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Teaching our Children to Fail in Life

What are the chances that your son or daughter might strike it big one day and start raking in the millions? I think if they did, for every parent it would be like our biggest goal being brought to fruition – if you can’t be the millionaire in the family, your child being one is the next best thing – and you’d probably love knowing that you did everything to help them get there.

What if you found out that you not only didn’t help them, but you actually hindered them from being rich?

Not just you, but your child’s teachers, the school’s curriculum and its values… Kind of wrecks the daydream, doesn’t it?

When I travel the country speaking to high school and college students about exactly what they need to do to become financially successful in life I always begin my presentation by asking three questions:

“How many want to be financially successful in life?” “How many think they will be financially successful in life?”

Almost every time I ask these two questions every hand rises in the air. Then I ask the magic third question:

“How many have taken a course in school on how to be financially successful in life?”

Not one hand rises in the air, ever.
This happens every time I have asked this third question. Clearly every student wants to be successful and thinks they will be successful,  but none have been taught by their parents or their school system how to be financially successful in life. Not only are there no courses on basic financial-success principles, but there are no structured courses on basic financial literacy.

Children are being raised to be financially illiterate, to be poor and to fail in life.

Is it any wonder that most of us in North America live paycheck to paycheck? That most of us accumulate more debt than assets?  That many people are losing their homes? Is it any wonder that most Americans cannot afford college for their children and that student loan debt is now the largest type of consumer debt?

According to The Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt, the average student loan debt is $25,250.  This debt forces college graduates to postpone buying a home and starting a family.

The second worst thing about this problem is what children are being taught by their parents and the school system. They are being taught that rich people are bad.

You think I’m wrong? Just ask your child if they have ever read Robin Hood in school. Most likely the answer will be yes. Then ask them if Robin Hood is a good guy or a bad guy. Most likely your child will say “good guy”. In fact, they very likely consider him a hero. The fact that Robin Hood was a thief who stole from others is irrelevant. He took from the rich and gave to the poor. That, children are taught, is okay because poor people are good, rich people are bad, and poor people are thus “entitled” to that rich person’s money and wealth. Our schools are teaching children that striving to become wealthy in North America is bad.In other words, the American Dream is a bad thing.You see manifestations of this “financial success is bad, the 1% are bad and the 99% are good” mindset in things like the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Buffet Rule. You cannot pick up a paper these days without seeing some article on the wealth gap. Clearly this wealth gap needs to be addressed. But current measures to address the disparity between the rich and the poor are poorly thought out and simply will not solve the problem of poverty. The real solution is to equip our children through education at home and in school with tools that enable them to become financially successful in life.

So how do we do this? Parents and our schools need to work together to re-educate our children, both through formal education in the schools and informal education at home. In the home, parents could teach their children in the following ways:

1) Set limitations: Limit T.V., social media and cell phone use to no more than one hour a day. And limit junk food to no more than 300 calories a day. Punish children when they lose their tempers so they understand the importance of controlling this very costly emotion.

2) Teach children the importance of relationship building: Have them phone friends, family, teachers, coaches etc. on their birthdays and send thank you cards for gifts or help they received from anyone. And parents and children need to set aside at least thirty to sixty minutes a day to talk to each other. By talk I do not mean through Facebook, or on the cell phone, but face-to-face, real talking. The only real quality time is quantity time.

3) Teach children to manage money: They need to learn this. Require your children to save at least 25% of their earnings or gifts they receive. Open up a checking account or savings account for them and force them to use their savings to buy the things they want. They need to learn that they are not entitled to things like cell phones, computers, fashionable clothes, flat screen T.V.s, etc.

4) Teach children that education is not limited to school: Require your children to read one to two educational books a month, outside of school-mandated reading. Have them participate in at least two non-sports-related extracurricular activities at school or outside of school.

5) Teach children how to manage their time: They should be required to create daily “to-do” lists and these lists need to be monitored by parents. The goal should be to accomplish at least 70% of their tasks on their daily “to do” list.

And through formal education at school, the curriculum should be made to include:

1) Goal-setting and goal-reaching: Require that children set monthly, annual and long-term goals. Reassure them that mistakes made in reaching (or not reaching) these goals are good, not bad. Children need to understand that the very foundation of success in life is built on learning from our mistakes.

2) Work ethic: Work ethic is critical to success in life. Require working-age children to work or volunteer at least ten hours a week.

3) Exercise: Have the students exercise aerobically 20 – 30 minutes a day. This improves their health, burns calories and delivers desperately needed oxygen to the brain and vital organs.

4) The value of financial success: Teach students that seeking financial success in life is good and a worthwhile goal. Children need to learn what the American Dream is (unlimited opportunity for financial success) and taught that it is a great thing.

Financial success is not a secret. Wealthy people do certain things every single day that sets them apart from everyone else in life. Wealthy people have good daily-success habits that they learned from their parents. These daily habits are the real reason for the wealth gap in our country and the real reason why the rich get richer. Unless we teach our children good daily-success habits, and level the playing field, the rich will continue to get richer and the poor will continue to get poorer.

Yet we frequently don’t teach them these “rich” habits. Fact is, the values in place in our society, the ones currently taught in our schools’ curriculum and backed by parental guidance, make it more of a lucky gamble than anything that children will be financially successful in life. If they’re lucky, they’ll learn these critical skills on their own, outside of their regulated education, and they’ll appreciate the value of said skills when they’re still young enough for these habits to take hold in their behaviour and become permanently ingrained. Only if they’re lucky… and that shouldn’t be the case!

Thomas C Corley

Thomas C Corley is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Financial Planner, has a Masters in Taxation and is certified by the Corporation for Long-Term Care. He is President of Cerefice & Company, a CPA firm, and is the CEO of The Rich Habits Institute, an organization that offers Rich Habits training, seminars and education learning sessions. Thom has authored several books including his revolutionary self-help book “Rich Habits” and “The Top 100 Cheapest Places to Retire in the U.S.” book series. He also trains businesses, individuals, and students how to be financially succcessful in life through his Rich Habits education programs - www.richhabits.net.