Blending Families and Finances

When Julia Hamilton and her life partner Keesha Gipson Monroe committed to each other they vowed to raise money-smart kids

Although there was an initial learning curve, the family’s new attitude toward money management is in full effect. The couple has a combined annual salary of $65,000 and each deposits $250 a month into their joint savings account. They currently have squirreled away more than $6,000, which will be used as an emergency fund to keep the family afloat if either of them becomes unemployed.

Gipson Monroe admits that it wasn’t easy for the family to adjust to the new financial habits, especially for Joseph. “But we learned that just because you have a budget doesn’t mean you have to struggle,” Gipson Monroe says, adding that as a family they read books such as Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter’s Rich Dad Poor Dad series and Suze Orman’s The Money Class. They review their budget daily as a family and post a spreadsheet of their weekly expenses on the refrigerator. A monthly budget is hung in the parents’ bedroom.

To help their children become more familiar with budgeting, Hamilton and Gipson Monroe have set them up on an allowance system. Joseph and Semaya each receive an allowance of up to $20 a week if they complete the household chores listed on their allowance chart. The children can also earn money if they complete book reports or write essays on educational movies. The incentives have motivated the youngsters to save up for items they want to purchase such as video games and other leisure activities.

But they don’t just spend their allowance on fun activities; a percentage of it and any monetary gifts they receive is placed into a piggy bank and then later deposited into their individual savings accounts. Gipson Monroe opened a savings account for Joseph when he was 5 and so far he has $775 saved. Semaya, who has had a savings account since she was 7, has stored away $1,242. Semaya plans to spend the summer in Korea when she’s 16 in 2015. To prepare for the trip, which is estimated to cost $14,000, Hamilton and Gipson Monroe opened a separate account for her in December 2010, where she has saved $1,500. The mothers have agreed to match the money that Semaya saves and raises.

“Semaya is saving and planning her first fundraiser, which will be the selling of handmade greeting cards that she has designed. She is also actively learning the language and culture,” Gipson Monroe says.

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