Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote an interesting article – one that got me thinking quite a bit that I’m going to split this out over a few days.
Is there too much emphasis on saving when we discuss children’s education and personal finance?
He lists a few “overlooked opportunities” that, in my opinion, are a little too general.
High Quality Day Care and Preschool, Private School: I’m a firm believer that your child has to want to succeed in order to succeed (read Freakonomics yet?). You dropping $20k to put them in the best schools won’t make them want to learn anymore than you did when you were younger.
It’s understandable. You want the best. You recognize your squandered youth, and all of your missed opportunities – but it starts sounding like the parent forcing the child to be what they were (or weren’t) growing up. The former high school football player who forces his kid to play. The mother that puts her daughter in every beauty pageant. You want your kids to succeed, but you can only do so much! You can set them up, but they’re the ones that have ot make those decisions.
Now, it’s possible that starting them on the right foot helps. Say – put them in the nice preschool/daycare that costs a little extra. Ask them what they want to do. Keep their wants and desires in mind. They may have the choice of going to High school A or B or Private School C. They may surprise you and choose B – and succeed, go to Harvard on scholarship, and cure Cancer (I’m just sayin’). Thinking that if you don’t drop a large amount of cash to get them into C won’t make them worse off.
This is the one section that made me second guess his logic behind his thinking. Trent starts to relate on all the things he missed out on growing up – because of money. All the things he missed out on, all the opportunities – are his parent’s fault. I know that is me digging into the psychoanalysis of the situation, but when you start to relate your childhood – you need to think about where you are today, and what was really the benefit?
Having said that – I also feel for him. I work non-stop, I’m in school full-time, and I’m not stopping. I’ve got plans laid out, I’m establishing contacts to lay out my future a little better – so I can be a better provider for my family. I want money to *not* be an issue – but at the same time, just because I have the money, it doesn’t mean my son will get to go on every trip/cause/function that needs money. My children will have to genuinely want it, need it, or if it’s something that I – I know, I’m making implications – think they should experience, I’ll help make it happen.
I love traveling. I grew up camping, so I’m used to the fires, the bugs, the bears, and the people. I hated it at different times – it didn’t fit my schedule, it wasn’t what I wanted to do – but now I look back wishing I really utilized those times. I really want to go to Europe and have my son experience it. I want him to grow up to have my understanding and tolerance of the world at large.
But taking him anywhere, without his interest, isn’t going to get him to be any different. The parent can only do so much with a child, guiding, discussing, assisting, and by just thinking that taking your kids and having them do things that they may not (Trent doesn’t say this) want to do.
Exploration of Interests:
Yes, that old hat. The “my parents couldn’t afford to nurture my gift.” There is genuine, natural talent (like some Juliard students). And then there are some people who pick an interest, and get into it, their parents drop a few grand on that interest, and then something else comes up and now THAT’S their new interest.
It’d be great to nurture every interest. But there is more than money (and ways to work around it) to nurture interests. Trent’s example is about a kid that passed being in a band because of the cost of a piano – the instrument comes later. You can save up for instruments – especially if it’s something you (or your child) is passionate about. But dropping money just because they’re interested this week? You’re going to become more frustrated as you start “nurturing” your child but see him blow through his interests rather quickly.
So – don’t just “buy” stuff for the sake of “nurturing.” You can only guide so much, and you’ve got to trust the communication foundation with your child for him to say “Dad, I want to play guitar” or “Dad, I want to be an artist” or “Dad, I want to study beatnik poetry.” It’s his choice, not mine. I can only support him, and be there to pick him up when he falls. He’ll get burned out on a topic – so be it, he’ll find a new one. But I hope I have talked to him enough, and know him well enough that if money is an issue – he’d talk to me about it so I could help figure something out.