Why do we find it hard to resist the urge to pamper our children these days with toys and other expensive things?
As a mother of 3 young kids, here are some of the reasons I can relate with.
1. ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’. The pressure these days to project an imagehas never been greater. Last week, I received a letter from my 5-year old’s school advising us parents to send our children to school the next Monday in a costume portraying ANY character in our child’s favorite storybook. The letter advised parents to be creative and not to spend much on buying a costume. Being a busy working mom and wanting to follow the school’s instructions, I didn’t buy nor did I have time to come up with a really creative costume. Instead, I sent my child to school in a pajama to look like ‘Maya’ from her favorite book ‘That Won’t Wake Me Up’. My daughter was so excited to go to school in her pajama costume. When we arrived in her school, my heart sank — it felt like I was entering Disneyland! Kids were everywhere dressed up in colorful costumes, complete with colored wigs, props and bling-bling! Meanwhile, my daughter was in pajamas. It didn’t seem to bother my daughter but it sure bothered me. I vowed then to outdo everyone in the next school activity. Best in Costume Award, here I come!
2. Guilt. Working parents sometimes feel they have to compensate for the time they spend away from their kids. As a working mom, I too feel this way sometimes. With the amount of time I spend at work, I only get to see my children awake 2-3 hours a day on weekdays. And because they are still young and do not understand why mommy has to work, I worry sometimes that they feel neglected and deprived of my time and attention. I do make up for my absence on weekends by spending quality time with them, This is how I choose to compensate. Other parents, though, compensate by other means, like pampering their children with material things like toys and expensive clothes even when there is no occasion. The beaming smile they get from their children upon receiving these spontaneous gifts are enough to wipe off their guilt. It also reassures them that their children are happy and content. Unfortunately, sometimes, they overdo it especially when they start to fall hostage to their children’s whims.
3. Love. They say there are five languages of love. Words, touch, service, time and GIFTS. There are people who best express their love in gifts. Gift giving, as a way of expressing love for children, works well because it is tangible and usually provides instant gratification. We all know that look of joy in our children’s faces when we hand them a new toy or gift. To borrow a term from a credit card company “PRICELESS!” Essentially, there is nothing wrong with using gifts as an expression of love — as long as we don’t overspend at the expense of other important things.
Pampering our children with toys and gifts is not bad. But if we overdo it and overspend on these things, not only might we breed materialism and a feeling of entitlement among our children, we can also cause a dent in our finances and compromise our ability to save and invest for the bigger and more important things our children will need in the future.
The key is to balance our spending on our children’s needs and wants today vis-a-vis their needs and wants in the future, In case you haven’t thought of it, the bulk of the expenses we parents need to shoulder as far as parenting is concerned is typically for our children’s education. If we do a simple calculation of how much a parent would spend to put one child through a private school from pre-school all the way to college, that would be in the vicinity of Php1Mn per child. If you factor in inflation and tuition fee increases, that amount could go as high as Php3Mn… per child! Now multiply that by the number of your children and you might just faint. These are the largest costs associated with parenting. And I know many will agree that one of the most noble parental acts of love is sacrificing anything to make sure that their children all finish college.
In a recent study called SOLAR FLARe, it was revealed that most people with children define financial security as having been able “to send their children to college.” (Not a single respondent said financial security meant being able to buy their children many toys, by the way.) Yet in the same study, one of the top three financial concerns is “sending children to college.” In short, people are aware of their long-term parental obligation of sending their children through school, but most are concerned about their ability to fulfill this. To these parents, I offer a word of comfort. It is not as scary as you think — you can do it! All it takes is making the right financial choices and adopting the right habits and you can be on your way to setting aside a sufficient future fund for your children.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Calculate the amount of money you need to put your children through college.
2. Use the DREAM CALCULATOR to find out how much you need to set aside every month to get to your desired amount.
3. Set aside a regular amount of money every month towards this goal. You may start with a small amount or however much you can afford today. But adjust it upwards whenever you get a salary increase or an additional source of income. You can also adjust this monthly forced savings upwards if you can cut down on some of your unnecessary expenses.
4. Invest your money in a financial instrument that gives you higher returns. Sadly money left in a bank savings account actually loses it value over time because the interest rate you earn is usually lower than the rate of increase of tuition fees. Some examples of financial instruments you may consider for higher earning potential are mutual funds, variable unit link insurance policies, UITFs, etc.
5. Review your progress every year and see how well you’re tracking towards your goal and adjust your habits and actions accordingly.
6. Engage the help of a professional financial advisor who can help create a financial plan for you and help guide you in this journey.
Six easy steps, right? You don’t even have to cut the toys and gifts out of the equation, as long as you’re also saving something for your children’s future. Let’s put it this way, if you want a future for your children that is as abundant as the toys they enjoy today, then these six easy steps can get you on your way. May you make the bright choice today!
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