Spending money on your kids at the front end

By Donna Howard

  I took a financial planning class a few years ago. It was just a one-hour class designed to give us some insight into wise money management. The instructor discussed investments and interest rates, and he encouraged us to be careful as we made financial decisions.

   However, he did acknowledge that there are some things that we do that really aren’t smart, speaking in terms of finances, but are important in our own lives.

   I couldn’t help myself. From the back of the room, I said, “Like having children?”

   Everyone turned and looked at me, and then they all burst into laughter.

   “Yes, like that,” the teacher agreed with a smirk.

   A family is a huge financial commitment. Every parent is well aware of that, but it was a farmer named Burke that really drove the point home for me. He also explained how the money should be spent.

   Years ago Burke said something so profound that it has stayed with me ever since. He said, “You are going to spend money on your kids either on the front end or on the back end. You can either spend money on them on the front end giving them talents and opportunities and abilities, or on the back end bailing them out of jail.”

   Now that may not be the exact quote, but it gets his point across. As the father of seven children, six of whom were boys, he was well aware of the mischief children can get into. In his family there were motorcycle wrecks, ruined equipment and farming mishaps. He also knew he was raising a family, not a crop of potatoes.

   Later on he added, “As a young father I was taught that ‘you can invest in your children early or later, and the pay-later cost is a heavy load to carry. I didn’t have to look far to see it was a truth that stood the test of time!’”

   Occasionally parents must deal with costs on both ends. There are outside influences out of our control. However, it’s probably a good idea to stack the cards in our favor.

   A popular meme explains that if you get a child a horse, they will not have any money to spend on drugs. As humorous as that is, there is a lot of truth to that. Besides, they won’t have any time for drugs either.

   If it isn’t going to be a horse, consider a team or a group. Being a part of the marching band or choir or orchestra helps a student feel needed and worthwhile. Working together as a baseball or football team also teaches them responsibility and teamwork. Taking part in a play or musical or working on the set can give a child great satisfaction as they see what they can accomplish when working with others.

   Giving children responsibilities, keeping them busy, helping them be part of a group larger than they are and helping them build their talents is spending money on the front end. Not only is it a lot more fun, it just might help us avoid spending money on the back end bailing them out of jail.

   I would say it’s worth it.

Donna Howard has ten children, has had foster children, runs a business, is a musician and composer and teaches adjunct at BYU-Idaho. She can be reached at music@musicinspiration.com.

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