Want to save money and gain control of your finances? Learn to say NO to your kids. That’s one of the key messages of Do I Look Like An ATM?: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Financially Responsible African American Children, a practical, insightful, encouraging and often witty book by author, commentator and financial educator Sabrina Lamb. Lamb, the founder and CEO of World of Money, a New York-based provider of financial education for youth ages seven to 18, often asserts that smart money management is not just about knowing what’s in your wallet or purse, but also who—and why. She pulls together her personal experiences as a child and young adult who initially expected her parents and others to finance her lifestyle, as well as the stories of the youth and their parents she has encountered through World of Money, to set the frame work for the critical lessons and behaviors families must adopt to promote healthier money attitudes and habits in children.
Overspending is a major reason why many of us struggle financially. Ironically, often, we’re not indulging ourselves, but our children—those people Lamb calls “beautiful con artists.” The point of Do I Look Like An ATM?: It’s our job to both teach our children the value of money, as well as protect our budgets from them. Much of what I got from the book echoes the advice I’ve shared in past Off My Chest posts for Black Enterprise as well as on my daily Money Matters radio feature for American Urban Radio Networks:
Communicate as early and as often as possible that your money is not their money. Your obligation to your kids is to provide adequate food, clothing and shelter—not necessarily the best money can buy—and to see to their education and moral development while they are minors. Going much further than that will not only make teaching kids about money more difficult, but could hurt them in the long run. Remember, your primary job as a parent is to transform your dependent minors into financially responsible, self-supporting adults. You’ll do just the opposite if you insist on providing for their every whim.
Teach our youth to value earned money over gifts or loans. The latter have their place—and their price. The best money is earned, not freely given. Loans must be repaid, often with interest and fees. Gifts nearly always have strings attached (which is why my mother wouldn’t allow me to accept gifts from friends without checking with their parents, if at all.) Once you’ve provided for their basic needs, require your kids to work for everything else, by getting on the honor roll, doing extra chores, starting a business, picking up part-time jobs—anything that requires them to put in time and effort to get paid.
Lamb’s book goes beyond urging parents to resist indiscriminate spending on their children, to offering ideas, tips and strategies to help parents change the financial behaviors and value systems of the entire household, engaging the active participation of their offspring. The result is an important brick in the foundation of family financial literacy, one that is invaluable to anyone who is serious about breaking the cycle of generational poverty and creating a new family tradition of wealth building behaviors and lifestyle choices.
If you are like most parents, you want better for your children. This book is a way to not just hope, but to help them do better, while getting a better grip on your own finances and money management choices. I highly and enthusiastically recommend Do I Look Like An ATM?: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Financially Responsible African American Children.
Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert, personal growth/relationships coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a multimedia initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. This blog is dedicated to his thoughts about money, entrepreneurship, leadership and mentorship. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.