Chelsea Brennan, better known as Mama Fish, gives her son 9 lessons on money. As a former Billion dollar hedge fund manager turned personal finance blogger, she has quite a bit of advice for her little fish.
Chelsea has become a well renowned educator, finance blogger, and personality within the financial independence community. After managing a massive hedge fund at a leading investment bank and financial services company, she’s now refocusing her experiences to have a direct positive impact on people’s lives.
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“Mama Fish” has graciously allowed theFIway to republish her popular open letter in an effort to educate more children on financial literacy and give us 9 words of financial wisdom.
The Money Lessons I Hope You Learn
Dear Fuss Fish,
This weekend you turned one. You’re an incredibly happy boy who fills our lives with giggles, can already out eat a grown man, and you never stop moving. Because I blog at Mama Fish Saves, many people ask me questions about money. When do we plan to start an allowance? How are we saving for college? What will we teach you about finances? And much more. So… I decided to write you this letter and share it openly.
You just turned one. I won’t lie, I cried more than once on your birthday. Time goes much too fast for me and your birthday party was one more reminder that you will be grown before I know it. We held a party for you at the house and while Daddy Fish and I intended to keep it small, those who love you stretch far and wide. We had almost 40 people from seven different states celebrating you.
You got spoiled with many more presents than Daddy Fish and I would have liked, ate about half a pound of frosting off your cake, and we got asked so many questions about things that seem so far in the future that our heads started to spin.
Because I had just started a website about family finance, “what we’ll try to teach you about money” kept coming up. I promise we will try our best. Reading this letter as a teenager or adult might just be a lot of eye-rolling and “yeah, duh Mom”, but if we fail…I hope this little bit helps, even if it comes to you later than we intended.
So, here’s what we’re planning… if we do it right.
1 – Be self-sufficient and be your own man.
Sometimes it can feel like we’re cattle, especially when it comes to money. Go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a job, work for 30 years, and retire. While this might be the perfect path for some people, it doesn’t have to be for you. If you can find a way to be self-sufficient in a new or different way, walk that path with pride. Put emphasis on self-sufficiency.
2 – Know where your money goes.
Whether you track every penny or just in large vague categories (obligations, essentials, non-essentials), know where your money is going. Understand how much you’re saving and where you are relative to your goals. Thinking about money doesn’t make you greedy and keeping a budget doesn’t mean depriving yourself. Understanding your spending patterns will allow you to always make the most of your wealth.
3 – Never stop learning.Learn new skills. Learn about yourself... your goals and desires. Learn what others did to achieve success and which of those things can work for you. Click To Tweet
No one is going to come and tell you the secret to financial success, but the answers are out there.
Spoiler alert: They often aren’t found in a school, but there is much to learn from books. Don’t assume the person driving the Lexus has more to teach you than the person in the rusty pickup truck. Resolve to go to bed each night a little smarter than you woke up. Learn to work efficiently, productively, and profitably.
4 – Save, save, save.
The earlier you start saving, the better off you’ll be. Compound interest is a powerful tool and you want to take the greatest advantage of it that you can. If you get in the habit early, you’ll be able to make life choices based on your desires… not whether or not you can afford it.
Put 10%-20% into retirement, minimum, but the more you save, the earlier you can retire and allocate your time to the things that matter most to you.
5 – Focus on your real priorities.
We are surrounded by media, in all forms, trying to sell us things. By the time you are an adult, they will probably have found ways to flash ads inside your sunglasses, on your bathroom mirror, and in your car’s dashboard (since it will be driving itself).
Know the core things that make you happy and don’t allow friends, media, or romantic interests to drive lifestyle creep accumulating things you don’t value. It is hard to give up the “stuff” we are used to, even if it isn’t the “stuff” that we value, so don’t let the useless purchases weasel a way into your life.
By being happier with less, you’ll have more career options open to you and a greater ability to take risks. Ride out tough times with less of a squeeze.
6 – Spend and invest with integrity.
In a capitalist economy, every dollar is a vote. No matter your income level, you can decide to support businesses and products that align with your values and make the world a better place. The local bookstore might be slightly more expensive. However, seeing you buy a book from someone you know and trust is worth every extra penny.
7 – Don’t be afraid to take risks.
This has to be the one I am most nervous about teaching you. It runs contrary to my own instincts. As I write this, I know I will wake up tomorrow morning and go to a job I am not particularly passionate about. It pays well, I’m reasonably good at it, and it provides stability…but I don’t enjoy it. I hope by the time you’re old enough to read this, my situation has changed. But if it hasn’t, understand that nothing of value comes without risk.
Turn to role models who have proven that great financial success can be achieved by ignoring naysayers and chasing your dreams. Read about Henry Ford, Jeff Bezos, J.K. Rowling, Elon Musk and so many others who appreciate risk. Weigh the potential benefits and chase what you want most.
8 – Never spend a dime you didn’t earn.
There is no such thing as a free lunch. When you choose to take on debt to buy things you want, as soon as you want them… you’re selling financial freedom. Debt makes you an indentured servant. Digging yourself out will cause more stress than whatever enjoyment you got from that purchase. Save for big expenses and emergencies. Do not fall into the trap of devaluing your future wealth to benefit current consumption.
9 – You will make mistakes.
Money and finances, like everything else in your life, will be a series of ups and downs. You’ll buy things you don’t need (Daddy Fish bought a boat before we met), you’ll make investments that fall flat, you’ll take jobs for the wrong reasons. When these things happen, make a plan. Remember your real priorities and fight to get back on track. If you ever feel like your mistakes are too big to recover from, remember that Henry Ford went bankrupt before founding Ford Motor Company and growing to almost $200 billion Net Worth. You’ll be just fine.
Fuss Fish, I hope you grow up to feel educated about your finances and empowered about your decisions. I hope when it comes to money, you never have to say “Why didn’t anyone teach me this?!” I hope you never have to wake up in the middle of the night stressed about making ends meet. If you do, I hope you learn from it and get better. Daddy Fish and I will set a good example for you.
And above all, I hope that these years don’t go too fast.
If you have any advice for Fuss Fish or other children please comment below or on the originally posted letter.
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An ex hedge fund investment manager who made a major life decision to choose family over a Wall Street Salary. She’s a full-time blogger, finance writer, aspiring homesteader, and Potterhead living in Connecticut with her husband, two young boys, and puppy. Chelsea is dedicated to helping families understand their finances.