Worse, you may never even start.
That’s why I have a big problem with the common admonishment: “Get your own financial house in order before teaching your kids about money.”
The problem? If you have to become the perfect financial role model first, you may never get there. As long as you have the desire to improve your own financial habits, go ahead and get started with your kids. After all, money behaviors start forming as early as 7, so you don't have time to dilly dally.
The topic came up on my recent Zen Parenting Radio interview with co-hosts Cathy and Todd Adams. Starting at the 9:16 mark, Cathy explains another excellent reason why you should jump into teaching your kids about money even if you’re feeling a bit intimidated, ashamed, or uninspired by your own finances:
Cathy: I’m definitely the one who doesn’t enjoy finances as much as Todd does. Do you think that FamZoo becomes a teaching tool for the parents? Because not only are they teaching, but while they’re teaching, they’re making their own decisions and maybe learning in the process. That’s why I got excited about FamZoo. I thought maybe this is something I can jump on, and I can start to learn more as I’m teaching my children what they need to know.
Bill: I agree. It’s one of the beautiful side effects for anyone who is a little anxious about where they sit financially before turning to their kids. We often hear: “Get your own house in order before you talk to your kids.” That may be a well-intentioned sentiment, but the wonderful thing is: if you start talking to your kid about splitting allowance or chore payments between spending, saving, and giving, or compound interest, or an emergency fund, you start thinking about doing it yourself. “Hey, wait a minute. Do I have an emergency fund?” That’s one of the things I finally started doing with my teens: requiring them to keep an emergency fund. I have the high interest Bank-of-Dad interest rate in one account. Then I have a separate emergency fund bucket that they’re required to get up to a couple of hundred bucks. Anyone who’s had teenagers knows that emergencies happen. That first fender bender, whatever. The point is, once you start communicating these topics to your kids, you start reflecting on your own situation. And your kids become accountability partners. That’s a neat side effect.
So don’t worry about achieving financial perfection before you start teaching your kids about money. You can all get good together.
P.S. That’s my mom in that dollar bill there, and she actually is perfect! :-)