One of the prevailing truths about parenting is that other parents will frequently give you advice, whether you want it or not.
Unsolicited advice from other parents happens in the office, on the playground, and at kids’ birthday parties.
It usually involves tricks for getting kids to eat vegetables, how to avoid temper tantrums, or whether or not a teacher grades fairly. This type of conversation is relatively common, but occasionally a far more interesting (and dangerous) type of advice innocently seeps into regular conversations: money advice.
Psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig explains that attitudes about money can expose the deepest aspects of our personality or insecurities.
This is one reason many people don’t talk about money. However, money conversations are often more intangible and less direct, like a mother letting it slip how much they spent on a birthday party or a casual mention that a couple bought a huge house in one of your town’s most desired neighborhoods.
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If parents do actually talk about money more directly, they might start with a question.
For example, a parent asking another parent how (and whether) they’re saving for college. Or a good friend of yours might mention that they are deep in credit card debt or are losing their home to foreclosure.
It’s nice that someone trusts another parent enough to ask for their financial advice, and I’m a proponent of making money talk less taboo.
However, proceed with caution, as I’ve heard about many conversations in which one parent gave another parent bad money advice.
Once my husband overheard two moms at work talking about taking a cruise. One mom said she was considering taking money out of her 401(k) to book a cruise, and the other mom urged her to do it, saying that she deserved it. So, right there at her desk, the mom who wanted to travel withdrew money early from her 401(k) and booked a $10,000 cruise for her family.
My guess is that she wasn’t aware of the penalties and repercussions of her actions, as the state of financial literacy in our country is, unfortunately, in need of improvement.
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This is why I urge people to avoid taking money advice from other parents or friends unless one of their friends is a financial planner and you have a scheduled meeting as a client.
Even if you get professional advice, though, I would still urge everyone to take a moment to think about the state of their finances. What could be better? How can you increase your income? How can you eliminate your debt once and for all? When is the last time you checked your credit report? Take these questions, to-do lists, and concerns, and do your own research. Then, if you have questions, speak to financial professionals.
Unfortunately, the world of parenting is full of social competition.
The people who appear rich might be the ones struggling the most.
And the people who encourage you to spend money or who tell you that you should buy certain things for your kids might not have the best handle on their own spending patterns. As such, what it really comes down to is your own personal responsibility.
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While some parents might actually be qualified to give money advice just as some might be qualified to give car seat and sleep advice, the only person you can really trust when it comes to your money is you.
So stick to the other topics on the playground and try to shake it off when another parent tells you to book that vacation, even though you’re in debt. After all, like the experts say, no one really cares more about your money more than you do.