To what extent will you pursue financial freedom, save money, practice delayed gratification? What are you willing to sacrifice?
What about your family? To what extent will you force your family to follow you with the promise of a better future?
A few weeks ago, I was in a fast food that is almost empty because of my odd hour for meals on weekends.
I saw a family of 4, a husband and wife with 2 sons coming in and queueing up to order except for the elder son who was looking at what drinks and other tidbits are on display.
The parents asked the younger son what he wanted to order. Without any questions, the parents bought the younger son what he wanted which was a set meal with drinks.
The older son without being asked by his parents, he told them what he wanted. But the older son was told by the parents to just order a sandwich and share the drink with the younger brother.
What about the parents? Well, the couple ordered a sandwich which they shared with no drinks.
It was a Sunday and for most of us this is the day meant for spending time with the family, sharing stories and just bonding over a nice meal.
But, do you think that is what happened on that day?
I think it was frugality or even taking it a few notches higher bordering on being a miser, a scrooge… I don’t know but I can’t find the exact word to describe it.
Words and actions leave lasting impressions and imprints in the hearts and mind of children which will be more visible in their interaction with other people when they are older.
Here are the possible scenarios of what each family member is thinking and how will it affect the future:
For the younger child, he may be left with the perception that I am always going to get what I want. When he becomes older, he will not be able to handle not getting things or his own way and worse he will not be able to handle rejection.
For the older child, he may get the impression that my parents do not love me enough because they cannot even buy me a drink. He also may be thinking that I hate my brother because he always gets what he want.
Or maybe this will fuel his desire to become rich when he is older in order so that he will be able to buy what he wants. But what if he do become rich but because he never knew generosity when he was young then maybe he could be greedy. It can also turn out that he did learn from that lunch and will generous to people because he knows how it feels to be left wanting.
For the parents, they are thinking I want to save up on the drinks because I want to prepare for my children’s future and maybe also save a bit for our retirement so that we don’t have to rely on them.
But you know what was the lesson I learned on that day: the importance of communication.
What was missing in that whole interaction before my mind went on overdrive to overanalyze the feelings and impact to the future, is the simple explanation from the parents to the children why we can only buy 1 drink.
Oftentimes, we make a decision without consulting our family that they worry or they are upset or they resist the change because after all they were not part of the decision making process.
The children should be involved in the setting of the goals for the family and they need to understand why these goals are important. This will create an atmosphere of trust, support, understanding and transparency.
A second learning can also derived from this whole situation but it is not that evident. The second learning is the importance of creativity. In a given situation or problem, there are many ways to address or solve it. It’s like when you are going home from work, there are many routes that you can take and there is simply not just one route.
So, in this situation, to handle it more creatively, maybe they can order the sandwich for take away and buy a big bottle of drink from a nearby store and they can have the nice meal at the comfort of their home.
Or maybe instead of going out every weekend then just go every other weekend or just once a month and then go to a nicer restaurant and let everyone order what they want.
Relationships with our family is also an investment and we need to put the same value or even higher vs saving money. Saving money does not mean not spending money at all.
Assure them that travels can still happen as long as planned for and saved up for.
Explain to them why you cannot buy the gadget – because it doesn’t support your goal of saving or the goal of going home for good in x number of years. Explain to them the impact if you buy the gadget, it means you will not be able to spend Christmas with the family or maybe I need to stay an extra 1 year overseas.
It is all about striking a balance and making it work for you and your family.
Did you think I went overboard in over-analyzing the meal of that family? Maybe I am not the only one. What about you? What did you think?