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Lecanto, U.S.A. –If you’re one of the millions of American families struggling financially, the Season of Giving only spotlights how little you can give—and how much your kids are focused on taking. But it’s not pure selfishness. Gregory Downing says kids are disconnected from harsh economic realities partly because they’re sheltered from the truth, and partly because parents themselves aren’t in reality about the fundamental shift our world has undergone.
“Everything about the way we build wealth and think about money has changed, Yet we’re still living like people who are able to work 40 years for the same company and retire comfortably with the gold watch.” says Downing, author of Entrepreneur Unleashed: Wealth to Stand the Test of Time as well as an upcoming book on providing a financial legacy for kids.
A real estate investment business owner and motivational speaker, Downing says parents must teach kids the basics of entrepreneurship. Generating multiple streams of income is the only logical path to financial freedom in a global economy where it’s now the norm for college grads to move back home jobless and saddled with debt.
To remove our kids’ sense of entitlement and “employee” mindsets, parents can minimize gift buying, concentrate on the “togetherness” aspect of the holidays, and—after the tree comes down—call a family forum. Here’s what you might say:
Be honest about your financial situation: If you’re bringing home half the income you once earned and you now have to buy your own health insurance, spell this out for kids, urges Downing. They can handle the truth.
Lay out the family finances in business terms: “Get out your pay stubs or tax returns and a month’s worth of bill statements and walk through them all,” suggests Downing. “Say, ‘Here are our revenues for the upcoming year. Here are our operating expenses. Here are our profits.’ Not only will this be an educational experience for the kids, it may be one for you as well.”
First, ask kids for cutback suggestions: Ask them “Where might we as a family save money? How can you help?” Implement their ideas if you can. This gives kids a sense of control over their destinies and forces them to prioritize the activities they value.
Then, broach the subject of kids as contributors: They can at least fund their own non-essentials (think video games and prom dresses) and start saving for college.
“You can position it as a fun experience that may bring the family together,” Downing says. “Tell them the economy is forcing us to do what Americans do best—be innovative and create our own future.”
Ask them to think up ways they might earn income: If your child loves to read, perhaps she could start a business reading books to the elderly, Downing suggests.
“Once the business gets off the ground, your child can take it to the next level,” he says, adding that it’s critical to teach kids the value of creating streams of income that are not linked to their time. “Perhaps she could franchise her ‘reading to the elderly’ service by subcontracting reading gigs to other kids.”
Make the connection between wealth and giving: Explain that, generally, those who give of their time and/or money invite abundance into their lives.
Now, plan for the future: Set family goals in all areas that matter to you—financial, but also spiritual, educational, health & fitness, and so forth.
Downing advises, “Meet every 30 days to monitor everyone’s progress. You’ll be amazed by how this keeps kids—and parents—energized and focused and keeps the family close and moving in the right direction.”
This last step is critical, says Downing. It clarifies your values and makes sure you’re all doing things—say, working twice a month at the animal shelter—that teach kids what really matters in life.
“When kids are really ‘giving back’ they won’t have that desperate need to acquire the right clothes or high-tech trinkets to fill some spiritual void,” he concludes.