The Thanksgiving dinner table offers a great opportunity for parents to tutor their children towards future success. As you pass the mashed potatoes, consider passing along family stories—your stories—of planning, saving and frugal spending. Make the stories lively and real. Give your kids a reason to believe your stories could someday be their own stories.
Here’s a sampling of subject-course pairs you might find useful in your never-ending quest to boost your child’s success aptitude:
Things start off light, usually a raw vegetable tray or a bowl of fruit topped with a dollop of raspberry sherbet. It’s really just a tease for what’s to come.
This is the course when the youngest of children are most engaged. Capture that enthusiasm with tales from your youthful exploits of lemonade stands, paper routes or the equivalent.
Don’t emphasize the work (but don’t ignore it, either). Instead, glorify the fruits of that labor. The money you earned as a kid might seem like small change now, but it was a wad of cash back then. What joys did you convert it into? Do your kids have similar wants? How might they acquire those goods without writing a check on the Bank of Mommy or Daddy?
There’s nothing like a light broth to warm your insides without filling you up before the main course. The younger kids might begin to sway here, but the serious always appreciate this delicious portion.
Liquidity is a common need at almost all stages of life. Do you remember a time when you thought you’d get by on credit only to find the check-out counter said “cash only”? What did you do? What lesson did you take away from that? How did that experience better prepare you for the next time? When was the next time and how important was it for you to have ready cash at that point?
Remember, you’re telling a personal story involving money, but it should evoke more feeling and less finance. Your kids will retain it better when they are entertained by your vivid emotion than lectured with your dour experience.
No matter how solid the plan, there’s always room for contingency. That’s what the extra cash is for. Plan on it, even if you’ve never used it.
Unlike the previous courses, the salad has a more tactile impression. It’s so real you can hear it crunch in your mouth. And the sweet vinegar base of its dressing tingles in your mouth. It’s a savory sensation.
Everybody likes salad—or at least they say they do. Here’s your chance to regale them with the grandness of green. And by “green,” make it obvious you mean money. This is the story of the grand slam, your biggest success, the time you took a chance and reaped a much larger reward.
Yes, risk is OK. It’s more than OK. It’s a requirement. The Pilgrims took a risk. Weave the Thanksgiving celebration into your own story of the risk you took to get the green. Go ahead, add some croutons to the dish if you like.
And don’t worry if some of your retellings include a turkey or two. After all, sometimes the best way to learn is to make mistakes first. The bonus for your kids is they don’t have to make the same mistakes you did. They can make their own mistakes and then accomplish more than you did!
We’ve now arrived to the meat and potatoes of the meal. These represent the heavy-duty nutrients, the headliners on this cavalcade of culinary stars. Sure, you’ve got a few green beans and a cranberry concoction on the side, as well as some rolls and butter to further fill your belly.
But the actual attractions are the turkey, stuffing and sweet (and/or mashed) potatoes. Everything before this was just practice. Now comes the real thing.
The road to success contains many enjoyable and satisfying side dishes. The road, however, remains the main dish. It is the spine of your success. It may contain multiple careers in different industries, but it always has one common thread: you.
If you’ve primed them properly, your children will yearn to hear those events which have framed your success. They’ll now be ready to absorb your adventures in the jungles of long hours, hard work and corporate competition.
They want to listen to your winning strategies because they’ll wonder if they’re made of the same stuff. Over the years, as they grow more confident, they’ll pay rapt attention to those same stories again in hopes of determining how to employ similar strategies in their own lives.
Don’t hesitate to allow them to extract the nitty gritty details from you. Be proud of what you’ve done. Be more proud of what your kids will do.
At this point, everyone sits sated, too filled to move. Yet, the sweet temptation of pumpkin (or apple, or cherry, or chocolate banana or even lemon meringue) pie calls you. And you cannot deny it.
You casually nibble at small, bite-sized pieces in a relaxed, elongated way. This being the final course, there’s no rush, there’s no deadline. There’s only calm, easy, comfort surrounded by those you love most.
Isn’t that what retirement is all about? Doesn’t this part of the meal offer the perfect metaphor for a life well lived, the epitome of success?
Let your children know of your retirement plans, how they came to be and how you’ve prepared for them over your entire working life. Excite them by showing your own excitement for retirement. Describe how it represents a new beginning, one that you’ve long looked forward to.
You’re either on the cusp or well within demonstrable financial success. You are the role model for your children. No one else is. No one else can be. No one else should be. Embrace this duty and share your success with your children.
Heck, if you’ve succeeded in getting them pumped up to achieve their own financial success, the time is ripe to bring up the idea of having them start on the road to a comfortable retirement by showing them how to establish a Child IRA.
Finally, as they sip from their glass and you drink from your cup remind them of this crucial fact: drinks are a separate charge.
That’s when that contingency cash in your pocket comes in most handy.