What I Wish I Learned about Money from My Mother

This blog post is sponsored by T. Rowe Price. All thoughts, opinions, and experiences are my own.

My parents immigrated to the United States from Antigua in the 1970s to amass a small fortune, excel in their careers as nurse and doctor, raise two perfect, happy children, and be the envy of their friends and family back home. 

But their coveted Caribbean dream died quickly when my father up and abandoned my mom, my brother, and me to return to Antigua to pursue a life as a single doctor and rolling stone, though leaving us with the empty hope of returning for the family he left behind. 

And just like that, my mother became the emotional and financial caregiver to two small children in a foreign, strange land that grew increasingly more isolating, cold, and cruel the more she retold her story.

Perhaps as a way to ease her pain, brace me for what she deemed would be a similar fate or both, she openly discussed money, men, and any combination of the two freely and usually disparagingly. I was her only daughter and the baby of this newly broken family. 

The first few chapters of my money story began with the following messages:

“Never trust men with your money, Kara.”

“Men always see something nice that they want to muck up, ya hear?”

“Marry a man that loves you more than you love them, right?”

“Get as much education as you can because you have to support yourself in this world.”

“There’s never enough money. The money is done so fast.”  

I grew faster than either my mom or I would have liked in hindsight. I internalized these messages and allowed them to take root in my heart, soul, and behaviors. This particular combination cultivated a fiercely independent, resourceful accomplished woman who was overly cautious and carried around a fear of intimacy and the belief that everything was in shortage (love, money, fun, time, pleasure) like a clutch purse.

Breaking Generational Curses by Building Kids Who Are Confident About Money

I had to invest in years of therapy, retreats, coaches, and healers to help me rewrite my money story into a healthy, confident one so I didn’t repeat the same mistakes with my daughter or myself. Now that I’m a “girl mom,” I wish that resources like T. Rowe Price’s MoneyConfidentKids were around for my mom to use with me. It’s a financial education program that helps kids understand that every financial decision is associated with a time horizon. Kids who are confident about money grow up to be adults who make wise financial decisions for themselves and their families.

The curriculum follows the life and money choices of a student named Nikki from middle school to graduate school. It takes on Nikki’s real-world desires and decisions in a thoughtful, holistic way. We get to see how Nikki makes decisions around her short, mid-term, and long-term goals. 

Take, for example, the lessons on goal setting. They lay the foundation for children to develop a growth mindset around money. A growth mindset is the belief that skills and intelligence are mutable. With effort and persistence, anyone can learn anything.

With the Money Confident Kids framework, children live at the center of their learning; they serve as thought partners in envisioning lives that they love. In the first lesson on goal setting, children reflect on their various goals, their respective timelines, and how they will save money to achieve these goals. I think this is brilliant because talking about money is taboo in many homes and cultures, on the one hand. Similarly, in these same cultures, children are to be seen and not heard. They are not active agents in their lives.

Furthermore, there is a tone of neutrality and a matter of facts about this unit on goal setting in particular–and the program in general–, that can easily be overlooked—but shouldn’t be. The reason that adults experience overwhelmingly negative emotions about money is because they were taught to. They learned to feel anxious, sad, envious, and shame. The MoneyConfidentKids program fosters neutral, if not positive feelings and energy around money as a tool to support our goals.

 In my work as a money coach, I have held space for women who lamented about whether they could afford a particular item or experience. Discussions around money reflected an all-or-nothing mentality. The goal-setting mindset around money in this program, however, expands the money conversation. Rather than it being a yes or no question about money, goal setting around money normalizes the question of “If I don’t have it now, how can I get it based on my time horizon?”

Money Confident Kids is for Children and Children-at-Heart

Even though the target audience for Money Confident Kids is children ages 8-11, I think adults who struggle with their relationship with money would also benefit from this program’s simple-yet-wise approach to dealing with money and goals. It can offer them a chance at reparent; to envision life beyond money trauma, hurt, and distortions; to remember that money is a tool, not a weapon. 

This blog post is sponsored by T. Rowe Price. All thoughts, opinions, and experiences are my own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *