With the onslaught of COVID-19, the country locked down and many of us felt troubled with questions of health—and finance. Many understand that we should value personal and public health above all, taking protective measures for the safety of ourselves and others. However, the question of finance also pops up in our minds, especially for those of us who work in fields that necessitate in-person interactions, such as the service industry. You may feel the effects of the emotional, political, and financial stress of the past several months—maybe your family does as well. Your first instinct is to protect your children. But how can you shield your children from everything that’s going on? Should you?
In Season 5, Episode 1 of the Making Bank Podcast, author of the best-selling book The Wealthy Gardener John Soforic claims that children should be included in financial conversations. When John graduated from chiropractic college, he had $200,000 of student debt, a wife, and a growing family. He found out quickly that the chiropractor business has poor margins. He wanted to build a retirement fund and income, landing on the amount of $240,000. And so, he turned to real estate to earn money.
While still working as a chiropractor, Soforic struggled in his spare time to learn the ins and outs of the real estate business. He speaks on how in his thirties he was exhausted, losing almost every battle, and had several foreclosures. In his forties, after gaining experience, he started “winning”—a lot more. Soon, he was winning day after day, and he amassed the wealth he set his eyes on by the time he reached 50. Despite his hard work, he says he couldn’t have done it without the support of his family.
While Soforic had two jobs, he still needed to make time for his family. He chose to include them in his struggles and wins to maintain their relationship. As he says, “I always say that the people who do it wrong don’t communicate with their families. The people who do it right let them become a part of it.”
Soforic chose to be vulnerable with his family to also teach his kids financial lessons. To him, his dad “was Superman,” the type of dad high up “on the pedestal.” While Soforic idolized his father, he says, “but I was unprepared for life.”
Soforic is talking about the unfortunate negative consequence of sheltering our children. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to protect your children. What Soforic is referring to is the effect of never seeing your parents struggle—you come to see hardship as surprising, as opposed to a part of life. Soforic believes that to include your children on discussions of finance respects their intelligence and toughness. They come to see hardship as normal, which allows them to feel less guilty or overwhelmed when they face it themselves. By witnessing their father encounter obstacles and overcome them, they begin to realize that when they too face difficulties, they can do the same. Soforic states, “My kids come in their twenties and say, ‘So I’m having a rough pothole here at this stage of my life. Ah, Dad went through that.’” They will hopefully feel a sense of direction or relief. The unexpected becomes something that challenges them, not something that they must fear.
If you are willing to include your children in certain difficult subjects, the question then becomes, “How much should they know?” Soforic answered that question honestly: everything. He told his children the good and the bad: every number, goal, and experience. He wants to save them from the “learning curve” that he experienced. To impart the lessons that he learned onto them at a younger age, they will absorb them and, hopefully, follow them.
Soforic and his children developed a transparent relationship—they became a two-way street of constant information. In trusting his kids to handle mature subjects, they trusted him in return. Now, as adults, he says that their friends envy the closeness of their family, built on mutual respect.
While this dynamic works well in the Soforic family, it may not be what you want for yours. Perhaps you still want your children to be shielded from the “bad” for as long as possible. “Let them be children”—an idiom that surfaces anytime people discuss sheltering your kids. There is truth to this.
According to several studies published in the Journal of Family Psychology, children sometimes internalize the struggles that their parents are experiencing. As children’s worlds are so small (school and family,) they tend to turn inward when discovering a problem. This can look like a child feeling guilty for getting a new toy because he overhead his parents fighting about money. When a child doesn’t fully understand a situation, they blame themselves, as that’s all they know. They can become just as anxious as their parents—oftentimes more so, as they don’t know that problems can be temporary or solvable. So, if exposing your kids to your finances be harmful, how did it work so well for the Soforic family?
John Soforic points to one thing: communication. He believes that by communicating with his kids, instead of letting them overhear snippets, they are less likely to misunderstand. If a child is only exposed via witnessing arguments, he may become overwhelmed. If you sit down with your kids and explain everything in an open manner, Soforic believes this grants them the tools to handle finance later on in life. By exposing your kids, you can teach them.
Whether you believe in including your child in adult discussions, the idea of communication rings true for every family. Perhaps you want your kids to run freely through their childhood and explain later—that’s complete valid, too! Whatever the approach, communication acts as the key to any successful relationship. If you can teach your kids the value of communicating, they will build trust into their future relationships just as well.