What I Tell My Daughter About Money (and Life)

I had a great Father’s Day weekend, spending time at the beach watching my daughter compete in a major surf contest at Huntington Beach.

This week I’ll watch her do an even bigger one – the USA championships at Lower Trestles, an invite-only Olympic development event.

Quite honestly, my daughter amazes me. After just a few years in the sport, and just a few days after her twelfth birthday, she’s already doing things most people only dream of. (See for yourself by checking out her Instagram account @velamattive.)

It’s the result of natural talent, passion, and hard work.

So through surfing, she’s already learning major life lessons.

But I take every opportunity to give her additional insights… many of the same ones my mom and dad gave to me.

Probably the simplest and most effective thing I’ve ever learned is the need to keep things in balance – not just on a board but in life… and especially when it comes to money.

Finding Balance

It started when, as a young kid, my parents took me to the bank to open up a basic savings account.

I can still remember getting handed that little passbook ledger for the first time. It seemed so important and grown up!

From that day on, we always put some money into the account whenever I received gifts for birthdays or other special occasions.

I was then able to watch the progress add up in that little book, a tangible reminder of saving for the future.

At the same time, I was free to spend money on things I wanted, too.

The overall message was pretty clear: Life isn’t about being a miser OR a spendthrift. It’s about maintaining balance between current wants and future needs.

Today, my daughter is saving and spending her own money just like I did.

Managing Your Health

It’s the same thing when it comes to overall health, too.

If you think about eating and exercise, you’ll quickly realize that our bodies are just like checkbooks: They’re best when they stay balanced.

Burn up a lot more energy than you take in, and you crash.

Consistently take in more calories than you burn, and you accumulate extra deposits over time!

So again, I always aim for balance.

I try to eat the highest-quality foods possible. But I don’t deny myself pleasurable splurges, either.

The way I see it, an ice cream isn’t a big deal if I ride my bike 15 miles that same day. 

Coincidentally, even the act of exercising serves as a good counterweight to all the time I spend sitting at a desk writing and watching the markets.

When I come back from surfing or cycling, I end up feeling more energized and creative.

Teaching My Daughter Balance

My daughter has grown up seeing this in action and already practices it herself.

We might take a few hours to go surf together then return home and get our respective chores and work done.

We have dessert but only after the healthy dinner is over.

And speaking of my work, I’m also trying to impart the power of not just saving but also investing!

If you merely eat well, exercise regularly, and spend less than you make, you’ll be living a pretty solid life – probably better than 90% of the population.

But learning how to get your money working for you is what takes things to the next level and gets you that extra 9% or 10%.

Again, I try to illustrate this to my daughter whenever a situation arises.

For example, a few years ago all of the girls in her school were into a teeny-bopper clothing retailer at the local shopping mall.

So one day, when she was going on about how great their clothes were, I took it as an opportunity to explain the basic premise of capitalism.

“Do you realize,” I said, “That instead of spending $50 on a t-shirt there, you can actually buy some of the store itself for the same amount of money?”

After a little further discussion about the merits of owning a stake in the store itself, which was part of publicly-traded retail group, my daughter went quiet for a minute.

“Would I have to work there?” she asked.

“No,” I explained. “Actually, everyone at the store would work for you. And every time one of your friends bought something, you would benefit from that spending.”

The general concept quickly took root in her mind — she started talking about opening her own store, including how she would price the products. (“High, so I make a lot of money.”)

Right now, it’s mostly just cute when we have these conversations.

But there’s no doubt in mind that the long-term implications will be crucial to her success, her independence, and her overall well being.

Because, really, these lessons are not just about money, physical fitness, or hard work.

They’re about truly living well… enjoying what you have… dealing with both the wins and the losses… and always aiming to do a little better in the future.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

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