It seems to me that a lot of young people have it easy. Too many kids in high school and college are shielded from work and not taught the importance of money or earning it. It seems to me that this is a major default in the education of life.
If you don’t know the worth of a dollar or what it takes to earn that dollar, how can you successfully manage for the rest of your life? How can you start a family? Raise a family? Survive professional setbacks? Retire?
And, importantly, how can you truly taste and savor success? How can you enjoy that incredible high when you have scrimped and saved and managed to purchase a home, a car, a boat with cash? When material things are hard-fought-for and won, they mean more and are taken care of more.
I have a purse. A rather expensive one that was a complete indulgence. For two years, I tucked away a bit of cash here and there, saving as I could on necessities, to accumulate the money to buy it. That was six or seven years ago and still today, I treat it with gentleness and respect. I use it only for Sundays and special occasions, keeping it pampered and wrapped in a protective bag the rest of the time.
I learned that young. When I was 11, there was a forest-green wool winter coat with a hood trimmed in beige-colored fake fur at Sears. I thought it was the prettiest thing I had ever seen and it looked so pretty on me, making me look thin and chic. It cost $89 and Mama was not buying it when she could sew me a coat. I babysat for two months to pay it out of layaway. The day I made the final payment of $6 and took it home was one of the proudest days of my life. How sad when parents deprive the children they love of that kind feeling of accomplishment. It is a great and loving gift.
A while back, I called a friend to ask if her son would be interested in making some money by cutting grass. He was a freshman in high school. She laughed at my silliness. “Absolutely not. He needs to spend his time with school work and activities.”
What surprised me most about that is that I grew up with his father, who, from the time he was 12, scrambled to make money from part-time jobs. From the age of 16 on, he worked every day after school. Today, he is so frugal that some might call him stingy. But he knows the value of a dollar and what it takes to make it.
Years ago, a prominent doctor visited Daddy at his dusty, greasy garage and asked him to give his son a part-time job. “I’ll pay you his salary — without his knowledge — but I want him to learn the meaning of work and the value of a dollar,” the doctor said.
That young man worked for Daddy for two years — unknowing that his father was paying his salary — and grew up to make his father very proud. He became a financier.
There are exceptions. I think of the hard-working, young high-school girls who help my niece with her children. I think most especially of Brandon who, since he was 17, has helped me around the house. Now three years out of college, he still finds time to help me though he has a full-time profession. He does it to repay me for helping him when he needed help and because the extra money is appreciated if not needed. Having learned a dollar’s value, it still sticks with him.
Not teaching kids about money is the easy way out. Unfortunately for them, the easy way will eventually become the hard way.
Rich is the best-selling author of the forthcoming “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’”