Money. Finance. Cash flow.
...words that strike guilt, inadequacy, and fear, into the hearts of most of us. We have these cringes built-in about finance, yet the majority of us received little to no financial education. If we were lucky enough to have financially astute parents, then maybe we got that knowledge passed to us, but the vast majority of us didn’t. And then we beat ourselves up for being illiterate.
I think about this a lot. People pounce on unschoolers and homeschoolers about teaching reading, writing, math, and science, but in terms of being prepared to lead a comfortable life, finance education is probably one of the most important topics to cover. Yet no well-meaning relative quizzes our children on the value of the dollar against the Euro; they just ask goofy questions about multiplication tables. No one drops by issues of Forbes or Money or the Wall Street Journal the way they hand over workbooks and readers.
Scott Noelle, one of my favorite parenting gurus, coined the phrase "the healing gap". His explanation of the phenomenon:
How could I raise a child responsibly when I was still recovering from my own troubled childhood?
That feeling, over seven years ago, came from an awareness of what I now call the healing gap, a phenomenon that arises when a person consciously seeks a healthier path than the one he or she is currently on. In parenthood, it's the gap between the healthy parenting ideas you embrace consciously and what you're actually capable of doing, here and now.
Real-life parenting does not emerge solely from the parent's conscious intentions; it involves the whole person — mind, body, emotions and spirit — as well as the social and cultural context in which it takes place. In other words, it's easy to change your mind, but implementing a change in your whole self is far more difficult, especially when going against the grain of society and culture.
The gap between parenting theory and practice is filled with "stuff": each parent's unique collection of fears, attachments, emotional wounds, unmet needs and obsolete strategies — plus external, sociocultural pressures — that impede our efforts to do what we believe is best.
While working through my own finance baggage, I realized that Scott's gap exists every bit as much for money as it does for parenting. There’s definitely a gap between the financial education and security I want my kids to have, and the levels of both of those things I currently possess. Bad finances and lack of financial knowledge create a level of underlying tension that I believe gets in the way of both good modeling and good parenting. How many of us can really, deeply relax into being present in the moment, when there’s money stress of some kind hanging over our heads?
Because modeling is such a huge part of unschooling, I need to model fiscal responsibility and financial empowerment, if that’s what I want them to learn. And in wading through finance information, I am routinely smacked with fears, attachments, emotional wounds, unmet needs, and oh man, the obsolete strategies. And of course, the sociocultural pressures to behave badly financially are all around us.
So, I’m getting my financial house in order. I’m reading books and websites, I’m tackling one major pain point a month: tax filing system, insurance organization, creating a trust, establishing a money market account, learning about the stock market. And my kids are watching. They’re too little now to really understand what’s involved here, but I found that if I give myself the same patience and encouragement with baby steps that I allow them, that I come along just fine. And that each bit of knowledge I gain is one step closer to closing the gap.
Laureen is a writer, a professional editor, a scuba instructor, a beginning sailor, a traveller, and an obsessive researcher who's chiefly focused on, and delighted with, her husband Jason and her sons Rowan and Kestrel. She's a lifelong Californian, which lends a very distinctive spin to both her ideas and her politics, and she's discovered, in her peregrinations, that the world is far smaller yet far more fascinating than anyone gives it credit for being. She holds forth her opinions on that in her blog, The Elemental Mom.