I visited relatives this week (hence the sudden disappearance), and was able to spend some quality time with family. As usual, I like to get into conversations about finances, because I love learning how people tick. Finances may be an off-topic conversation in some families, and I don’t think everyone should divulge every financial details to everyone they know, but finances can be a fun dinner conversation. Plus, this family had something that I don’t: Teenagers!
Money Is Not Real
I began the conversation very subtly, because I didn’t want to pry…
Me: “Hey Cuz, tell me, what do you think about money?”
Cousin: “Uhhh……I dunno. What about it?”
Me: “Well, do you have any?”
Cousin: “Nope. I don’t have any money. None.”
Aunt: “What? Yes you do. You have money in savings. You know, Christmas and Birthday money. We started it for you years ago. You have money.”
Cousin: “Yeah, but I can’t use that money.”
Me: “Ahhhhh, very interesting. So you’re saying that money doesn’t exist unless you can spend it?”
Cousin: “I dunno. I guess so.”
I haven’t ever really thought about this, since I began saving money as soon as I could get my hands on it. But kids these days (wow I feel old saying that) need tangible evidence that their money even exists. And I suspect that it isn’t just a generational thing, but that there are many others who feel the same way, and their spending patterns reflect that.
Connect The Dots
And the conversation continued:
Me: “Ok, so let me get this straight; You have money in savings, set aside for the future. But it doesn’t feel like real money to you because you can’t touch it. Is that correct?”
Me: “Do you know what you are doing with that money?”
Cousin: “No, it’s just savings.”
Me: “Let me put it this way; do you have any big goals coming up? Anything you really, really want?”
Cousin: (without skipping a beat): “A Car!”
Me: “Ahhh, so your money is real. That money that you can’t touch is going toward something much more awesome that a new skateboard or mall food. You’ve got a big goal in mind.”
Me: “What would you do if you had money now instead of later?”
Cousin: “Probably spend it.”
It took a little prying, but I was able to connect the dots and show him that money that you can’t touch can be EVEN MORE REAL than a little cash in his pocket now. And all it took was digging in a bit to see what motives him. And, for most 13 year old boys, the answer is invariably going to be some sort of transportation. And though this conversation seemed pretty simple, something magical happened. I got a teenage boy to imagine. I got him to visualize a goal that would motivate him to save money rather than spend it. And even if he forgot this conversation seconds after it was over, I don’t think he’ll be able to shake the image of owning his own car someday, and now that goal is forever connected with delaying spending now for a bigger reward later.
How To Motivate Someone To Save Money
We chatted a bit more, but he left to go whatever it is that teenage boys do these days (I found out later that it was watching YouTube videos of extreme BMX bikers). I chatted with my aunt a bit more on kids and money, and talked to my uncle as well. I was trying to get to the bottom of how to motivate your kids to save money. Setting goals is a big one, and asking them directly what their goals are is a great way to help them attach those goals to their own personal money management. But I wanted to come up with an absolute formula or surefire method of getting kids to manage their money well, value savings and build wealth.
And then I realized that’s what every single personal finance guru is working on. There is no “perfect” way of managing your finances, otherwise it wouldn’t be called “personal” finance. Dave Ramsey has his method, other bloggers have their own formula, and I’ve got my budgeting basics. My hope is to help as many people as possible, but I know I can’t help everyone. People want a formula (a2+b2 = rich), but I believe the best policy is to teach guiding principles, and let each person define what motivates them.
So, if you want to know how to motivate someone to save money, the answer is to simply ask them. And use those answers to help come up with some tangible goals that they can achieve. And then give those goals a timeline. Once there, most people will start to see that their dreams and goals are not just wishful thinking, but something they can actually do!
What Motivates You?
My cousin is a teenage boy who wants to have a car in the future. That is his main motivation for his money that “didn’t exist” before our little conversation. As he brings in money from odd jobs, or allowance, or whatever, that car will always be in the back of his mind, and hopefully is motivation enough to put that money away in his savings account. I don’t know about you, but as a kid, a car was a strong motivator!
So that’s my question for you. What motivates you? Why aren’t you saving more money? What is stopping you from setting some goals and making them happen?
Everyone has something that drives them. Everyone. Find out what that is, and start living like it.