Ours is not the typical family where money is concerned. Out of our faith commitments, my husband and I run a small financial planning practice that specializes in socially responsible investing and community investing—ways of helping people put their money where their hearts are. So we talk, work, and play money and faith and the interconnections between the two.
Yet despite our immersion in this world, like most parents we’re feeling our way around money issues with our children. A basic question for us has been how to handle questions of openness versus privacy.
While our children were putting their allowance money into the church offering basket, for example, my husband, Andy, and I were sending our checks by mail. One Sunday, our then 6-year-old son, Walker, looked at his quarter going into the basket, shook his head sadly, and said, “Why do we give God so little?”
Clearly he needed more information. We learned that we needed to let the kids participate in actually putting the checks in the offering plate rather than sending them in the mail—less convenient but a better example for young, concrete thinkers.
On the other hand, we’ve sometimes given too much information. In the car one day, Walker asked me what I would do if I won a million dollars. I answered, “I’d pay off the house, save for your college education, and …,” spinning off my imaginings.
“What do you mean ‘pay off the house’?” he asked. I tried to explain the concept of mortgage. There was a long silence from the back seat. “We don’t own the house?”
I had erred; Walker had way more information than he needed. Four years later, he’s still worrying about the mortgage.