LAST week, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of high school seniors about personal budgeting, credit and identity theft as part of Bank of Guam’s “Get Smart About Credit” program. Prior to making the presentation – of which I primarily wanted to do on budgeting – I pondered what I was going to present, as my assumption was that the students would have some grasp of the topics. Was I surprised!
To make the presentation interesting, I asked the students to list the items and services they would need to live independently. After listing an apartment, a vehicle, utilities, insurance, food and gasoline, I then asked them to put together another list of things they wanted. This included a cell phone, Internet access, an Xbox, and additional cash for dining out and entertainment. After both lists were completed, I then asked the students to plug in the amounts they believed they would have to have monthly for each item; and this is where it got interesting for them.
After realizing how much they would have to fork out on a monthly basis just to meet the monthly payments on their needs list, many of the students openly wondered how they would be able to afford many of the things they had on their want list. One student even remarked, “What do you mean I can’t have the Xbox?” What the students saw that morning was that while living under mom and dad’s roof, there’s a cost to everything they’ve been provided and that there are consequences when a choice is made to get a want over a need.
While I hope that the students were able to learn a little bit in the short time I was with them, I came away with the thought that maybe our high schools should include a mandatory block of instruction on personal financing and budgeting. I’m sure that it can be included as part of a math or civics course.
Over the weekend, I was told of a family intervention brought on by the lack of attention parents were giving to their children because of their busy lifestyles. What started as a mother’s anger over her teenage son’s disrespectful behavior evolved into a revelation of the son’s frustration over the lack of quality time his parents spend with him and his younger siblings. While the boy acknowledged that his parents were spending a lot to send he and his siblings to a private school and allow them to go places and get things, his parents knew nothing about who he was or what his interests were. When asked if his family regularly sat together at the dinner table, the son replied ‘yes,’ but his mom was always either on her cell phone or texting, and his father was always reading his emails on his laptop. The father didn’t even know that his son knew how to play the guitar.
So why did I go from talking to high school seniors about personal financing to a family intervention due to the lack of quality time? Because one is just as important as the other.
While it is imperative to strive and ensure that we live within our means and provide for the necessities and the desires of our family, it is just as essential that we are attentive to their personal, emotional and spiritual needs. In today’s fast-paced life, we often find that it is easier and less time consuming to rely on fastfood and high-tech gadgets to seemingly please those we are responsible for. But when we begin to replace quality time and meaningful conversations with the ease and convenience brought on by buying things, we blur the difference between what we need and what we want.
So tonight, make a simple dinner that all can enjoy and have a conversation around the table. The memories you’ll create will be worth more than what you can ever buy.