A Letter to My Eight-Month-Old Daughter About Money

Dear Eleanor,

You will be 9 months old next week. Time is flying by, and it seems like each day you are doing something new: crawling, eating new foods, and squawking at uncommonly high decibels. You are a true joy to your mom and dad.

The thing is, though, you live in a world that doesn’t put a lot of economic value on getting eight Cheerios into your mouth compared to the previous day’s five. (Don’t get me wrong, your mother and I think it’s the greatest thing ever!)

Much of comfort and security in this world is driven by something that you have no concept of right now. It’s as meaningless to you as yesterday’s diaper, but it means everything to some people out there. It’s called money. It’s why you have a roof over your head, a warm nursery, and a seemingly endless amount of mashed peas. Money is good, because it provides these essentials and so much more.

And therein lies money’s problem. Money can buy a lot of things, and some moms and dads mistakenly think that it can buy everything--even happiness (that probably sounds so absurd to you). As you continue to grow and figure life out, here are some things you should understand about money.

Money is a Tool

The first thing to know about money, is we don’t get it just to have it. It’s what adults call “a means to an end.” It pays for our heat, your binkies, our home, our car, and more binkies. We also give our money to others who have the same needs as us, but less money than we do. Giving in this way helps others and makes us feel good, too.

Money Can Grow

There are some things you can spend money on that can grow into more money. Think of it like this: You put your squeaky monkey toy into your toy bin, and when you come back a while later there are two squeaky monkey toys. Kind of amazing, huh?

Well it’s the same thing for adults and money. Money can be used to grow other money, which can then be used to buy and do more good things. In a nutshell, this is what your dad does for a job. I help people grow their money so they can do more good things.

Money Can Be Wasted

Since money is a tool that can be used for good and growth, it can also be wasted. Most wasted money is spent on things that moms and dads think will make them happy. The irony is these things don’t really make them happy, but make them want more things. So they work to get more money, to get more things to be more happy, but it doesn’t really work. In this way it’s wasted money, because the money could have been used for something better.

You Don’t Need A lot of Money

Someday you will care more about money. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you should remember a couple of things. First, remember that getting more money won’t in itself make you more happy. It’s just a tool, right?

Second, you don’t need a lot of it to be comfortable. Look at this picture of children in Africa. They will never, ever have as much money or possessions as you. The clothes they’re wearing are likely their only pair. Yet look at their smiling faces.

The world sends a loud message about what you need to be happy--a new car, a large home, lots of nice clothes--and these things take a lot of money to purchase. This message is false. Don’t get sucked into it. A simple car, modest home, and some nice, quality clothes are more than enough for comfort, yet still have little to do with happiness.

I hope this hasn’t sounded preachy. I suspect I’ll be doing more and more of that as you get older. In the meantime, I’ll expect to see 12 Cheerios end up in your mouth this week, because you’re amazing.

Love you,