In a recent meeting, a wealthy client told me a story about his daughter, who will be off to university in a few years. Our client said that he and his daughter were having a very nice discussion about where she plans to attend. She became very passionate about a small arts and sciences university here on the west coast.
The conversation turned to the cost of her degree. That’s when the nice conversation turned sour.
The client mentioned that the cost of this university is roughly double the cost of what it would be to attend a “regular” university. Like most parents, he made his case by falling back on the old adage, “We can’t afford that.”
After a few minutes of discussing money, the daughter clearly got anxious and concerned. She became curious around the family’s wealth situation. As they discussed their family finances, it became clear that the daughter was asking questions because she was worried that the family was not as financially well-off as she thought.
Our client made it very clear that she didn’t have anything to worry about when it came to money; however they did not own a money tree which bears unlimited fruit! The client continued to mention that they spend their money on things that really mattered to the family and avoided things that didn’t align with their family values.
He apologized to his daughter for making her upset with his comment about affordability and realized he should have offered a more honest answer. He acknowledged that attending this particular university is something she is clearly passionate about. They finished their conversation wit how he could support her to realize her goal.
Kids are astute. They know more than we give them credit for. Anxiety rears its head when it comes to money decisions without knowing the whole picture. Parents can worry or scare their children if they say things that they don’t really mean or if they aren’t transparent.
“We can’t afford that” is not the same as, “We’d rather spend our money on something that aligns with our family’s values.” The latter statement shifts the discussion from “being poor” to “what matters most to our family?”