What should you tell your little dudes and dudettes about how much money you make?
It’s a question some people don’t have to worry about. After all, if you’re living hand to mouth, from paycheck to paycheck, then the question of finances and affordability is something that will be discussed at length and among most of the family.
However, if you are lucky enough to be able to make a good living, are in a situation in which you can afford to purchase most if not all of the items your child wants or needs, then you’ve certainly got a couple of decisions to make as your child grows older and a bit more inquisitive.
Money talks. It also shouts and screams and, on occasions, yodels.
Still, no matter how much noise money makes, we like to keep how much we have a bit of a secret. For that reason, a lot of parents will withhold their annual salary or their total net worth from the young dudes in the house. After all, you wouldn’t want the little dudette to go around bragging to all her friends that you make a ton of money, especially if their parents don’t make that much, so they would feel bad. Or the reverse.
If you’re the type to hold back how much money you have from your young dude for whatever reason, then you’ll need to consider a few things when the inevitable question comes up.
Firstly, you need to determine just how ready the little dudette is to hear the answer.
It’s probably pointless to give a straight answer on income to a child who hasn’t gotten beyond three figures in math class. The same thing is true with a 10- or 12-year-old math whiz if you haven’t yet explained to them all of the costs involved in your daily life. Context matters, a lot.
If your little darlings learn you make $32,000 a year, they’re liable to think they’re rich and begin upping their Christmas expectations accordingly. Mostly because they haven’t factored in the appallingly high cost of, for instance, raising several little yard apes.
Speaking of context, when the question does come up, you might want to steer the conversation back around to trying to find out why your little dude wants to know about money. Are they worried about being kicked out of their house because they overheard an argument about money? Are the trying to figure out how much they’ll have to make when they get a job so they can still live like they’re used to doing with you? Are they in an appendage-measuring contest with the kid down the street and trying to see who’s richer?
Reasons, like context, matter. Frivolous reasons merit frivolous answers that will, while not actually proffer a lie, then fluff the little dudette off with no actual numbers, but a vague sense of the correct answer.
Other curious children may be trying to figure out what they would need to earn to have a life as an adult like the one they have as a teenager. In that case, you could talk about salaries for jobs like the ones they’re interested in, deflecting the conversation away from the jobs you have.
Or, if you have a child on your hands who is truly ready, you could just answer the question without a lot of heavy breathing.
My wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Bringing Home The Bacon Right And Not Letting Me Forget I’m A Man, and I decided that we would go the comparison route. We didn’t name actual numbers, but we did say we’re well off. That is, we’re not rich, but we make enough money combined that the kids don’t need to worry about money for reasonable expenses.
We’re not going to be going out and buying a top-of-the-line sports car for each little dude as they reach 16, but they won’t be walking everywhere either.
How you do it is up to you. However, like most things in parenting, preparation makes it much easier.