The school of mom and dad

Parent groups have been asking for more financial education in the classroom. But at least one money lesson will always be in the hands of parents.

It’s hard to know how much (if any) financial education your child will receive in school this year, since each school board in Canada develops its own grade-by-grade curriculum. One thing you can be sure of, however, is that even if your board does teach some aspects of money management such as budgeting, debt, taxes and interest — they won’t be teaching your values about money at school. That’s something only you can impart to your kids.

Several months ago, the Financial Post ran a piece on the financial lessons various famous Canadians learned from their parents. Many said their parents taught them to live within their means. Comedian Rick Mercer, for instance, said “going into debt unless absolutely necessary is hard for me to fathom,” crediting his parents for leading by example. Others, such as Olympic medallist Clara Hughes, said her mother-in-law taught her the importance of taking the time and money to do the things she loves — such as travelling by foot and by bike with her husband.

It got me thinking about what big financial lesson I had learned from my own parents, and whether or not I am teaching the same money values — or others — to my nine-year-old son Adam.

I think the main thing I learned — and it wasn’t overt, more through observation — was not to gain feelings of self-worth from things. Designer labels don’t particularly excite me; nor do I feel that I am missing out on anything if I wait a year or two (or more) to get the latest trendy techno gadget. But it wasn’t always this way. When I think back to my school days, I insisted on having the “right” running shoes (remember Tretorns, anyone?) and I was keenly aware of what others had that I didn’t. And it bugged me.

The only explanation I can think of as to why I grew out of this mode of thinking is the example my mother set. She is one of the most effortlessly content people I know — a woman of simple pleasures. Give her a quiet, cozy spot and a library book, and she’s good. I see so much of her in me now. On weekends I am mostly a homebody, and don’t fall victim to the FOMO (fear of missing out) that can come from watching others post vignettes on social media that chronicle only the most exciting aspects of their lives.

And when I think about it, this is really the one lesson I hope to get across to Adam in regards to money. Hopefully, the behaviour I model for him will seep into his soul, as my mother’s did into mine. But I’ve also made a point of putting it into words: if you’re always comparing what you have to what other people have, you will never be happy. Because there will always be someone else who has more. Someone else who has a cool thing you don’t. If that’s how we measure success or our feelings of self-worth, it’s a losing battle.

Keep the conversation going

What money values do you hope to pass on to your kids?


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada).

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.