Jonathan, the blogger from My Money Blog posted an article from the New York Times entitled 7 Essential Money Questions Sure to Start a Conversation and answered the questions on his blog. Ron Lieber, who wrote that New York Times article said that he found these seven queries tended “to stop people cold and get them to open up about whatever money they have and the emotions that wrap themselves around their personal finances.” I found the questions intriguing and wanted to answer them myself.
What lessons about money did you learn from your parents?
Lieber uses this question to determine if there is self-imposed guilt and whether your parents were role models. Some of the questions within that question he asks are:
Are you determined to maintain a certain social class or climb a rung up the ladder because you’ll feel less successful in your parents’ eyes if you don’t?
Are you unhappy in a white-collar career because your parents worked so hard to send you to college and you can’t bring yourself to quit?
If your children don’t go to a school as good as yours was, do you worry that you’re failing them somehow?
What specifically did your parents teach you that has helped? And how, in their silence about some aspects of money, could they have failed you?
As a child of immigrant parents, I do feel like I need to climb a rung up the ladder because I had so many more advantages. Like many immigrant parents, they sacrifice so that their children could have a better life. So, yes, there is pressure to advance to a higher social class. I went to a state university so I wouldn’t feel that I’m failing my child if they went to a school which wasn’t as “good as” mine, whatever that means. I don’t think the prestige of the school necessarily matters. As for what my parents taught me about money: frugality, saving, and investing. Growing up, my parents were always frugal with their money and those values were ingrained in my head. My parents opened up a savings account for me and encouraged me to put some of my birthday and Christmas money into it. Luckily, I was a good little saver even as a youngster. I would look at the passbook, see the balance increase and the interest accumulate (back in the day when interest rates were much higher) and get excited about saving. My father also opened a mutual fund for me and that’s how I got interested in investing in the stock market. It didn’t hurt that this was in the 90’s and the stock market returns were excellent. I would learn some tough lessons when the tech bubble burst.
What does the word “money” conjure up for you?
Lieber said that one financial planner told him a client answered, “food.” The client’s mother was an alcoholic and their food stamps would run out before the month was over. This client did not spend money even though she could afford it.
Growing up, my parents were always frugal. I thought I was deprived because we didn’t have cable television or cool sneakers like the other kids. So when I was younger, the word “money” meant the ability to buy things. Fortunately, I was still frugal, but I always thought that once I have saved enough money or made a certain income, I could splurge. I would have a luxury vehicle, nice house, and take exotic vacations. Nowadays, money to me means freedom. I want to buy Time with my money I want to buy my freedom from having to work for money. That is much more important to me.
How many children would you like to have when you retire?
The article says that one financial planner encouraged parents “to more carefully consider their future selves, the ones who will want to improve the odds of being surrounded by grandchildren — and having adult children who may be able to help in their old age.”
This is a bit of an odd question compared to the others. I wouldn’t expect my adult children to help me out financially in my old age, but yes, it would be nice to have them around. I’d also love to be surrounded by grandchildren. Currently, we have a 3 year old and a newborn, so that’s two. Will we go for number three?? I don’t know. We’ll have to think about that in the future. It’s a little hard to make a rational life-changing decision when you’re still sleep deprived!
How do you think your children feel about that?
Lieber says that a financial planner told him that she asks her clients this question, “knowing full well that parental anxiety has almost certainly rubbed off on the children as well,” and that by invoking “the little people, she finds, often gets adults to be more honest and vulnerable.”
I will take the question to mean, how will my children feel about our spending habits. My kids are still young but I think this will be a tough struggle. It is tough when you live in such a materialistic world where everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses. How do I explain to my kids why they don’t have the latest video games and the flashiest clothes? How do I teach them to value money and to not be materialistic?
Tell me about your financial situation when you first met.
Lieber says that this question is used by a financial planner when he senses tension between a couple relating to financial issues.
When I first met my wife, I was going to law school part-time in the evenings and working full-time during the day at a government job. I was already contributing to my retirement accounts, though I wish I had contributed more. I lived below my means and had some savings, but was in the midst of accumulating a lot of student loan debt. My wife had graduated college and started working for about a year. Neither of us made a lot of money and were both relatively frugal. I guess that’s one reason we hit it off. Just like we do now, we lived below our means.
What are the most important things in your life?
How would you live your life differently if you were completely secure financially? What would you change if you knew you only had five to 10 years left to live? And what would you regret if you knew you would die tomorrow?
“[I]f you get to the why and what motivates someone, everything else just fills in from there,” says Kevin Reardon, a financial planner. That means using the answer and working backward to set financial goals around these matters of great importance.
Family and friends are most important to me. I’m not sure how the writer defines “completely secure financially.” If he means financially independent, then I’d probably stop working, spend more time with family and friends, travel, volunteer, and hopefully find my passion! I would regret the time I didn’t spend with my close ones and the time I didn’t spend pursuing my interests. I would regret being too fearful to take the leap and do things outside of my comfort zone.
What does the prospect of retirement look like to you?
Rick Kahler, another financial planner said, “Retirement means doing what I want, when I want, with whom I want. Once we figure that out, a successful retirement is just a matter of filling in the activity calendar and inviting others along.”
I’m with Rick! I would love the freedom to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want!
What are your answers to some of these questions? Any questions in particular that you found intriguing?