Remember millennials? Many of us have graduated from our lattes and leisurely brunches to become parents with jobs, car loans and, perhaps, even a mortgage.
On our road to adulthood, we have experienced two global crises – a recession and a pandemic. Many of us are also still carrying mountains of student debt. These years have shaped our outlook on money and now we are teaching our children what we know.
Here are the money lessons five millennial parents are teaching their children:
Don't ever think your child is too young to learn
Laurynn Vaughn, 37, of Kissimmee, Florida, is a single parent to two daughters, ages 5 and 4. She runs a day care that closed during the pandemic but has since reopened. She is also an active volunteer
“I do not want to pass on the fact that I was not taught about money," says Ms Vaughn. "I think the earlier you teach your children, the better. I already teach them that there’s pretty much three principles with money. The number one thing is giving. The second is saving. And the third is, what you have left is what you can enjoy. My principles are a little different, there’s really four: I pay bills, then I give, I save and have money left over to enjoy. Teaching them at their level is better than not teaching them because you are waiting for them to get to a level.”
It is better to be a working student and leave college with much less debt
Mae Barrios, 34, of Holliston, Massachusetts, is a parent to three children, ages 10, 4, and 2. She is an instructional coach at a local school and is on an unpaid leave of absence to look after her children during the pandemic. Her husband, Francisco, runs a landscaping business. She has $20,000 in student loans left to pay off.
“That was the biggest mistake I made in my whole life," she says. "Everyone said go to whatever college you want, just take the loans. Nobody told me the real after-effects of student loans. My husband did not go to college. Our plan is to open a college savings account for [our children] when I go back to work. It is [also] better to be a working student and leave college with much less debt. My husband and I have made sure we do not get so bogged down by debt that we cannot survive. We talk a lot at the dinner table about being rich and being poor. If you are rich, your money works for you. If you are poor, you work for money.”
A greater emphasis on experiences
Steffa Mantilla, 36, of Houston, has a four-year-old son. She is a certified financial education instructor, a former zookeeper and founder of the personal finance website Money Tamer.
“In our household, we are putting a greater emphasis on ‘experiences’ rather than ‘things’. [For my son’s birthday], instead of buying tonnes of presents, we will buy one present and then tickets to the children’s museum or local zoo. We encourage relatives to give gifts of experience, as well, that they can do together. This puts the focus on family and friends while also teaching him to live with less stuff around.”
Not being afraid to invest
Alan LaFrance, 37, of Austin, Texas, has a five-year-old son. He works in digital marketing and his wife, Meladee, is a respiratory therapist.
“You could pay for a car in cash but you could [get] a loan for that car and take that capital and invest it," Mr LaFrance says. "If you can make more with that money, you are in a much better situation overall. At some point you cannot just squirrel everything away, you have to start letting the money work for you. As parents, we want our kids to save, but in reality, you can do that too much and really miss out on a lot of opportunity.”
Build another stream of income
Jernessa Jones, 39, of Florence, Alabama, is a single parent to a six-year-old son and is an accredited financial counsellor at Operation Hope, a financial literacy non-profit. She obtained a master's degree in business administration during the pandemic and started a fashion accessory business.
“My mum and dad did not own a business and neither were homeowners," says Ms Jones. "I was looking for houses last year because home ownership is the first step to building generational wealth. I realised I could afford the mortgages for some of the houses I looked at but I would probably be house poor. I decided to step back and see what I could do to build another stream of income. Entrepreneurship was another thing I could teach my son about. From beginning to end, even when I opened my business bank account, he was there.”