I have been pondering what to write ahead of Women’s month. Today we welcomed a niece into the world and little Julia gave me a good reason to write about all the things I want her to know about money (and a little about life). She is too young now, but one day, I’d like her to know. My own daughter has just turned eighteen is on the verge of stepping out into the world.
It’s never how much you earn that will decide how much you spend.
Your grandfather gave me this sound advice when I started working for the first time. When I earned my first, meagre salary, I always thought that earning more would help me to be financially free. Of course, it helps to earn more money, but believe me, you will find hundreds of new possibilities to spend your money on. New winter boots. A car. A house. Children. A bigger house with a second garage. Cars for your children. Insurance for all of that. As your needs and wants grow, you will find new avenues to spend your money. The world is very willing to help you think of new things to spend your money on. Your friend has a new dress. You want one too. Everyone is going to holiday overseas. You want to go too. Realise right from the start that you decide what is left after each months’ salary. Realise that not all wants are needs.
Live within your means.
Do not ever borrow money to live a certain lifestyle. Borrowing is for building assets, like buying a house. An asset has the potential to increase in value over time. When you borrow money to spend on clothes, holidays or fridges, you will pay punitive interest to the lender on stuff that only devalues in time. Save for these before you spend the money. Buy them with money you already have, not with money you hope to have the future.
Money is for joy.
Money is a resource, not only necessary to operate in this world, but for channeling need, helping you to fulfill your purpose on earth and making dreams come true. Money isn’t just for spending on what the world wants you to spend on. Money isn’t only for living. When you have money, you are the channel for where it will end up, the steward of this resource. It comes with responsibility and freedom. You will soon see on the family farm how water flows through the furrows to where the gardener wants the water to go. Then, when he wants the water to flow to a different vegetable patch or lane of fruit trees, he closes and opens the sluice gates. This is my enduring picture of channeling resources into the areas where you want it to go. With intention.
You are free to spend it as you please, on make-up and clothes, cars or your career but it won’t necessarily give you joy. Joy comes from living within your means. Joy comes from spending your money on the things or experiences you value. Joy comes from using your money to help other people or the world.
How much money you have, does not determine your value.
How much money you have in your bank account or investments, does not determine your value. You determine your value. Value yourself. You will determine how people treat you and how much they value you. You are inherently valuable, just for being a wonderous and unique human being. There is a hidden jewel in every human being. Never forget that. Do not let anyone destroy or diminish that value. Expect to be treated like someone who is wearing that jewel in a crown. With respect and dignity. Do not let anyone devalue you. Do not even let anyone make you feel unsafe. Protect yourself.
People like employers and customers will try to pay you less than what you are worth. If you do not believe in yourself and claim your worth, people will get away with that. Do not let that happen. Work hard to add value but then claim what you are worth. I hope that by the time you reach working age, there will no longer be a pay gap. Yes, unbelievably, in 2018 the world still pays women less than men for doing the same job.
Money is power.
I know I have just said that money does not determine your worth. But money is a powerful tool to help you get what you want. The cold hard reality is, that those with money, have more resources to get what they want. Money buys education. Money buys opportunities. Money buys access. Money buys privilege.
Even in relationships, the person with more money mostly has the advantage. This will be a tricky traverse in your relationships. Every relationship of your life. There is always power at play and money contributes to power. When you are dependent on your parents, they have the power. When you are dependent on your husband, he will have the power. When you are dependent on your children in your old age, they will have the power. It is not necessarily bad, it’s just tricky and you need to negotiate for yourself.
It brings me to freedom.
Money buys freedom.
Money buys you the freedom to make choices. If you want that freedom, then look to earn enough, save enough, invest enough so that you can make your own choices now and in the future.
What a privilege to welcome you – this little miracle into our lives. All new life is a miracle but not all children are welcomed into the world by parents who thought they they would never have the privilege of holding a daughter. Already know that you are privileged even just to have that. Millions of little girls come into this world unwanted. Unloved. And born into abject poverty with little hope to escape it. You have a head start and you are likely to stay ahead. For my own girls, this is also true. I hope that we raise you to realise the enormous privilege of your childhood. But also, to be grateful for all the good things in your life and even the suffering. All these bring gifts to your life.
There will always be someone who is better off than you. You will always find reason to feel ‘not enough’. However, life is so much better, when seen through the lens of ‘enough’. There is enough for everyone. Enough money. Enough opportunity. Enough of everything. Live through this lens. It starts with being grateful for what you have.
Wishing you a life of enough, little Julia and all the girls in my life.
If you want more practical advice for your younger family members follow our series for young adults by Thiart van der Merwe. You can also book a financial wellness check-up for them with one of our young financial planners.