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What do you tell your kids?
Old 10-11-2004, 09:55 AM   #1
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What do you tell your kids?

I'm curious as to what you tell your kids when they ask what you do for a living?

I've got two young kids and they are just starting to ask questions regarding jobs and what I do all day.

I mumbled something about teaching, advising companies and researching investments - all of which I do part time.

But of course, this runs a bit counter to the hard work ethic that I'd like to teach them (and that allowed me to have the flexibility that I have today).

I'm a little concerned that I'm setting a bad example - although they get to see a lot more of me than others.

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Re: What do you tell your kids?
Old 10-11-2004, 10:02 AM   #2
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Re: What do you tell your kids?

I wouldn't worry too much about imparting a work ethic. What really allowed you to RE was self discipline, responsibility and a careful approach to planning ahead. If you manage to instill these virtues, hard work will follow when and if it becomes important.

What do you do for a living? Answer directly and truthfully. You used to do X, but because you planned ahead, saved, and were successful, you are retired now.

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Re: What do you tell your kids?
Old 10-11-2004, 10:24 AM   #3
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Re: What do you tell your kids?

I tell them the most important thing in life is to be healthy and happy. I tell them what makes me happy is to spend quality time with them. I tell them that I had a plan in life to work as hard as I could to save as much as I could while still trying to lead a balanced life in order to be able to work less as I got older and therefore have that extra family time.

I try to teach them the values of goal-setting and persistance. I believe it's important to teach kids by example, so I show them how I am achieving financial independence by saving, starting my own business, being frugal but not cheap, being happy with what I have and not being unhappy about what I don't have, not doing what everyone else does, respecting money but not worshiping it, and incurring as little debt as possible, if any.

I show them how I track my investments and how the plan should work. They have learned about the future value of money, the miracle of compounding, and general ideas of how different types of investments work. This is stuff they won't learn in school, at least not through high school.

Of course, this is all from a financial angle, but chances are it will also spill into other aspects of their lives and will help them become more organized and focused in everything they do.
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Re: What do you tell your kids?
Old 10-11-2004, 11:57 AM   #4
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Re: What do you tell your kids?

Good a new father that's something I think about a lot. My wife and I are 35, we have a baby daughter, and we're planning to ER next year.

I think kids need to feel like their parents are "normal" parents. I might tell her: "We work at home."

What we tell her about making a living is one thing, but to a great degree she's going to be building her concept of a "normal" livelihood from watching us in action.

We hope to be more open-minded about our daughter's career decisions than we think our own parents were about ours, and we want her to be as successful at her "life's work" as she can possibly be. My wife and I were both semi-programmed into corporate consumerism and we hope to show her that there are other choices. But no matter what that life's work is, she'll need self-discipline to maximize it, and I'm hoping she'll learn some of the lessons in self-discipline that my wife and I have learned from this ER process.

We're also dedicated DIYers and we'd like to teach her to rely first on herself and then on others.

Another big lesson will be that she shouldn't compromise her own values for financial gain, whether that compromise is as immoral as stealing or as commonplace as working long hours at a job she hates without understanding why she's made that choice.

I guess if we pull this off, she'll know what we do for a living because she'll have seen it first-hand. "Dad does the bookkeeping and goes paddling and rides his mountain bike, and Mom gardens and cooks and brews beer. But they both say taking care of me is a full-time job."
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Re: What do you tell your kids?
Old 10-11-2004, 12:00 PM   #5
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Re: What do you tell your kids?

The old "what do you do?" question.

We're expecting our first in february, and given that I dont have a job I've had plenty of time to consider the inevitable questions about why daddy doesnt go to work like the other daddy's...

I imagine something in between "I made enough money to not have to work anymore" and "I wanted to stay home and spend all my time with YOU" or perhaps "I dont have time to work!" will do.

My wife gets this all the time when people ask her what I do and she says I dont work. They always look troubled. "Oh..." like they just broached a bad topic. She usually waits a few pregnant (sorry) seconds and they says "he's a millionaire and doesnt have to work". Puts some air back into the conversation...
Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful. Just another form of "buy low, sell high" for those who have trouble with things. This rule is not universal. Do not buy a 1973 Pinto because everyone else is afraid of it.
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Use those teaching moments to train a new ER.
Old 10-11-2004, 01:45 PM   #6
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Use those teaching moments to train a new ER.

I disagree on "normal" parents. Kids want to know that their family is special, and if their parents don't have to work then the kids want to see that they can do the same someday.

I think "I wish my parents were normal" comes during the teenage years, when they're so unlikeable that you'll go to great lengths to embarrass them anyway.

But we've been through this with our 12-year-old: "I worked at ___ for ___ years and saved my money. Then we decided that I'd stay home to help take care of you guys while Mom works. When you start school, I might go back to work or I might just retire and surf all the time."

Bedtime reading: "If You Made a Million" Your heart will swell with pride at your kid's "Read To Me Day" when they start explaining banks & stocks to the other first-graders. Any kid whose parents own a piece of McDonalds is a giant among mortals.

When they're older and know how to save money for a goal (a toy, a movie, whatever) you can mention that you've been saving your money for retirement.

When they start talking about jobs, talk about the ones you liked (hopefully there's at least one) but (if it's the case) point out that you like retirement better. Explain that someday they may find a job they really love and want to do forever, but until that happens they should save money for retirement in case they decide to retire early and do whatever they want. (At this age, getting married and staying home to raise families are yucky.

Sometimes kids decide that "retired" is another word for "broke & penniless" and start displaying extreme frugality. When that surfaces, point out that you have a budget, and there's enough money for the things the family needs to have. "Wants" are something we have to budget for and we can't get everything we want. In our house the budget is an extremely powerful tool.

Then you're ready for "Are we rich?" or, as my kid put it: "Holy @#$%, we have that much money?!?" ("Who's "we", Kemosabe?!?") Explain that you have to have a lot of money in investments to pay for the retirement budget because it has to last another 80 years (older than Grandpa!). If "rich" means "we can buy anything we want" then no, we're not rich. If "rich" means "we don't have to work if we watch our budget" then yes, we're rich.

But you, kid, you're broke and you need to get a job.

If the subject comes up at my wife's work (if she's working!), my wife just says "He's a surf bum." No further questions.

Our kid is just beginning to realize that "We're retired so that we can stay home and be there for you all day!" isn't necessarily a good thing...

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Re: What do you tell your kids?
Old 10-11-2004, 01:48 PM   #7
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Re: What do you tell your kids?

Several years ago when my kids were 4 and 5 I told my son all about my job in the financial services business, I even used to take him into the office once and a while so he could get a feel for the office.

A few months later I overheard his response to a question " What does your Dad do?" *His reply " Oh, he's on the Army team". *

You see, I was in the Army reserves and, though I only put my uniform on one weekend a month and played weekend warrior, that is what he remembered that I did. *I don't believe I even had spoken to him about what the Army part of my life was all about. *

You never really know what those kinds are thinking. You just have to keep loving them all their lives. He's now 22 and looking for a job of his own.
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Re: What do you tell your kids?
Old 10-11-2004, 02:01 PM   #8
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Re: What do you tell your kids?

I worry more about what my kid will say when she finds out that her friends' parents work. (With nose up in the air) "Oh, your parents work. How droll."
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Re: What do you tell your kids?
Old 10-11-2004, 04:29 PM   #9
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Re: What do you tell your kids?

I worry more about what my kid will say when she finds out that her friends' parents work. *(With nose up in the air) "Oh, your parents work. * How droll." *
When my first son was about five I was working a bit in accounting, and thinking aout going back to fulltime work. When he heard about this idea, he asked me, "But who will play with me?" So at this point, having two parents around all the time was SOP.

I think it was maybe harder for him when he became a teenager. One thing is that it's different to be what I think of as a real millionaire-$5 to $8 mm as a minimum, and the kind of millionaire I am. Although I am a millionaire formally, I have to be too frugal to think that anyone other than a control freak like myself(or others on this board) would consider it a wise choice.

I have always invested actively, and since my kids are oriented toward math and programming, they helped me set up various control systems, and also helped me do statistical research. So they understood the capital involved, some of the risk, and the sort of cash flow that my investments and trading were generating.

When the older boy had been working a few years, and money was coming easily, he asked me why I chose to take such a narrow path. He saw it as having less control, compared to him, because he didn't have the constraint of tight budgeting or the absolute need not to lose meaningful amounts of money.

An odd thing about living off investments is that it is a very tentative undertaking, at least if you understand reality. Kids usually do better with black and white- "My Daddy puts out fires and saves people and so he gets money to take care of us." I think this sits better with the average kid than all the doubt and ambuguity that comes with trading and investing.

My kids both got a very thorough grounding in probability, whick I think did help them understand that it wasn't just complete chaos. Washington lets( or at least did let) children of any age go to the racetrack with their parent. Since my boys were homeschooled, and since I consider probability to be the foundation of knowing what the hell is going on in the world, we learned a whole lot at Longacres, and later Emerald Downs. That was our math class. Needless to say we never discussed this with the school district home schooling overseers.

One thing I know for sure, one will never know what his kids really thought about any of this until much later, if ever.

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Re: What do you tell your kids?
Old 10-11-2004, 05:13 PM   #10
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Re: What do you tell your kids?

Well, Mikey I certainly agree with your last paragraph.

I have never had a serious discussion with any of my 3 children about my retirement, or retirement/finances
in general. When I divorced, I kept hoping my kids
would ask me about it. No one did. They never have,
and I am afraid
any such "real adult conversation" will never happen.
It's somewhat worrisome to consider where they are
getting their information about all this. I know it's not from me.

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Re: What do you tell your kids?
Old 10-11-2004, 07:42 PM   #11
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Re: What do you tell your kids?

My daughter is 15, and she has witnessed her workaholic Mom and workaholic (but not earnaholic) Dad for about 13 years. Then my sister died, and I (1) inherited enough money to rethink how I wanted to spend all my time and (2) discovered that life might be short, prompting me to rethink how I wanted to spend all my time.

She earned herself a half-scholarship to prep school, a lifelong hope of hers (not encouraged by either parent!) by working hard in ice hockey.

She told me yesterday that a lot of the kids at her school have never been to public schools, and don't appreciate what they're offered at private school. "They treat it like it's a requirement, well, some of them have been forced to come here. For me, it's always been this dream, and I know what a sacrifice it is for you and Dad, and I want to work hard and take advantage of it."

She also asked my ADVICE about buying a down vest, weighing quality and price, against the realities of her clothing budget.

I guess, so far, so good. Of course, this does not address the issue you raised! I hope she gets a chance to see me do more than cut my work week in half (then add more in order to pay for prep school). I'm aiming for it, but I'm too lazy to do the math to see if it will really happen any time soon.


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