The Jamie Oliver of Money - Preventing Financial Sickness
Jamie Oliver (the celebrity chef) went on a campaign to change unhealthy school dinners in the UK. With obesity and poor diet leading to so many poor health conditions, it was critical to improve the meals our kids were getting at school. The more healthy a child eats, the more likely they are to eat healthier when they are adults. The same is true for managing money.
Many kids grow up with no education about money and are exposed to lots of poor money behaviours as they grow up. This has a big impact on their financial wellbeing when they become adults.
We are already seeing the impacts of poor financial wellbeing from adults today (UK statistics below):
50% of households have personal debt (excluding mortgage) over £4,500 (ONS)
52% of employees worry about money at least once a week (Nudge)
£1.56bn is lost by employers due to money related absenteeism (CEBR / Aegon)
Change needs to happen in order to ensure the next generation doesn’t grow up to be financially sick.
A nation of financially healthy kids
Before I go through the main reason for this sickness, let’s first imagine a world where kids grow up to be financially healthy.
Financially confident kids go into adulthood with some savings and know how to look after these savings. They still buy the things they really want but don’t use credit cards or other loans to pay for them. They go to sleep knowing that their money is growing and they are becoming wealthier.
As parents, having financially confident kids might mean the difference between them leaving your home at 21 (or before) compared to being dependent on you into their 30’s. It could mean you get to use your retirement fund for your retirement as intended, rather than to support your adult children financially.
Most importantly, it might mean the difference to your kids growing up happy or not. I’m not saying money will make them happy but I know if they struggle with money it can quickly take-away their happiness.
If we all take the small amount of time it takes to make a difference, the above could be a reality for millions of children.
The cause of the sickness in adults
One of the main reasons why many adults are financially sick is simple. People spend more than they earn.
This might seem simple and therefore there is an easy cure. Unfortunately, not. Most people who are struggling financially probably realize that they are spending too much. It’s a bit like people who struggle with their diet. They know the answer is to eat less and do more exercise. Despite knowing the answer it is very hard to implement. Essentially, the solution is simple but it’s not easy.
Our behaviours overpower logic
People who spend more than they earn have many different reasons they spend. They have formed very strong habits and behaviours that mean it is very difficult to break.
For example, lots of people buy a coffee on their way to the office. It’s not easy to just stop doing that and save that money. A lot of people feel they need a coffee in the morning. They like the feeling when the barista remembers their name and order. They like the short and pleasant distraction between the end of their commute and stepping into the office for a day's work. All these small elements make it hard for them to simply stop buying a coffee that day.
Then there are all the social pressures to keep spending. If you buy nice clothes which you know are a bit expensive given your earnings, it’s hard to then start buying cheaper clothes. Both in terms of the self-realization that you can’t actually afford them and the potential for social judgement of why you are no longer wearing such expensive clothes. The same applies to cars and houses which are the main sources of spending.
It’s not to say people can’t change, there are just a lot of pressures and in-built habits which make it very hard to change. Anyone who smokes will say they wished they never started.
What we really need to do is all work together to help make sure our kids don’t form these bad spending habits.
Without any guidance, most kids will quickly learn that money is for spending and that spending is fun. If left with just this knowledge, you can see why many of them will grow up to continue spending and fall into the same habits and behaviours which cause financial stress to so many adults today, i.e. spending all the money they receive.
Preventing our kids from being financially sick
We need our kids to grow up spending less than they receive.
Please, please, please, don’t take that sentence lightly!!!
Let me expand that sentence:
"We need to proactively help our kids to grow up spending less than they receive, every time they receive money."
If a child starts to save a little bit of the money they receive for the future, this will start to form into a habit. This habit can be life-changing. It can mean they grow up with an incentive to want to look after their money. It means they’ll have savings so won’t need to use credit cards.
A key for this to work is to get them to save a little bit. Remember, spending is fun. I don’t want them to miss out on buying the things they really want. It’s all about balance (as Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid would say). They don’t have to save a lot but the most important thing is that they don’t spend it all!
Them saving, not just you saving on their behalf
I know a lot of parents that are saving money each month for their kids. This is great and can help ensure they have the opportunity to be financially independent once they reach a certain age. Whilst this action is great, it’s not as important as your kids learning to save themselves.
Let’s say there are two different children:
Parents saved for them and gave them £10,000 on their 18th birthday but the kid never saved anything themselves as they were growing up.
Parents gave their kid a little bit of money each week and encouraged them to save a bit. By their 18th birthday they had saved £1,000.
I’d wager that the second child will grow up to be more financially confident and secure despite the lower amount of savings at 18. This is because they have learnt to look after their money which will pay dividends as they grow up and earn more money.
It’s not how much money you have, it’s how you manage your money that determines your financial well-being.
To change the future financial wellbeing of your kids then action is needed. Here’s what parents need to do:
Give your kids weekly pocket money (allowance) - doesn’t matter how much (set a weekly reminder in your phone)
Get them save up for something they want in the future (delay their gratification)
Get them to save some at least 10% for the long-term (learning how to build wealth)
Ideally, you’d give your kids their pocket money in notes and coins so they learn to get a greater sense of what money is. If you don’t have cash, then use an online piggy bank which allows you to give them pocket money each week.
Don’t underestimate action 3 above. Even if you give them £2 per week, get them to save that 20p. 20p might not seem worth saving but it’s not about the amount, it’s about the action. Over time those 20p’s will add up. Also, as they start receiving more money they will be saving more.
“A penny saved is a penny earned!”
Don’t just make this only about pocket money. If they receive money for their birthday, Christmas or from the tooth fairy, get them to save some of it (not spend it all!).
The younger they start doing this the better. Research from Cambridge University shows that kids form many of their money habits from as young as 7!
When and how much pocket money (allowance)?
Give your kids pocket money (allowance) each week, ideally at the same time so it becomes routine / habit (set a reminder in your phone). Personally, I’d say give your kids money regardless of chores or behaviour so they always have some money to ensure they form good habits. Consider alternative ways to reward / punish chores and behaviour as you don’t want to have negative feelings associated with money, i.e. they link money with punishment!
As mentioned above, it doesn’t matter how much you give them. Make sure it’s not enough that they can’t just go and buy everything they want straight away as you need them to learn to save up for something they want.
We need to work together
If you are an employer, do you feel your employees want more help to improve their financial wellbeing? (Both for themselves and their families).
If you work in the financial sector, do you feel your clients need more help to ensure their kids don’t spend all their money?
If you work in (or as part of) a school, do you feel that the parents want guidance as to how to raise their kids to be financially independent?
To change the statistics at the start of this blog, we need to work together. If you said “YES” to any of the questions above then PAUSE for a minute and think about what you can do to make a change. We need as many parents as possible giving their kids pocket money and helping their kids to not spend it all.
Employers, you could consider running a workshop for your employees. Financial services, you could provide guidance to your clients on ‘how to teach their kids about money’. Schools, you could put on a class to help children learn the basics of money. Please don’t assume someone else will do this. Please don’t leave the future financial wellbeing of the next generation to chance.
If you want to help, but don’t know where to start, then please feel free to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Let’s learn from what Jamie Oliver did for our children’s diet and take action to make sure our kids grow up financially healthy!
We need to proactively help our kids to grow up spending less than they receive, every time they receive money.
Without change we are going to see the next generation growing up with the same financial difficulties and stresses that many adults are facing today (if not worse).
Even if you are struggling with money yourself, you can take action to make sure your kids grow up financially confident. As mentioned, it is much easier to prevent a problem than it is to cure a problem.
Help your kids form the habit of not spending all the money they receive (regardless of how small that amount is). Give them weekly pocket money and get them to save at least a little bit every time!!
Let’s work together to get this message out to as many parents as possible!
Thank you for reading!