A Letter To My One Year Old on Finance
A mother's wish for her one-year-old daughter: Become a financially responsible adult.
In just a few weeks, you’ll be a year old!
In my mind, I still see you as a tiny, unexpected newborn wrapped up in wires and covered by the blue lights of the NICU. But here you are, crawling up a storm, calling me “mama,” and constantly attempting to pull the dog’s tail.
Over the past year, I’ve watched your love of putting things back together, wondering if you’ll grow up to be an engineer.
Other times, I’ve seen how you’re drawn to musical instruments and think you will be a musician like your parents. I’ve even wondered if you’ll be an Olympic swimmer or a marine biologist as I’ve watched you splash around in your swimming class.
As a parent, I’ve loved dreaming up all these things for you. However, I sometimes get discouraged.
FOR YOUR DAD AND ME, CHASING AFTER OUR DREAMS HAS BEEN EXPENSIVE, AND THE ROAD HAS BEEN FULL OF FINANCIAL MISTAKES.
We haven’t saved as much as we should; we’ve neglected credit card debt until it ballooned out of control, and we took on more student loans than we probably should have. Only now are we getting it together.
That’s why I’m writing this letter to you.
As someone who writes about finances and financial literacy, I have no greater wish than to see you grow up to be a financially responsible adult.
Ugh. That sounds so boring when I write it down.
But honestly, it’s not. Being financially responsible doesn’t mean you can’t be that marine biologist who studies at a top college, or that you can’t travel to Vienna to study Beethoven. You can do all this and more while still being financially sound.
Being a financially responsible adult requires certain skills.
First and foremost, among these is knowledge. As a kid, I didn’t get much of an education when it came to money. Financial literacy wasn’t even a phrase when I was a kid, and I couldn’t tell you what an “interest rate” was until I was in my twenties! But I want more for you.
That’s why, when we go to the grocery store, I talk to you non-stop about couponing and sales tax on those yogurt bites you love.
And I never keep you from hearing your father and I discuss our household budget or the bills we have due.
But all the knowledge in the world on financial literacy won’t make up for confidence. As a woman, you’ll likely be paid 21 percent less than your male coworkers, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
While those numbers drive me crazy, I also know that you must have confidence that you are worthy and qualified, no matter your gender. Having confidence will give you the power to overcome whatever society throws at you.
Your confidence may come from your college plans. Your father and I have lived and worked at colleges for years. Every day, we see students take on the huge burden of college tuition.
So let me be clear: you don’t have to go to college if that is not your path.
On the other hand, you can attend the most expensive college in the world if you feel it is a good investment. What’s important is that you keep in mind what you’ve learned from our emphasis on financial literacy to help you make the right decision.
Finally, being financially responsible means you are not only responsible for today, but also for your future. At 12 months, we have already started you off by by investing in a college savings plans and building an emergency savings for you, just in case.
As an adult, you will need to take over where we left off by committing to an action plan for retirement.
This may be taking on a job that offers great retirement benefits, or just salting away a chunk of your income every month. Whatever your plan, stick with it and don’t lose sight of a better tomorrow.
I hope you know that I write this letter because I love you more than any creature on the planet (and that includes the dog).
You sit by my side as I write this, and I can already see the adult Nora you will grow to be. I can’t help but smile because I am confident that no matter where life leads you, the path is looking brighter with each new day of your life.