It’s time to show our children how to balance a checkbook.
I recently realized I’m a statistical oddity, in that I do regularly balance a checkbook. Admittedly, my check register is a spreadsheet on the computer, but it still has those columns familiar to those who did it the old-fashioned way, including the date, the check number, the amount and the current balance.
The website StatisticBrain.com says only 21 percent of people faithfully balance their checkbook and that 69 percent of people never do. There are plenty of columnists online arguing it’s silly to try to gauge how much money you have available at any point in time in a world where an app can tell you that.
I do love visiting my bank’s app and website, but of course knowing how much money the bank knows you spent isn’t quite the same as knowing how much money you’ve really spent. The bank doesn’t know how big your electric bill is until the money comes out, for instance.
For me, my checkbook is as much a budgeting tool as a record. It helps me see ahead to when things are going to be better or worse.
Back to why my children need a peak inside that checkbook, though.
I’ve started hearing my children repeat some of the same ridiculous utterances I did as a youth. They dream of owning new cars and a beautiful house and living a life full of fun weekend jaunts as soon as they live on their own.
As a parent, I want that for them. It’s the dream of every parent that the children attain more comfort and success than the parent had growing up.
A realistic measure, though, is having them do better than we did at that age. If I’m being honest with myself, at the age of 25, my financial situation was really cruddy, and that didn’t include a new car or a house. Why should my children expect those things then?
They grow up in the situation they’re in, insulated from our money worries. All they know is there’s food on the table and gas in the car. And the isolationist in me doesn’t want them to know how hard we struggled to get to the point that could happen.
All they hear is that you have to go to college to make a good living, which really depends on your field of study and your aspirations. They don’t hear about the debts that come with that for years after graduation, so they don’t necessarily weigh the costs and benefits of it adequately.
They dream of living independently but don’t necessarily see the costs associated with it.
That’s why I need to show my children my checkbook. They seem interested in knowing how much things cost, and perhaps it can help them understand the real value of their work. When they want something, sometimes I’ll do the math on how long I have to work before I’d pay for what they want. Going out to dinner sounds different when you say it’ll cost three hours of dad’s life, after all.
It’s up to parents to help instill all values, including a value for money, in their children, and opening up the checkbook seems like a good place to start.