Nearly 2 years ago I was listening to a podcast interview of Ron Leiber (http://ronlieber.com/books/the-opposite-of-spoiled/) talking about his book The Opposite of Spoilt: raising kids who are Grounded generous and smart about money, and my ears pricked up.
At the time I felt like my 8 year old daughter Marlo was not really grasping basic concepts about how much things cost in comparison to how much we earn/ want to spend. I also felt it was really important for her to understand part of living in a wealthy country is that we have a duty to support those around us who are less fortunate. When they don't eat their dinner and you feel sick about the waste and you think - their are children who are going to bed with grumbling bellies and mine aren't eating this clean fresh food because they don't like it even though they ate it yesterday and you are tempted to rant about this it is just far to abstract for them. ( which doesn't mean I haven't done it!). I have always donated to causes, I have always given a percentage of the profit of my business to a variety of organisations. I think this social conscience has a lot to do with how my parents were and also I'm a social worker- if that degree doesn't indoctrinate you with the concept of inequality then nothing will. I am aware of the privilege I live in compared to 95% of the world. I also co- coordinate Days for Girls in our little town and Marlo has been quite involved in many aspects of this so this probably began a bit of thinking about what people have and don't have too.
The basic concept, as I interpreted it, is 3 money boxes each one labeled spend or save or give. Spend, money box is for day to day stuff they want to buy, maybe to buy a treat from the tuckshop on occasion or something from book club, Saveis saving up for spending money on a holiday or something they want to buy and Givethey give to an organisation or individual raising money for an organisation of their choosing. I also added in that I thought each time Marlo wanted to "give" it needed to be somewhere different as she would easily give it all to the RSPCA and I thought she would learn more about how and why people need help if she had to research it with me. We also added that she could also decide if she was given money as a present she may want to divide that up too.
When you give your child pocket money ( we decided on $3 a week for our 8 year old. If she goes above and beyond without being asked she may get extra. -There are expectations with this- putting clothes away and unloading the dishwasher etc, but she is pretty good with rules so its not to painstaking trying to get her to do them) they decide how this money is divided up between the money boxes. When we started Marlo wanted to buy a present for her violin teacher so I first thought of Oxfam Unwrapped . She wasn't sure how much she should spend I suggested $10, so we looked through Oxfam she was surprised to see that for many people one chicken would change a persons life. She was quite stunned at this - we currently have 9 chooks so it was quite a good concept for her to grasp we talked about how if you have chicken you can sell the eggs or feed your family and how for some people this would make a difference to their day to day life. I could quite literally see the cogs turning/ lightbulbs flashing as she understood this concept so then she said "so we have a lot?!" YYYEEESSSSSSS!!!! It's so hard for me to say to her that we are wealthy, because in many ways we are, but not in a way that we earn hundreds of thousands a year or have new cars and a fancy house but in a way that we have more than enough and by comparison to the majority of people on earth then we are incredible wealthy. You know? So the seed had been planted. She started asking how much money I made at work - I told her- and how much things cost, how we had to pay mortgage and bills and other expenses like petrol and food and violin lessons and drama class and new school shoes. One day recently we were in a shop and she saw this pen with a rabbit on the top- it was cute she couldn't believe it was $9.95- she kept saying "it is a pen!" I kept saying "I Know!! I agree! yes!!!"
She has given to lots of causes now and continues to learn about the world and what things people need and how we can help. She has learnt that people survive only $1 a day and that what I spend on coffee per week in more than some people earn in months. She also loves 3News ABC3 and this is an endless source of information about causes and places we can support. I will often prop up her donation by a few dollars too. So far she has given money to Oxfam, Kiva ( if you don't know about Kiva I think its really great for kids to learn about micro loans and when they money is paid back we can give it to some different people- Marlo reads all the profiles and decides who will re-loan too) RSPCA million paws walk- she sponsored a friend, Charity Water - again sponsored a friend, the local SES- the were collecting money at the markets and Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, MS Society, ( two of her friends dads have MS) She saw Tim Costello speaking from Nepal, I said he is part of a religious organisation which then led to a whole discussion about religious organisations and why I struggle enormously with giving money to them ( because I cannot support an organisation that thinks some peoples sexuality is wrong) but Marlo really wanted to give money to "that man" to help " because he was there" , so we did. She has given to Red Cross for Cambodia appeal too and we also sponsor an Elephant in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Sometimes it is $2, sometimes lots more. I really love how enthusiastic she is about it and how seriously she takes it and how she really wants to understand where the money will go. Marlo saw me changing my FB profile picture to the rainbow one on FB last month and we talked about marriage equality, we donated to the Get Up campaign for that too.
An unexpected plus from all of this is her general willingness to be involved and contribute in ways we had not expected. She always gives money to buskers as she plays violin and in her words " they must have practiced a LOT to be that good."
I love how much it is teaching her and I could not recommend it enough!