Toddlers can teach adults about money. Yes, it’s true.
The fact that you can learn something from a toddler to improve your money life might seem to be a farfetched premise, but stick with me.
The success of our money life is based on our money mindset, which is derived from our money history.
Those experiences, especially for those who find it difficult to navigate their money life successfully or comfortably, create our beliefs, behaviors, and habits. For better or worse, and whether they help us move towards our goals or not, they become our normal.
Think of it as your operating system. For those struggling, several situations might be front and center that are preventing you from achieving your financial goals and/or prolonging your financial struggles.
One hindering factor might be your overall financial knowledge. The other could be allowing the status quo to continue.
Watch any toddler navigate around a room.
On unsteady legs, they are determined to make their way to their destination. Somewhere between their first step and their arrival, they might fall several times. Interestingly enough, the fall doesn’t result with the child sitting still in defeat; the child gets up and goes forward.
In fact, there isn’t even a reaction to the meeting of the rear end with the floor. Because of their resilience, the fall merely represents something that happens between point A and point B. It is a small bump in the road.
Adults, after being the “victims” of negative money messages or lack of knowledge, often remain locked in their destructive habits; running in place instead of navigating change to their best interest. They remain on the floor, defeated.
Watch a toddler and their apparent fascination with everything. Learning is taking place at every turn; it doesn’t matter if they are sitting with a box of ribbons, a play kitchen, a stuffed animal or an empty box. The look on their precious faces clearly shows keen interest and attention — a strong desire for knowledge.
While, it’s fair to say that a toddler’s life is far simpler than that of an adult, if we extrapolate, just a little, we can adopt a mindset that enables us to act in our own best interest. If we are lacking in knowledge, rather than continuing to live in this state, we should instead choose to read, ask questions, or work with a professional expert who can help.
The first step is acknowledging what you don’t know.
Think about it: unless you’re an astrophysicist, you likely feel no sense of shame if you don’t understand the field. For if you don’t have a degree or professional experience in astrophysics, why would you spend your time and energy trying to understand this complex subject?
However, when it comes to personal finance, there is, for far too many, a sense of regret or failure in not being a master of all the knowledge that is required to make sound financial decisions.
If we are to grow and move towards achieving our goals, we must learn and live according to our values; and obtain sufficient knowledge and support to help us through the various stages of our lives.
For example, if you’re in your 30’s and in the opening stages of your career, you don’t need to know all that much about Medicare and Social Security laws.
But if you’re in your early 60’s, you do need that knowledge.
The question is whether you have the time, interest, and capacity to put all the necessary pieces of the financial puzzle together. Where is your time best well-spent?
If you’re a parent or grandparent or an aunt or uncle, you can’t help but delight in the reactions of these tiny humans as they respond to positive interactions and encouragement. Their smiles are like sunshine. Every moment is pure celebration.
The more applause and positive reinforcement they receive, the more they respond with even more. It’s a righteous circle of happiness. It might be something as simple as watching them put a block in a pail or saying “mama”. Celebrations abound and satisfaction reigns!
As adults, we forget how to celebrate small victories.
It is vital that we set reasonable goals and work towards them. We might even stumble on our way and crawl over the finish line, but when we do, we need to acknowledge and savor our successes. And remember, treating yourself to your favorite cup of artisan coffee or seeing a movie both count as celebrations.
Whatever the size, a celebration is a celebration as long as you define it as one.
It doesn’t matter if your goals are simple, like signing up for your 401(k) plan at work or hiring a Fee-only CFP® who can help you focus your goals and help you create a road map.
Celebrate each step forward, because it’s a step you haven’t taken before.
Embrace your inner toddler and put one foot in front of the other. Don’t be afraid to fall and don’t forget to celebrate your successes.
After all, the payoff is huge — what feels better than moving closer to living your values? Not much.