When it comes to children and money, it’s my experience that parents from a variety of backgrounds and income levels want the same thing: for their kids to be successful and happy. While families might have different definitions of “success,” the underlying aim is very similar.
Whether our kids are toddlers or adults, we’d like to help them do well. The challenge, of course, is learning how to be effective parents. One of the areas where many parents struggle is teaching children about money.
A useful resource for helping children build empowered relationships with money is a book called Intentional Wealth, by Courtney Pullen. While the book is primarily aimed at wealthy families, much of its advice applies to families at all income levels. I have participated in several workshops with Courtney, a psychologist and coach, and I appreciate his positive and common-sense approach. That supportive style is fully evident in his book.
Here are a few of the strategies from Intentional Wealth which can be used by any family that wants to help future generations thrive:
1. Define and clarify the family’s purpose and values. Every family has its own culture, expectations, and values. These are not necessarily put into words—in fact, quite often, no one talks about them—but they are there. Successful families spend time and energy defining them.
2. Learn how to do intentional financial parenting. Like so many other aspects of being parents, this isn’t something most of us are prepared for. No matter whether we grew up in poverty, wealth, or somewhere in between, we don’t necessarily know how to teach kids to use money well. Courtney offers some practical tools for raising children with a sense of responsibility and balance rather than entitlement. His advice on how to prepare adult children for financial responsibility is also helpful.
3. Encourage clear communication. This, of course, means much more than learning how to talk about money. Again, Intentional Wealth includes some useful tools and resources.
4. Foster a sense of gratitude and stewardship. Stewardship is defined not merely in terms of giving but also as “responsible management.” The thoughtful discussion in this book would be especially helpful as an estate planning resource.
5. Get help when it’s needed. This includes working with financial advisors, but also seeking out help from counselors, support groups, and other appropriate resources.
6. Understand that a family’s resources and value are made up of much more than money. What Courtney calls Family Net Worth includes “the intelligence, talents, skills and knowledge of each family member; the social networks and influence of family members and the family as a whole; and the family’s reputation.”
The families and individuals Courtney describes in this book are in strong contrast to the perception of wealthy, successful people as “greedy and selfish.” Instead, they are people with a strong sense of responsibility for both their financial and non-financial legacies. No matter what its financial net worth may be, any family can foster this mindset to help its members succeed.
The advice in Intentional Wealth can be summed up in these words from its concluding section: “Families that flourish do so because they manage the family’s financial and non-financial resources with attention and intention. This kind of success means much more than maintaining the family’s financial legacy or enjoying prosperity. It means passing on purposeful legacies of value, empowerment, family connection, and stewardship.”
This book emphasizes something I have learned through years of working with a variety of clients: money is not important as a goal in itself. Its real value is as a tool to support people’s dreams.