The first step to your children embracing a save, spend and share mentality begins with you. You need to lead by example. Your children observe how you interact with money. Do you resent it? Love it? Complain about it? Sneak purchases behind your spouse’s back?

Guess what? Your children are watching and shaping their own money beliefs based upon their observations of you. They will do as you do.

Are you scared yet? Don’t be. Now is your chance to model good financial behavior to your children.

When my daughter was three, my husband and I started talking about how we–as a family–were going to save, spend and share our money. When she got a case of the “I wants”, we’d remind her of our goals. More often than not, we didn’t even have to tell her no. She wanted us to use the money as intended–a vacation to Hawaii–rather than on a new doll for her.

The next step is setting your family save, spend and share goals using your discretionary income.

Most of us tend to overestimate how much money we have available after we pay our bills, so let me help you figure it out.

You have two obligations every month:

Fixed Expenses including mortgage/rent, utilities and groceries. Fixed Savings including Retirement, college savings and emergency funds. This is a small sampling of the type of monthly expenses you may have. See attached worksheet for a more comprehensive list of expenses.

Please note: the savings goal of save, spend and share is very different from your fixed monthly savings obligation. Your monthly savings obligation funds your future retirement, your children’s college education and pays for unexpected events, such as a job loss, a flat tire and so on. Your family savings goal is intended for something the entire family will enjoy, such as a vacation or big-screen TV.

I’ve attached a basic worksheet that outlines typical expenses and savings obligations to help you determine your discretionary income. You’ll need to complete this prior to setting your family’s save, spend and share goals.

Some of you may be worried that you’ve dug yourself into a big financial pit that you can’t escape and won’t want to do this exercise.

Well, after 20 years of working with clients, I can tell you a couple of things:

  1. It’s rarely as bad as you think it is. Often times it only takes a few tweaks, and you’re headed in the right direction.
  2. If it really is that bad, then there is no better time for someone to drop a ladder into your money pit and help you climb out.

Remember, you’re modeling good financial behavior to your kids. Your kids seeing you take control of your finances is a behavior you’ll be proud to have them emulate or do as you do.

If you have questions about modeling behavior or figuring out your discretionary income, please leave a comment below or email me at

June 29, 2012  •  Comment  •  Children and Money

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  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan