Are You As Financially Savvy As A 7th Grader?


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My daughter and I always have a good time together. We have similar personalities, interests and senses of humor. She was aware of our situation as we fought to pay off over $109,000 of credit card debt, and even shared her perspective on our journey in a guest post here on Enemy of Debt. She apparently also paid close attention to how our view on money and what is important in life changed over the last few years have changed.

I found this out through a conversation we had last weekend.

We had gone to the mall to buy a birthday present for her friend. She knew exactly what she wanted to get her friend as we headed directly to a store where she had seen canvas signs with inspirational phrases she thought would be perfect for her friend. She picked out the one she liked the best, as well as some hair ribbons. Exiting the store, she was excited about what she had picked out. She made a comment regarding how it didn’t matter that her gift wasn’t very expensive, because it was a very personal gift she picked out for her friend without even asking her what she wanted for her birthday. She was glad she wasn’t, “That person,” that just gave a gift card.

I smiled, as I remember using this exact reasoning with my wife when we were shopping for holiday gifts last year.

As we were driving out of the mall parking lot, I pointed at a brand new, bright yellow Camaro in the car dealership parking lot across the street and said, “I like that car.” Without looking up from her phone she dropped this on me:

“I don’t understand why people make a big deal about cars. I’m not the kind of person that would spend a whole bunch of money on a car because all it does it get me to places I want to go.”

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to emphasize a couple of important financial concepts, I causally made a couple of points:

  • I commended her for her view point on vehicles. I had her remember the excitement our family had when we purchased a new van a few months ago. Then I asked her if she was still excited about our van. She shook her head and said, “It’s still a nice van, but no, not really.” I told her to remember that the thrill of a new vehicle wears off very quickly.
  • I stated that I would much rather spend my money on great experiences such as family vacations, or running marathons which create memories that will last forever. Memories last a lifetime, while things like a new car will eventually wear out. I went on to tell her that I have great memories from all three marathon’s I’ve run. Testing me a little, she asked me to tell her some of my memories from my very first marathon. Which, of course, I was able to do easily.

Driving the rest of the way home in mostly silence, I summarized to myself the different life lessons my daughter and I talked about:

  • Personalized gifts mean more than expensive gifts
  • Expensive cars are a waste of money because the thrill of a new car is gone quickly
  • Life experiences and memories are better than material things

Those are some fairly advanced, yet important topics to be discussing with my seventh grade daughter. I hope they sink in.

How about you, EOD Nation, have YOU learned these lessons? Are you as financially savvy as a 7th grader?

About Travis

38 Responses to “Are You As Financially Savvy As A 7th Grader?”

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  1. I don’t get the car thing either. As long as it works, has good gas mileage, and is safe, I’m all set. As for gifts- I’m an experience giver. I use groupon and amazon local to find great, memorable, affordable, and personal gifts.

  2. I am now. By our example I hope our children understand the value of experiences, and personalization over material things too.

  3. Michelle says:

    Love this. And, yes, I am as financially savvy as a 7th grader. If only I didn’t have my student loans! I love that your daughter understood that experiences mean more than stuff. I took my mom to NYC for a mommy/daughter weekend last year. If was a wonderful, wonderful experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    • Travis says:

      Sounds like a great trip, Michelle, and I’m glad it gave you fabulous memories that you get to have for a lifetime. I hope that my daughter can back up the perspective I’m teaching her with experiences of her own. She’s at a point in her life where great memories are made!

  4. What a great conversation! I’d like to think I am actually. Although I must admit I do like getting gift cards. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      I don’t mind getting gift cards either, Tonya……but I treasure gifts even more that show that a person really knows me. For example, anything grilling related. Just in case your shopping anytime soon…my birthday is in December. 🙂 LOL.

  5. Kathy says:

    Although I personally do not need a lot of material possessions to be happy, I do find it a little presumptuous to declare on behalf of the entire population that experiences are better. Personally, I don’t like to travel, which, I know, seems to be blasphemy in the personal finance world. I am scared to death of flying and the whole flying experience usually leaves me angry in addition to being afraid. The security lines, baggage fees, seat selection fees etc. totally ruin the trip for me. Everyone is an individual and we need to be careful not to proclaim what is best for one is also best for all.

    • Travis says:

      I understand your point, Kathy, and I wouldn’t necessarily assert that experiences are better for everyone….they are however more important to me, and thus that is what I’m trying to pass along to my daughter. I would put forth that experiences don’t necessarily mean travel – or at a minimum the kind of travel you describe. We had a fantastic family vacation at the Wisconsin Dells- a two hour car ride from our home. The marathons I mentioned are also just a few hours drive away. I’m also talking about get togethers with friends for football games, special occasions, or sitting on the deck during the summer “just because.” Personally, I would take that over some shiny new object any day. But, I do understand that one’s person paradise is not necessarily the same oasis of pleasure to the next person. 🙂 Thanks for the constructive thoughts!

  6. Love this, Travis! Your daughter is so wise and it’s amazing what they pick-up, even without us telling them. I’m a big believer in experiences over materials goods too. Not that we don’t like nice things, because we do. 🙂 I will eventually forget about an outfit that I love today or the throw pillows on my sofa but I will always remember our afternoons as the beach or time at my father’s cabin or running my first marathon with Lauren. So special.

    • Travis says:

      Kids are always watching….always. Whether they admit it or not (and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this) they look up to their parents, watch how they react to situations, and emulate them – good or bad. Might as well give them great examples to follow, right?

  7. It’s great that she is formulating healthy money habits at an early age. Way to try to trip her up, Dad, pointing out a yellow sports car. hee hee

    • Travis says:

      LOL, it wasn’t on purpose, I assure you. The bright yellow Camaro (like Bumblebee in the Transformers) is an awesome looking car. I would likely never buy one…but damn that thing is sharp looking!

  8. I also don’t understand the whole car thing. To me a car is just a means of transportation; something to get me to point A to point B. So I guess I’m as savvy as a 7th grader in that sense.

    • Travis says:

      That’s great, Aldo…it’s a tough concept that many people don’t agree with. Some people LOVE their cars. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s where you choose to spend your money. But I think there’s a difference between buying a car, loving it, taking great care of it as a prized possession….and using it as a status symbol and throwing your money away trading it in year after year for a new one. Thanks for reading!

  9. Kathy J says:

    I LOVE finding bargains for gifts….even if it’s spending $3.00 on a gift that I know that person would like and/or appreciate. It really IS the thought that counts.

    However, I am one of THOSE PEOPLE who love gift cards. Because I’ll use my Amazon gift card from my birthday to buy my expensive shampoo along with a new purse or craft items I wouldn’t buy unless I had that gift card.

    I’m driving around in a 1997 Saturn SL1 with 163,000 miles on it. It looks like a palomino (spotted from oxidization of the sun). It’s to the point that I don’t driver further than 1/2 hour to 45 minutes from my house with it. I would love to have a new car with all the bells and whistles but I’m driving a vehicle which gets me from point a to point b without a car payment.

    I’m saving up to buy a new(er) vehicle in the near(er) future and I’ll be putting much, much larger downpayment because of not having those pesky monthly payments right now.

    Kathy J

    PS Travis – I’ve JUST scheduled my LAST payment with CareOne today!! Woohoo!!

    • Travis says:

      Hey, if you really do love gift cards, there’s nothing wrong with them every now and then. But I suspect from your comment you appreciate a good, well thought out gift as well. LOVE that you scheduled your last payment…THAT’S AWESOME! I’m so happy and proud of you, my friend….how does it feel?????

      • Kathy J says:

        It feels good right now….however, it’s going to feel AMAZING once it’s actually paid off and I see those wonderful zero’s on my statements!

  10. So many great things here, Travis! You are spending time with your daughter helping with what is important to her. She feels secure enough in your relationship to share with you her motivations, and you listen to her. She understands how Dad did debt wrong, and has experienced the struggle (and rewards) of doing money right. Keep up the good work…

    • Travis says:

      Thanks, Grant…..I love hanging out with my daughter. She may only be 12, and I may be a bit biased as her father, but she’s just an awesome person. As my kids have grown into preteens and teenagers, I’ve realized that being a parent entails so much than just keeping them safe, fed, and clothed. There’s SO MUCH that we can teach them to get them ready for the day they’ll head out on their own – I’m LOVING it!

  11. This is so sweet! Your daughter is one smart cookie. She has things figured out that grown adults still struggle with. Kudos!

  12. I think your daughter is more immune to societal pressures than a majority of adults! She’s got a good point, though. I’ve driven older, “crappier” cars the past few years but why wouldn’t I? No car payment and they were running fine (well, until my Saturn became border-line unsafe). I think when it comes to cars it should be more about reliability than anything. If you can get a “cheaper” reliable car, that’s a win in my books.

    • Travis says:

      You have no idea, DC, just how little she cares about social pressures. There was some drama between two of her friends, and one of them was trying to draw her into it. She just shrugged and changed the subject – she wanted no part of it. She’s a lot like me…keep life simple, and life will be easier!

  13. Kim says:

    I do believe kids learn from example. You have the rare occasion where they turn out opposite from parents as far as financial ways, but I think the majority either do the same as parents or have no clue what to do because their parents never talked about money. I think seeing you struggle and win over debt has set a really good base for future decisions. I’m so glad we got out of debt while our daughter was small and I will always use any opportunity to talk about the value of money and why we spend and save as we do. Although, I do love to give and get gift cards!

    • Travis says:

      I hope seeing Vonnie and I work through our issues successfully makes a HUGE impact on her, Kim. The thing that concerns me is that my parents taught me all the right things too….but I went on to throw it all out the window and make HUGE mistakes. Although the one thing I didn’t see was the consequences of handling money the wrong way…..which she has. Hopefully it makes a difference! Thanks so much for your thoughts!

  14. I think you initiated the conversation so wisely – based on what she had done and said. I make the mistake of trying to pass on financial wisdom to my children completely out of context. They roll their eyes back and sigh. I’m going to try your method of being awake to the times when they do something or say something that allows me to build on it. Tricky – but way more effective than my random lectures.

    • Travis says:

      I’ve learned to wait for just the right opportunity, and I try not to “firehose” them with finance talk. Financial lessons for kids is a dessert best served sparingly. But if pointed out at the right time, can make a huge impact. That being said, I still get the eyeroll every now and then too. 🙂

  15. Mackenzie says:

    What a great and informative conversation you had with your daughter, Travis 🙂 I don’t get the deal with shiny new cars either. I don’t understand people that spend $75,000 to $100,000 grand on a vehicle. Mind-blown, seriously…

    But I do like gift-cards 😉

    • Travis says:

      I love that she was very receptive to the conversation too…it wasn’t me just telling her stuff, it was a real conversation where we exchanged ideas. That makes me feel like the lessons will stick. Great to hear from you Mackenzie!

  16. Wow, Travis – what a valuable conversation!! I’m still excited that I don’t care about the thrill of a new car anymore: I hadn’t thought about having that conversation with the kids yet. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      I had to laugh when I read your comment, Laurie – I had a vision of getting in a car, and being all giddy because I felt NOTHING about my car. It seems like a strange vision…..but it’s TRUE!

  17. Kathy from CT says:

    Very good post. You must be so proud of her. So rewarding when our actions have a positive impact on our children. Was struck by your comment about you being taught correctly re finances and throwing it all out the window. The oldest of my 3 boys is like that…..needs to learn his lessons the hard way. Well, so did I, and the terrible feeling still can be felt 30+ years later for me. Guess that make it the silver lining. That I don’t ever want to feel that pain again. Am glad I will still young enough at the time to be able to recoup my losses.

    Laughed about the new car story. Our vehicles are 9-15 years old, and we know it is just a matter of time before we have to get a new one. Well, new to us, as it will definitely be a used vehicle about 2 years old. Fortunately, when one of us is in the “oh, look … shiny new car” mentality the other one is not. However, there will come a day when we have no other choice. Meanwhile, we keep squirreling money into the new-vehicle fund so we can pay most if not all of it in cash.

    Am proud of your daughter….and of you and Vonnie for being so open about your journey.

    • Travis says:

      The best part of your comment is the checks and balances you and your spouse have – one is in the mood to buy something shiny, the other is not. It always helps to have one person grounded…even if temporarily….to make you really think about a purchase.

      We are extremely proud of our daughter as well. sometimes it’s hard to be open about our journey, but I figure if sharing it helps even one person it’s worth it! Thanks for sharing your experiences, Kathy!

  18. Talaat says:

    Yes I do believe that I am as a savvy as a 7th grader. However, I was not that savvy when I actually was in the 7th grade lol. Great job with your daughter she sounds like she’s off to a fantastic start in life.

    • Travis says:

      Me neither, Talaat….I’m hoping she retains her perspective as she moves into adulthood. It’s my job to help make sure that happens!!!! Thanks for reading!

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