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Amazing Possibilities!

  • Writer's pictureMatthew Kelly

Why Don't We Teach About Money?

In this day and age, we give young people education opportunities

beyond compare, and yet one of the areas we

teach them virtually nothing about is money. What we do teach

them about money is often more of a liability than an asset.

Your children will need money knowledge simply to survive

in the money world. If they are going to thrive, our children

need a higher level of money knowledge than any generation

before, and yet, we send them out into the world often without

even the basics, like sheep to the slaughterhouse.

It has been my experience that when it comes to money,

there are only two types of people: savers and spenders. At

one end of the spectrum, the extreme savers hoard as much

of their income as they can. They find it difficult to enjoy

buying things they really want. Often they even feel guilty

about buying things they need. At the other end of the spectrum,

the spenders let money slip through their hands like

water. They seem simply incapable of resisting the impulse to

buy. All their purchases seem necessary and they often cannot

understand why they never have any money.

These are, of course, extreme examples, and there are people

at various intervals along the spectrum, but it is amazing

how extreme most of us are when it comes to money. The

irony is that savers tend to attract spenders in relationships.

Money is an opportunity to teach our children so many

valuable lessons about self and life. I would love to write a

whole book for you on this topic alone, but let’s focus here

on just a handful of the basics.

Last year, I was visiting my friends Pat and Laura in the

San Francisco Bay area. They have three wonderful children,

and when I arrived at their home, the boys were just getting

ready for bed. Their father was reading them a story, and

their mother suggested the boys would like me to say hello.

So I went into the bedroom where the boys were gathered

around their father. Looking around the room, I noticed

that the two oldest boys, Connor and Matthew (whose room

we were all in), each had three glass jars on their dressers.

Each jar had a handwritten label stuck on it. The first

read savings, the second read spending, and the third


After Pat had finished reading them the book, he kissed

the boys good night, got them into bed, and turned out the

lights. Later that evening when we were out at dinner I asked

him about the jars. I was intrigued by them. He explained

that when the boys are given money, either for doing a chore

or in a birthday card from their grandma, they divide it between

the three jars. Ten percent for charity, 10 percent for

savings, and the rest for spending. What a powerful way to

educate children about money. It is so disarmingly simple,

but consider the lessons.

First and foremost, these boys are forming powerful

habits. Any person who saves 10 percent of his or her income

is sure to live in relative financial security and independence

sooner or later. The average American saves less than 1 percent

of his or her income (outside of retirement contributions).

Children are never too young to learn the habit

of saving.

They are also forming the powerful habit (and virtue) of

generosity. By allocating 10 percent of their income to charity,

they are learning to give to those in need and to causes

they believe in. This lesson makes them aware that there are

a lot of organizations out there doing good things for people

in need. At the end of each quarter, they decide which charity

or charities to give their money to. This provides another

powerful lesson: that you cannot give to them all.

These are important lessons, but this exercise also teaches

them to enjoy spending. In my own life I have always found

it difficult to spend money on myself. I can buy things for

other people without batting an eyelash, but I struggle to buy

things that I really want for myself. I am more inclined to

deny myself and save that money. In recent years, I have

started doing something similar to what the boys do.

Namely, allocating a certain percentage of my income to

spend. I can spend it on whatever I want as long as I don’t go

over the allocated amount. This has freed me from the guilt

that has often prevented me from enjoying the money I have

earned. The boys’ third jar is marked spending. They can

spend their money on whatever they want, and in so doing,

learn the valuable lesson that life is about the allocation of

scarce resources.

Matthew Kelly

From Building Better Families

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