Leaving a Real Financial Legacy

I went to a local department store for a small purchase that came to $9.91. I gave the young checker a $10 bill which she promptly logged into her register. I then handed her a penny to simplify the change. At least that is what I thought. Her computer told her she needed to give me 9 cents in change. With the extra penny I had just handed her I explained she could just give me a dime back. To say that we spent 10 minutes politely discussing the matter while other customers waited patiently in line behind me would not be an exaggeration. She was certain if she took my penny and gave me a dime her drawer was going to come up short.

In frustration she called for assistance. At this point I could have simply given in, but there was a great story brewing and I wanted to see it through. To my amazement the second checker agreed with the first. Both were certain that the only correct option was to give me nine cents change.

Finally a store manager, witnessing the commotion, came to see what was going on. After the checker explained the story, the manager took my penny, handed me a dime and apologized for the confusion.

Knowing the huge impact a financial education, or lack thereof, can have on a person's life, I have tried to help my kids learn as much as possible about good money management, budgeting and investing. This week I was going over my 14 year old's investment statements with him. He is a pretty industrious young man and has saved a fair amount of money. As we reviewed his account I pointed out how much it had earned for him in the past year. I reminded him that those earnings had come without any work on his part. Once the money was invested, it did all the work for him. Over the past few years the concept of letting money work for him has become very appealing. The more the account grows, the more he is determined to add more money to it. I am pretty confident this hands-on education will help him avoid many of the financial disasters so common in young families today.

Parents and grandparents often open savings and investment accounts for the little ones in hopes that the money will one day help with college education or marriage. Those funds will certainly be appreciated, but of much greater value will be the financial wisdom they will have obtained if the parents use the accounts to teach the kids some solid lifetime lessons. It may be that money cannot buy happiness, but I have watched the unwise use of money bring many a lifetime of sorrow.

If your estate plan includes leaving some money to the kids, make sure you first teach them what to do with it. An inheritance is great, but an even better legacy is a financially wise child who does not need one.