How did you learn about money? Were you given a set allowance as a kid, or were you able to earn money by completing chores? Was money something that magically appeared now and then only when it was gifted to you? Did you learn about budgeting or did you just get it and spend it… and wait for the next time money arrived to do the same? When you got your first job did you have goals for the money or just a sense of elation that you had cash to burn?
What has your relationship been with money?
Kids in care receive an allowance that is set by Children’s Services so that they have opportunity to learn the life skill of managing money. My bio kids have lamented that they would have loved the regular allowance that our foster kids get! We were not so consistent in our approach to allowance when we were raising them.
As we were learning to parent and raise our own kids we changed how we handled money for the kids many times. We had seasons where allowance was linked to your chores and a complicated chart I was supposed to maintain, and we had seasons where we could not justify giving kids money to blow at the dollar store when I wasn’t sure how we were going to pay for groceries that month. There were times when our kids were just given allowance, but I can’t say that we were actually trying to teach them how to handle it well… I think we were still figuring it out ourselves!
So our foster kids get $11.00/week right now. Not a lot if you want to own an iPhone and nice clothes, but a lot if you are stuck at home because of a Global Pandemic and have no where to spend it. Watching them figure out how to manage it has been interesting.
We discovered in the very beginning that they had no concept of how to hold on to money safely. I keep my money in a wallet. We bought them wallets. They had no idea why they needed them! We would give them their allowance and they would stuff it in their pocket, or walk to their room and throw it in the door! It was a bit of a shock to me to see a couple of 20 dollar bills laying casually on the floor of their room along with the candy wrapper, discarded clothes and homework. To them it was just another thing. They had so little concept of what that thing represented.
It wasn’t until they had lost some of their money (literally lost it, as in “I think I left my gift card with $100 on it at the movie theatre”, after buying popcorn) that they started to think about a better system to keep it! It was a process of learning. I still have to remind them if we are headed to the store that they should bring their wallet, not just stuff some money in a pocket.
A recent example involved one of them coming with me to the grocery store because they wanted to purchase a gift card. They argued with me about the wallet and insisted that they could keep $20 safe in their pocket. After walking through the store for 20 minutes we got to the till to pay for the groceries only to have them panicking and turning all their pockets out… yup, $20 bill no where to be found. In taking a phone and a mask out of a pocket the money had somehow disappeared. I resisted the urge to say “I told you so” and paid for the needed gift card… which they then had to pay me back for out of their next allowance. This made for a long stretch with no money for them. But I’m not sure the lesson has been learned. A bank account is next on the list and the debit card will be another thing to figure out!! The learning will continue.
Did you know that money is an abstract concept and learning how to use it well in concrete situations involves a lot of mental awareness. Being able to plan ahead, and control impulses is essential in money management and both those skills take time to develop. Trauma can change how your brain processes information and what it is capable of. Kids in care often have an uphill battle in front of them when it comes to learning about money. It is tempting to be frustrated with them and decide they don’t “deserve” to have money if they don’t have some respect for it. This is how they will learn. One mistake at a time.
A general approach to money is to teach kids how to save, spend and give. Choosing to save towards a bigger purchase is hard for some kids. Deciding to spend is hard for others and yet some kids want to give their money away. Every person is wired different and will need to develop different skills to manage money well. There are lots of great resources out there to help with managing money, whether you’re trying to teach kids, learning to set up a budget or just trying to keep track of where it all goes!
Our kids recently received $100 for their birthdays from family. They are paralyzed on how to spend it. We have said they need to buy something with it that they want, not just spend it on chips at the store. This has them struggling to determine what they want. He has too long of a list and can’t decide. She thinks nothing should be worth that much and doesn’t want to spend it. Last year they never did make a significant purchase and the money slowly trickled away on trips to 7-Eleven and McDonalds. It is easy to spend without intentional thought and find the money gone.
So much to learn. We will continue learning. Money is hard. But it is an essential skill to master if you want to live a life that is rich with meaning and blessing.
Well, I need to sign off and attempt to get bank accounts set up for them. Our previous attempts have been unsuccessful due to Covid-19 restrictions, missing ID and the complications of being a kid in care.
In the midst of the mess