Which Financial Legacy Will You Leave to Your Children?

Ruth wrote last week about how wonderful it feels to now be able to leave her children a concrete legacy of freedom from money worries. And it got me thinking: What is it that we want to pass down to our children in terms of a financial education?

Ruth and her hubby had a choice: they had a choice between two things.

  1. The choice to continue in financial irresponsibility, continue spending recklessly and continue drowning in debt
  2. The choice to take control, assess their situation, make a plan to reduce spending, dump debt and secure their financial future

Luckily for Ruth, she and her hubby chose option number two and are now on the last leg of a journey to be totally and completely debt free – including their mortgage.

The Matter of Choice in Debt Reduction

There have been LOTS of sacrifices to attain this goal. Ruth talks a lot on her other blog about foregoing vacations and other goodies in favor of paying down debt.

Ruth and her husband have chosen to put extra monies toward debt instead of spending them on immediate gratification items, even when that meant foregoing a trip to Disney that they well could’ve afforded in favor of being safe and continuing to work on that mortgage debt reduction due to the recent decline in the value of the Canadian dollar.

In our family, it’s been much of the same. We started with a MUCH higher debt-to-income ratio than Ruth and much lower income. Thus, our journey has been longer. But the sacrifices are still there: little-to-no restaurant trips, clothes only when necessary and finding ways to spend as little as possible when we do need to buy.

Perseverance Through Failure

There have been slip ups in this area for us, as there are for most people on a journey to debt freedom: last year when we went through some very serious family crises, our spreadsheet reflected our fall back into emotional spending. The outcome wasn’t good: we undid much of our debt-freedom progress due to our choice to handle the stress with emotional spending.

When the crises started subsiding in the fall and we started to work on living in recovery mode instead of survival mode, we looked at our new, higher debt numbers with serious discouragement.

At that point, we knew we were facing a fork in the road. We had a choice to make.

Would we begin again, living extra frugally and working to pay down debt?

Or would we give up, saying “What’s the use?” Or, “We’ll never get out of debt. Why bother trying?”

Believe me when I tell you that the temptation to give up was more than strong. But one question kept playing in the back of our minds:

What kind of financial message do we want to send our children out into adulthood with?

We both grew up in families that struggled with money. Much of our extended family also struggled with – and still struggles with – money management.

As we sat and assessed this problem – what I like to call a generational curse – we asked ourselves “why”?

Why would we even consider not getting off of this debt train? “Everyone” in our family may do it. But that does not mean we have to. 

It may be easier to live with debt. It may be more comfortable to resist change and avoid the hard work and sacrifice of a debt free journey.

But, as the old saying goes, if you want to have something different than you’ve always had, you must do something different than you’ve always done.

So, we chose to begin again.

So far this year, we’ve been phenomenally successful at living on a shoestring budget. Once again we are making positive strides toward debt freedom. And thanks to lots of prayer and continuing self-education in the area of personal finances, we’re implementing some changes that could see us debt free (except for the mortgage) by the end of 2016.

My friends, change is never easy. Discipline is never easy. Self-diagnosing your issues and working to overcome them is never easy.

However, when done right, these things bring lasting changes that improve life for the long haul. And those changes are constantly being monitored by the children you raise.  So the question becomes, what financial habits do you want your kids to go into adulthood with?

And how are you going to model those habits so that your children see the positive results that those habits bring?

Will you model a lack of control and discipline when it comes to money management? Or will you model a “take charge” attitude that puts your family on the road to financial well-being?

As our friend Brian points out, “You can’t out-earn stupidity with money.”

No amount of income will solve your money problems for the long-term. But self-discipline, a solid plan, a solid “why” and the choice to persevere will.

What will you choose? 


*Photo courtesy of American Advisors Group


11 comments on “Which Financial Legacy Will You Leave to Your Children?

  1. When crisis hits, it is very difficult to focus on something like debt-reduction. The more immediate stress takes over, and relatively speaking, personal finances don’t even seem to matter. Been there. It does seem to be the case that things have to be ticking along pretty well in order for good strides in debt-reduction to be made – which is a cruel irony because many people who are in financial crisis are also in health or relational or employment crisis at the same time, and as the finances get worse, so does everything else. I’m SO glad that you’re back on a positive path again. I really, really hope that you make that 2016 goal of debt-free besides the mortgage! I bet you can just taste it!

  2. I definitely want to teach my child good money values and do not want her to learn money lessons the hard way like I did. Good luck to you on your debt-reduction journey for 2016! You can do it 🙂

    1. I hear you, Mackenzie!!! One of the reasons we are being so open with our children is so that they can see the sufferings we occur because of the debt and hopefully not fall into the same trap. Thank you!!!!!

  3. So great to hear that you are making progress to be consumer debt free by the end of this year! So looking forward to this for you guys. Its so tempting during a stressful or difficult patch to think about giving up. It’s an easy choice. The hard work and sacrifice will be over in an instant, but the lasting negative effects of that one decision will last a lifetime. Pushing through to the positive, back to the end goal or the “why” always helps. No bigger reason for me than my three children. I get so excited to think of them going out to the world on their own armed with such knowledge that I never had at their age.

    1. Me too, Brian!! I feel like we are giving our four so much by letting them see this first-hand journey from struggling with debt to financial freedom.

  4. How exciting that you’ll be consumer debt free this year – woo hoo!!

    I love this part: “My friends, change is never easy. Discipline is never easy. Self-diagnosing your issues and working to overcome them is never easy.” That really is the crux of the issue for most of us. (Pointing at self in mirror!)

    1. Lord willing. 🙂 Yes, that has been one of the hardest parts of this journey – the job of continuing to look in the mirror and face up to our mistakes. But I know it will benefit us in the long run.

  5. Great post! We want to teach our kids to be responsible with their money, of course, but we also want to teach them to be generous. My son is excited to give to charitable causes now at four, but I realize that he doesn’t have to pay for much and doesn’t understand money yet. I’m not sure what the road to teaching them generosity will look like, but we hope to continue modeling and encouraging this value.

    1. We work to teach our kids the same thing. As we’ve focused on giving where led, the money always seems to be there. 🙂

  6. A lot of great quotes in here! Loved this one: “No amount of income will solve your money problems for the long-term. But self-discipline, a solid plan, a solid “why” and the choice to persevere will.”

    There are a lot of things you cant control. But what you can control – discipline, a plan, a solid “why” – are more important than anything else. Regardless of what career you choose (social worker vs world class surgeon) you can always use money in a way that makes your life better…but you can also use it in a way that makes it worse. The choice is yours.

    This is probably our biggest “Why”. Having children is a great reminder that this stuff matters. Not because we want to filthy rich, but because we want to be good role models.

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