A couple of years ago, Hope, Grammy and I were having dinner at a cute restaurant in Basel. It was the most expensive dinner we had on a two-week vacation to Paris and Basel. You’re thinking, “Really??? What did you have?”
Two burgers, one steak, one dessert and two glasses of champagne. The damage was close to $200 US. It was outrageous. Burgers for $35!!! Which is why I just went ahead and got the steak—it was $38. On the walk back to our flat, I decided that this Swiss dinner was going to be my new currency benchmark.
The mortgage is 6 Swiss dinners.
Hope’s new sneakers were half of a Swiss dinner.
Her college tuition was…well you get the point.
This week, Hope finally understood the joke my mom and I thought was so funny about my currency reference.
Yesterday Hope turned 19; sadly, I had to work all day. After I wrapped up, we went to get Korean takeout and hit up one of Hope’s favorite little Korean import store which carries all the latest KPop cds. Delighted to spend her own money, Hope purchased 3 new cds.
This is where things got interesting, and Hope and I started really talking about money.
Since Hope started working, she has put money into a savings account. She’s a bit overwhelmed by the influx of cash, and it’s a bit of a delight to see her contemplate purchases.
Hope has largely been oblivious to the cost of things. To some degree I protected her a bit. She had some really difficult and impoverished years. I wanted her to know that we were stable and comfortable; actually, I didn’t want her to know, I wanted her to believe we were stable and comfortable.
I ended up with a kid who at times came off as spoiled. She didn’t necessarily ask for a lot, but she didn’t take care of her things either. She would just ask for replacements, and it annoyed the hell out of me. I usually said no or delayed the replacement until such time as I thought she had earned a replacement. I thought she would learn to appreciate her things; most of the times, it seemed she didn’t.
Enter “Working Hope.”
Working Hope counts her pennies. She actually has 2 separate savings accounts. She studies her pay stub. She estimates her take home. She’s money conscious.
She’s treated herself to a few things, but really hasn’t spent much. The cds were the largest single purchase, and she fretted over the expenditure. I reminded her that she could afford the cds, it was her birthday, and that we all deserved the occasional treat. She grinned and said, “I’ll take these” to the cashier.
On the drive home, I asked Hope, “So how many hours of work was your purchase?”
“How many hours did you have to work to get your cds?”
“Oh.” She started trying to calculate the hours in her head but offered up a guess. It wasn’t close. I told her to pull out her calculator to figure it out. In the end, she determined that the cds represented two days worth of work. She was surprised.
I discouraged her from regretting the purchase; instead I encouraged her to consider the value of her hard work and consider that as she makes purchases. I don’t want her to fret over money, but I do what her to respect it.
Hope started asking me about the household bills and about what it takes to maintain our lives.
I told her to clear her calculator and start over.
Then I told her the rounded figures for the mortgage, the car, insurance, cell phones, internet and TV, condo fees, electric, monthly donations, grocery bill, personal care and maintenance expense, medical insurance and expenses, and a few other things.
The amount was sizeable, and I hadn’t even included my student loans, credit card, savings and investment contributions and “play” money.
She sighed and said, well, there are adults who work where I work. I wondered how do they afford these things? I told her that there are lots of people who can’t afford those things.
We went on to have an interesting discussion about money, income and income inequality, and why I have been pushy about education. Education doesn’t solve all problems, but it certainly can position you to better deal with some of life’s problems.
She had a mini meltdown and asked if she would ever afford to move out on her own. I told her that yes, eventually she would be able to afford to live independently. I don’t think she believed me, but time will prove me right.
This seems to be Hope’s coming of age year which is crazy because pandemic, social justice protests, murder hornets, Saharan sandstorms, cicadas, elections…etc, etc. *This* is the year that is when things are seemingly coming into focus for Hope.
I hope to keep talking to her about money. I’m hoping that in addition to the other lessons she seems to be learning that she will also learn the value of her time—it’s the most precious commodity we have. I hope she also learns to be discerning about her financial choices and continues to develop good financial habits.
One thing that is coming clear to me in all this is that Hope is starting to really see her own future and what the possibilities look like. It’s kind of like watching an alien see and consider earth. She’s surprised, full of wonder and confusion, while also curious and dreaming.
Thinking about Hope imagining living independently makes me smile. I’m proud of her. She’s come so very far in 6 years. I hardly know how to process what I’m seeing with her.
I just know that I’m proud of her, more so every day.
June 27th, 2020 at 1:40 pm
SO proud of you both. YES, having children/young &old adults learn what it takes to earn (in my day 50cents, then a dollar) 10 dollars in take home money after taxes etc is really important. Especially the taxes and etc that comes out of the pay check/’hourly pay’. Then figuring out the hours of labor involved for each expenditure, so money is not substitute for real labor hours. And, best yet, she can remember you talking about how many Swiss Dinners….. I remeber when I knew how many day care diapers I had to change to pay for every hour of classroom graduate school … changed my relationship with any unprepared professor …. AND, I learned to be upfront about naming that equation and pointing out that I WAS THE PAYING CUSTOMER in the classroom. Changed things.
June 27th, 2020 at 2:28 pm
Definitely! Reframing it in terms of labor not money seemed to help her make that important connection. It was a fun conversation even if it was a little scary for her to consider what it takes to live the way we do (and why I can’t goof off even tho I’m working from home).
June 28th, 2020 at 1:47 pm
Side effect of raising 2 kids with only my single income female job was both my kids really understood ‘want versus need’ and ‘ranking the degree and immediacy of needs’. Not fun but reality teaches. They are both, as adults, careful, good money managers. A silver lining from a time that was very hard and their school friends were affluent.
June 28th, 2020 at 8:59 pm
I am so glad that Hope is learning this lesson so young. I know for fact my oldest struggles with this hard and suffers in real time because of it. It is great you are there to guide her and that she is willing to take it in and learn it. You guys make an awesome team!!
July 18th, 2020 at 11:57 pm
This is a good lesson. Is it recent? Did you say she bought a CD?
July 19th, 2020 at 5:48 am
Yeah, just a few weeks ago. Yes, a kpop cd, 3 of them actually. They can be super expensive because of the photo cards and crap that come with it. It’s a racket.