I have played soccer most of my life and through many years of playing experienced the sour taste of losing and the joys of victory. Trust me, I prefer one over the other and I’m sure you can guess which one I’m referring to. I’m pretty certain that nobody likes losing, however in order to become better at something one must lose sometimes to improve for the future.
Soccer is one of the most enduring sports out there. You’re on the pitch for 90+ minutes of non stop and go. In order to outlast the 90 minutes of performing your best on the pitch you need to be in some sort of physical shape. The better shape that you’re in, the easier that the game becomes. I’ll comfortably say this now; NOBODY (regardless of their genetics) plays 90+ of soccer without facing physical discomfort. Winners don’t become winners without facing some adversity. Championships are not won without dedication, endurance, training and hunger to win.
Financial success is very much like playing soccer or any other physical, athletic ability. Physical activities and financial success share the same common idea – without some pain there is no gain.
Growing up as a small family of four, my brother (and my self) were rarely given money freely. Opportunities were there for taking, but we were never handed anything. Our immigrant parents were not in a position to distribute money willingly, instead they were too busy keeping food on the table and providing a roof over our heads. Despite tough love on money we never struggled as a family. There were tough moments and most of the times the budget was tight, but the basics such as food, shelter and clothing were always there.
My parents were and still are loving human beings. And despite their enormous love for their two kids, they never believed in the idea of “helping their kids financially, because they don’t want to see them struggle”. In my younger days, I never really understood this concept, especially during my teen years. I had friends drive newer cars while I was driving a old beater, a rusted 1993 Mazda 323. Could my parents have dipped into their tight savings pool and purchased that new car for me? Sure! Yet they never did. They didn’t want to financially enable me, because I would have never learned the true value of a dollar and the struggle to earn that dollar.
Training to be in game shape for soccer is a struggle; training to win that soccer tournament is a struggle; training for financial independence is a struggle. Not struggling promotes weakness, no matter what the discipline.
Parents who gift money to their kids are not promoting financial discipline, instead they’re pulling the strings to get their kid onto the all-star soccer team. So, what happens when they get into the all-star game? They’re hammered hard, simply because they haven’t worked their butts off to get into that all-star game. Everyone else competed, outlasted, out endured, and outplayed others to get there. Everyone else tasted the bittersweet struggle to get to that goal. The wildcard kid didn’t struggle, instead they were handed a free pass.
One key difference that money and soccer don’t share is bluffing. Financially anyone can bluff their way to a nice house, fancy car and multiple vacations per year through the use of credit. In soccer you either got the skill and endurance or you don’t. If you do have what it takes, it will show on the pitch. On the other hand if you don’t have what it takes, it will show even more, only to be subbed off for the next guy who’s eagerly waiting for his opportunity to shine.
My parents raised myself and my younger brother on a combined salary of $45K per year. And by not “giving” us free passes and making us working to obtain our wants, they were helping us build our financial muscles. Did I know this then? Hell NO! Did I understand the approach, absolutely not, but fifteen years later I’m fully starting to understand their approach then. It’s what made both me and my brother who we are today, both educated and financially self sufficient through hard work.
Through my parents relentless tight approach to money and by not giving away money, they taught us two financial life lessons:
1. Delay of Instant Gratification
Since most of my peers drove “newer” cars, I wanted one as well. Almost fifteen years later, I’ve yet to own a “newer” car. Presently on my fourth car since becoming a licensed driver, none of my previous cars (including my present one) was anything but a beater.
I always wanted that nice sports car, but could never afford it. My parents never stood as an obstacle between me and my dream car. The only obstacle was a financial one. I couldn’t afford the sportier car. I’ll never forget buying my 2000 Saab 9-3. I saved $4,500 through laboring my self in a factory over the summer. Eventually school came and $7,500 needed to be paid to start my post-secondary education. The car became out of question. My parents wanted to me to to school over buying a new car.
Due to my parents tough love, I eventually forgo-ed the car and went off to school. I continued to work part-time for another 8 months, and finally I purchased the Saab. More importantly I realized the importance of education and that a car can always wait. In the end everything worked out, I purchased the car with the help of my parents pitching in $1,000 towards helping me buy the Saab for a hefty price of $5,500 which was a lot of money back then. The moral of the story was the delay of my instant gratification.
2. Saving for Education
In my opinion, one of the worst things a parent can do is pay full pop for their children’s education. Thankfully my parents never did that. I funded my education part trough savings, part through grants and another part through government assistance. I still remember when I started saving for my education in the late 90s after I got my first job working in the local McDonalds drive-thru part-time.
Today both me and my brother are educated. I finished my education and endured some student loans. My brother is wrapping up his teachers college, has a college diploma and a degree in Criminology. And after 7 years of schooling, he’ll endure $21K of student debt. Does it suck coming out of school and in debt? Yeah it does! However, he’s prepared to tackle the student loan debt and we’re working out a plan of attack to pay down his student loan debt in a short amount of time.
Going back to my parents again, looking back I think my parents provided their kids (there two of us) with the things in life that truly matter most: love, time and support.
They didn’t have money to throw around, so this necessitated that we develop reasonable financial skills if we wanted something material, beyond what we actually “needed”. Like many kids, we had part-time jobs from a really young age.
Growing up we participated in something I call hand-me-downs (from clothes to bicycles to cars), we recycled everything before recycling even became popular.
Today my parents are in a much stronger financial position and even if they were to go back in time, with more money, knowing what they know today, I think they would do everything the same way. They wouldn’t give us money, even if they had it. It’s the way that they were brought up and that’s the same way that they brought up the two of us.
What do you think of the DIY financial approach parents use with their kids today?