January 30, 2014

NatWest First Saver and Growing Up Fast

A few weeks ago I got invited to participate in making a video for the new NatWest First Saver account for under 16s. When I say "I" what I really mean is Ron, since they wanted to interview children to see how much they know about money and savings. To tell you the truth I wasn't really sure if he would go for it. Ron is quite camera-shy, and talking to a stranger on camera about things he doesn't really understand did not sound like a recipe for success to me, so I was as surprised as anyone when he wanted to go for it. Yon of course was not invited because he is too young but still found himself in the middle of it all and participated happily without knowing anything about anything.
I guess it's true that the way we raise our children derives straight from our own childhood, the ways in which we want to be like or the exact opposite of our parents (and the way we perceived them), the scars we carry with us, and the lessons we learned from it. When it comes to money it becomes so much more difficult because it is tied so closely with our upbringing, our parents, our demons and fears. Money and food are the two most difficult things in life to get a handle on, the two things in which we want to be sure we raise our children to be better than us, and the two things in which there is no one right answer.
We have made our decisions about how we want to raise the children before they were born, and we knew for sure and without a doubt that we do not want them to have pocket money, or bank accounts, or knowledge of what things cost or what is "real" or "fake" merchandise. We also decided that they will have no knowledge of "rough times" or feel like they are lacking or missing something.
On the other hand, we never intended to raise lazy, pampered slacks who thinks they are entitled to everything just because they said so.
It is a very fine line to walk on but walk on it we did. We've managed to explain budgeting, and earnings, and donations, and selling things, and volunteering without using quantities of money and (hopefully) without ever letting our boys feel insecure about our financial situation. But you know how it is that you blink and the kids have grown a couple of years? I so often feel that's what happened with Ron, and when we got this NatWest invitation, after I managed to close my mouth from the shock of him actually wanting to participate, I used the opportunity to really discuss the subject of "money" with him. It's surprising what kids see as "a lot of money", and his answer regarding how much he thinks the new xBox he wanted for Christmas really cost was priceless (actually it was priced at less than a 100 pounds).
What Ron took from our conversation was the understanding that things cost more than he thought, and that it takes time and effort to make your budget stretch so you can get everything you want. He loved learning all about savings and loans and stocks. He loved it because it's maths, it makes sense for him, it all relate to what he likes best - numbers and patterns.
What I took from our conversation with Ron, beside the fact that he is growing up so quickly it is sometimes scary, is that it is time to start thinking of a change. I am proud of the young teenager he is so fast becoming, and he announced he doesn't want for anything, and is not ready to have pocket money yet, though he wants to open it to renegotiating when he is 10 years old. Still it is time Hidai and I face the next stage of our parenting and start moving toward the teen years, and what we think a child should be equipped with when you set him loose into the world. Money is a big part of it (knowing how to do the dishes and the laundry, clean your own toilet and cook some basics is another part). He should be able to handle a basic budget, he should be able to learn what it means to save, to invest (if he wants), to spend. He should be able to do all these things safe in the knowledge that he has a safety net and it is not really a life or death situation.
How do I combine all these with my desire for him to keep the belief that money is only a mean and not the end? How do I teach him that it is more important to be able to give, to be a good person, to do what he loves and that money comes and goes? How do I teach him what everyone learn too late - that time and not money is the most valuable thing a person has? How do I teach him all that and still teach him to be, as people like to say, "good with money"?
I guess NatWest gave me a starting point, and a wake up call.
And also a very nice piggy bank which Yon stole and is now a part of his animal collection.

And here are Ron & Yon in the Natwest ad (they have the closing statement so worth waiting for) -

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