An old friend of mine (Mr. Tiger) recently read the posts on my blog, and wrote a letter to his children, who are in primary school now. I think there are a lot of wisdoms in his words, and I really like the way he communicates to his children about those money matters. Hence, I’d like to share his letter on my blog, which might be helpful to some of the viewers. His original letter was written in Chinese, I tried to translate to English (pardon me for my poor translation skills).
A Letter to My Kids (English Translation)
My dear kids,
Today let’s talk about “money”, how to save money, and how to spend money.
Do you remember Uncle Nick? He is an old friend of mine, and we met him in East Coast last year, do you recall? Uncle Nick is good at managing money, he saved a lot, bought a house, and is raising 3 children who are the age as you. He started a blog recently, to share his stories on the internet. Daddy read his articles and found beneficial. Adults should also learn from each other, right?
Daddy wants to share my views; they might not be identical to everything Uncle Nick said. Each parent has own approach of educating their children, each family has its own circumstances. However, we all hope to give the correct, life-tested, and beneficial views to you. When you grow up and form your own views, you might not agree with everything I told you here; but please read, reflect, and discuss with Daddy then. Let’s start:
No.1, I don’t think children should hold on to too much cash. How much is too much? Daddy thinks $200 is enough.
But you might say: “What about my Hong Bao money? Each year I have hundreds of dollars. I would’ve saved for thousands now. Those are my money. Do I have to give all to parents?”
That’s not what Daddy meant. What you have saved are yours. I meant you should not hold on to so much cash. Daddy can help you safekeep first. Do you remember the Hong Bao money in previous years? Each of you had $650, and one day Daddy took them all. That wasn’t ‘confiscation’. Daddy remembers those are yours and are safe keeping them for you. Jie Jie (older sister) recently had owned her own bank account; Daddy will deposit those cash together with her study awards. Di Di (younger brother) will also have his own bank account. So, Di Di, please do your best at school! When you receive study awards from MOE, Daddy can go and open your bank account with MOE letter.
Why do I not want you to hold on to too much cash? It’s simple, you don’t know how to use them yet. Too much cash is a distraction for you, you will think about saving and spending every day, on dollars and cents. That’s not what you should do. You are still young. If you need something Daddy and Mommy will help you. What do you need to think about right now?
Daddy knows you have a long shopping list: toys, stationaries, food, drinks, and later on, big house, big car, etc. You want to save and become rich, isn’t it? Daddy wants to let you know what you saved now still come from Daddy and Mommy, other people’s Hong Bao gifts to you are also our money because what you received are the same as what we gave to their children. Are you richer than Daddy and Mommy? Daddy and Mommy can’t afford big house and big car now, can you afford them by saving your Hong Bao money? Next, about toys and snacks.
When Daddy said “you don’t know how to use money yet” I also referred to the money spending habits. Uncle Nick said it well, school also taught you well, the key is ‘Frugality’. Do you remember what I told you about ‘discretionary expense’? That’s unnecessary spending, like candies, tasty but you can live well without them; or clothes, a few will be enough for everyday use, too many will fill up our closet; or toys, after playing a few times they will be forgotten and thrown away like trash, it will be better to rent so can be returned after playing.
Besides that, those are also not good for our health. Candies make you fat and damage your teeth… My children, Daddy knows you love caddies, but when you grow up, do you want to look prettier and more handsome? You can’t eat candies and look good at the same time. There is give-and-take, we need to know which one is more important to ourselves.
You are still young and might not understand all I said. Without my advice you might have already harmed your body and mind when you finally understand. That’s too much price to pay! Being frugal isn’t as simple as saving money alone, it is also exercising your mind, knowing what you really need, and understanding what is important.
No.2, if it is reasonable, Daddy will help you pay for it, don’t worry.
You don’t have to worry about being penny-less. I will give you meal allowance, and if you need to buy something for school activities, if you can explain the purpose, and I found reasonable, Daddy will pay for it.
Do you think what Daddy finds reasonable might not be the ones you want? Or I always object to what you find reasonable? I don’t think that’s entirely true.
Daddy wants to teach you good habits. Besides money, I’ve written a lot about other topics. Good habits change lives! In some families, although they don’t earn that much and have limited resource, but because of frugality they can have a good life. In some other families, the parents are wealthy but don’t want their children to spend too much, the children think their parents are too cheap on them and do not love them. Daddy loves you and wants to spend all on you, but I want you to be healthy and intelligent.
Forming good habits take time and requires a supporting environment. If you don’t see those distractions, you will think less about it. So, No.1 tip is about reducing that distraction. And No.2 tip is about reflecting what is reasonable.
Being intelligent, healthy and happy, is what everybody hopes to have in life. You can be more intelligent by studying, doing your homework, and staying curious. You can get healthier by having a good diet. This is what we can learn from Uncle Nick. He manages his diet well, doesn’t over-eat, and only choose healthier options, has a lean figure. This type of person will tend to be more efficient and successful. In addition, a good health makes good mood. Good mood does not only mean mentally worry-free, is also a good physical state. Each morning waking up with a smile, a refreshing wash face, followed by getting dressed and having breakfast, or listening to Daddy stories; each night before sleep, getting a warm shower and lying down with the sweet shampoo smell. Those are good mood. If you quarrel with others, say sorry and move on with a smile. That’s good mood. Uncle Nick is always very polite, talks with smiles, and in good mood. This type of person will usually do reasonable things, because he/she has formed not only one good habit, but a series of good habits. Those habits are interlinked and complement one and other.
We should not be complacent just because of having one good habit; a series of good habits will make you careful and rigorous and leads to bigger changes in your life. By then you might not know you have had the good habits, but you will already become more intelligent, healthy, and happy. Everyone will love you and ask you what you have done to become such a good person. Can you explain? No, because habits are not to say, but to do. Start now.
No.3, money isn’t everything, don’t take it too seriously
When I say this, it might sound different from what other adults said, like “money is not the most important thing, but it is pretty important”, or “money is as important as other things”, or “money isn’t everything, but without money you can’t do anything”. I am sure you heard something like this before.
When something is being said too often, you will start to believe, this is normal. But it is not right. You should only believe in something after you think it through, instead of simply following other people’s view. Each one has its own view; even if you hold a different view from other people, as long as you think it through and firmly believe in it, that will be your view.
Everyone is busy with making money, saving money, but: what if we enter a war one day, bombs destroy the bank buildings, and the whole city. Our house, our money, are all gone. Even if we are rich, we can’t spend if all shops are closed. Or if we get robbed or scammed and lose live savings. Or if we open a business, invest in stocks, but fail and lose everything.
My children, those things do happen. If you read more, you will find out they are happing now. Singapore is a safe country, but some other countries are in war today; some of people we know lost their health or lives suddenly; some others lost their fortune due to bad luck… If you take money too seriously, or somewhat seriously, this might be too much for you to handle. People are already generally doing pretty well nowadays, but still worry about not wealthy enough. Is this helpful for our body and mind?
Don’t take money too seriously, also doesn’t mean you do not need to earn money or spend money wastefully.
What’s the most important thing here is what in your mind and body, the knowledge, the thinking habits, your health, and characters. With knowledge, you can always find good jobs, or even create jobs, and by applying your knowledge you can earn money easily. With health, you don’t need to worry about spending too much on hospital bills, as those are for less healthy people. With good characters, such as with a strong heart, being tenacious, calm, and optimistic. Even if you lose your fortune, you will get it back eventually and the process is inspiring.
How much money is needed also depends on your desire and purpose. With more money, a lot of your desires and purposes can be fulfilled; but desire and fulfilment don’t necessarily need a lot of money. You can get fulfilled by a cup of water, a bowl of noodle, a smile, an apology, and a touch, a badminton game, a small talk with friends. What you want to do might be just a small thing. We can’t all conquer the world like a superhero; but can do things to make our surrounding better, like cleaning our floor, being polite, or sharing good stuff like Uncle Nick does.
My children, you need time to understand, need to read and think it through. Money isn’t that important. If you understand, you can even spend all your savings and don’t ask for returns. Because when you have life goals, spending money is a means to achieve your life goals. Maybe you can’t achieve, but one should always try. This is tenacity of life. When you have your life goals one day, please tell Daddy and I will do my best to help.
爸爸说你们不知道怎么用是指一种花钱的习惯，这点尼克叔叔说得很好，学校其实也教得很好， 那就是：节俭。记得我教你们的Discretionary Expense？就是非必要的花费，比如糖果，味道好，想吃，可不吃也没事；比如衣服，有几件来回换着穿就行，多了就把柜子塞满了；比如玩 具，玩一下子就过瘾了，然后放在一旁像个废物似的占地方，倒不如借来玩玩再还回去的好。
2023 年 1 月 27 日
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