Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Review: The Five Money Conversations

Several months back, I read a book about nurturing children, regarding the use of money, in ways to keep them from being "spoiled." When my library highlighted this book in recent acquisitions, I thought I'd check it out to see if it had anything new to say. The books were totally different with a different focus in each case. While the first book focused more on behaviors to take with kids in regards to money, this book focused more on things to guide your conversations with kids about money.

In The Five Money Conversations to Have with Your Kids at Every Age and Stage, authors Scott and Bethany Palmer zero in on five different money personalities people can have: 1) Saver, 2) Spender, 3) Security Seeker, 4) Risk Taker, and 5) Flyer (a sort of vague title for people who don't really think about money but rather about relationship). They claim that each individual has two of these money personalities at work in their lives. While it was immediately obvious which two I veer towards (Saver, Security Seeker), I did wonder if all people fall so neatly into two categories, even if my own boys are pretty easy to peg. Both Bryce and Sean are definitely Savers and Trevor is clearly a Spender (that boy wants something every time we enter a store, wants to spend money as soon as he gets it, and is generous with others almost to a fault).

The key message of the book is to speak to your kids based on their personality type and attempt to establish balance. Encourage Spenders to think and plan and rein their impulses in, but encourage Savers to not be so hesitant to spend money having fun with friends. Encourage Security Seekers to realize that some things simply cannot be planned for or avoided and remind Risk Takers that "there are ramifications to their financial decisions." At times it felt like things were a bit too formulaic and that balance seemed to be the only thing the authors were preaching.

The authors assert that they are both Spenders. As a Saver, it was hard for me to believe that it is really okay for Spenders to simply be impulsive and enjoy the act of purchasing things. At one point, the authors mentioned that debt is not necessarily a bad thing. I had to balk at that. It sounded too much like, "Hey, I want to go on a big fancy trip because it is something I value and want to do, therefore I'm simply going to go, even though I know I cannot afford it, and debt be damned." I have a hard time accepting that such thinking is fine and merely an expression of a particular money personality type.

I do think there is always value in addressing your individual children based upon what you know about their personality types. I cannot deal with my ten year old in the same way I do with my eight year old because it simply doesn't work. They are as different as night and day. If only all three of my children were the same (two of them are very similar in personality type and disciplinary responsiveness), it would be easier to raise them to be responsible, contributing citizens of society. Alas, every individual is unique and they pose different challenges. I may not get it right, but I can try my darnedest to understand them and to try to speak their language. Frankly, in the grand scheme of things, I'm worried about more serious parenting challenges than speaking wisdom to my kids in regards to their views on money. Still, the book provided valuable thinking points for that particular topic of parenting.

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