I’m going to start out by saying that I am historically not good with money. I’ve always had trouble keeping track of payments and looking at my finances with both eyes open, instead of the normal cringing I do. Given my druthers, I would much prefer to stick my head in the sand and pretend someone else is handling my finances, despite that being nowhere near the truth. In fact, when I hit rock bottom, I wasn’t even opening my monthly account statements or credit card bills. I took a wild guess at how much the minimum payment was, and when it was due, and randomly deposited that amount, hoping I had overpaid rather than underpaid what was due.
I’ve grown up (a little) since then, thanks to my husband. Shortly after we were married, we still hadn’t merged our finances, and I had a secret that was eating away at me. I had missed too many payments on one credit card, and I got a letter telling me they were shutting it down and expected me to pay my balance in full. This was impossible, and I had no idea how to handle it. I was honestly afraid to tell my husband. I thought he might want to divorce me because I was such a hot mess when it came to my finances. I eventually had a complete breakdown and told him what was happening, and it was the best thing that ever happened to us.
We took a long time going through our finances together, making sure to be completely transparent with one another. And truly, despite my fears that my husband would want to divorce me when he learned how bad I was with money, it ended up bringing us closer together. The moral of the story, for me, was that it’s never too late to start talking openly about money.
I think this is an important message for any couple to absorb, too. Finances can seem scary, but they really just need to be normalized. Couples don’t need to have “State of the Union” conversations about our finances every 6 months; we need to incorporate money talk into our day-to-day lives. And when it comes to teaching our kids about financial literacy, we can start by doing exactly this; making it part of our normal conversation.
I sometimes worry that my teenage stepdaughter absorbed some of the wrong key messaging from us. After all, her first financial teachers have been, well, us (and her mother). She’s been listening quietly and absorbing it all for a lot longer than we’ve realized. While my husband and I may have been open with one another about money, we’ve still faced a lot of financial challenges. I wish we had been proactive about teaching her financial literacy, right from the time we got married. Now we’re having to play catch-up in time for her to go off to college in less than two years.
At this point she’s too old to be getting her financial education from this amazing Digital Activity Workbook that TD offers, to help parents teach their kids about money, but I’m going to bookmark it for my 5-year-old to start looking at in the next two years. When it comes to teaching kids about money, you can never start too young. In the meantime, I’m going to have both my daughters take a look at the TD website for tips and tricks on learning how to be financially savvy for kids between 3-18. Our goal with my stepdaughter, though, is to make sure she understands some financial basics, by talking to her openly, casually about money. Making sure she understands the terminology. Talking to her about her fiscal responsibilities once she’s out on her own.
Making decisions about money is more complex than ever, now. Sometimes, I’m still not sure I’ve wrapped my head around it all, which is why I’m so happy that places like TD are committed to our family’s financial education, from the youngest member to the oldest. I feel like, with the guidance of TD’s experts, and their Financial Education website, my stepdaughter will be just fine. And so will I.