This special series is part of CentSai’s commitment to financial literacy at every level. We’re collaborating with financial education advocate Sam X Renick on a series of short interviews, videos, and tips. In this installment, Ginny Gilder — founder of Gilder Office for Growth, owner of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, and Olympic silver medalist — tells Renick her childhood money memories and shares her advice on teaching kids about money.


Ginny Gilder: Live Within Your Means
Ginny Gilder

Childhood Money Lessons

Sam X Renick: What is the most important money habit you learned as a child? Please share the story of how you learned the habit and tell us about the impact it has had on you throughout your life.

Ginny Gilder: Don’t spend what you don’t have. My mother drilled that into me. She was always proud that she lived within her means, and she also hammered home the danger of going into debt. I can still hear her voice in my head when I think about this.

Also, whenever we went to restaurants, my mother would total up the entire bill herself to make sure the restaurant had done it correctly. When I borrowed money from her — which I didn’t really do, but she put me on her credit card when I was in college — she calculated what I owed her to the penny and required on-time payment.

The Most Important Money Lesson to Teach Kids

RenickIf you could teach a child only one money habit, what would it be? Briefly explain why.

Gilder: Live within your means. If you want or need more than you have, figure out how to earn more.

Part of figuring out how to earn more is to recognize the power of a good education.

Everything is related to desire and effort. Debt is much more expensive than it seems at first blush. Also, resisting the pull of instant gratification offers more lessons about what is really important in life. Sometimes it seems as if having more money will solve problems, but they can actually be solved in other ways.


Money Mistakes

RenickWhat was your biggest money mistake as a child or a teenager?

Gilder: Lending my allowance to my big sister. She was great at spending it and terrible at repaying me.

Smart Money Decisions

RenickWhat was one of the smartest money decisions you made as a child or a teenager and why?

Gilder: I was graduating from college. Really, I was just 21. My father had generously paid for my college education. Then I decided to train for the Olympics instead of going out and finding a full-time job. He told me I was on my own financially. I decided to go for it, to pursue my dream, and I figured out how to support myself while I did twice-a-day workouts.


Teaching Kids About Money

RenickA variety of surveys indicate that teaching kids about money is a challenge for parents. What would you say are one or two of the primary reasons parents find it difficult to talk about personal finance with their children? And if you have a suggestion on how they can overcome the obstacle, please share that as well.

Gilder: I really have no idea. I raised three children from birth and never had a problem talking personal finance. Sometimes I had trouble getting them to listen.

One of the smartest things I did was to give them a set amount for their clothes. This was actually in high school. We would make a list of what they needed, and I would figure out how much to give them. They got to decide how to spend the money. If they spent too much on jeans, they had to figure out how to deal — no coming back to Mom for more. It stopped a lot of arguments and taught my kids to budget.


Take Action

Have your kids list make a list of their spending habits. You do it, too!

Discover more about Ginny Gilder at her LinkedIn.