How Society can Affect Your Net Worth.

The song “No man is an island, no man stands alone” says it all, even down to how much wealth we might accumulate in our lifetimes.

Society affects each of us – what we give and get from others. Others affect us.

How can society affect our net worth?

We want to fit in.

For the human condition, there is safety in numbers. Our remote ancestors found this to be true when fighting off the beasts and we still see and feel the need to be part of a group. Often times, we benefit from being part of a group.

The first group we are part of is usually a family. Families influence us immensely. Each family grouping has unique expectations.

Some families traditionally work for others for a living and therefore expect us to do so as well. Some families start their own business and are disappointed if their children don’t start one too. Some families expect kids to drop out of school and earn money for the family. Other families encourage kids to go to college and be a professional. Each of these could affect our ability to generate wealth and grow our net worth.

We tend to rise (or fall) to the level of expectations set – to fit in, to avoid disapproval. If you are expected to go to school, learn well and earn good grades, you are more likely to do so than the child who is ridiculed for being a ‘geek’.

We model our behavior by watching those around us.

Kids learn so much more by observing than they do through lessons. If your parents were savers, you probably are a saver as well. If your work associates discuss investing, you may be more prone to think about putting money in the market. You do what you know.

Wanting to fit in can influence your ability to generate wealth.

Perhaps you feel like you must go to the bar, out to lunch, shopping with the girls, to the game to the greens and etc to join in with the group. Joining the group at times can be very advantageous, but joining in every time can limit your opportunity to accumulate wealth.

We compare ourselves to others and compete.

The things that we want from life are influenced by those we see around us. We consciously and subconsciously are always comparing ourselves and our possessions to what others have. We judge our relative value through these comparisons – even though we shouldn’t.

Sometimes we feel we have to spend money to obtain what we perceive as a comparable level of wealth. Keeping up with the Jones can be a wealth drainer.

For example, when we work in a professional field (like surgeons), we may feel we have to maintain the ‘right’ image by living in a certain neighborhood, driving a certain kind of car, dressing a certain way, belonging to the right club and etc. Maintaining this image can be a wealth drainer.

We rely on others.

Others may provide or withdraw opportunities than could help us get wealthy.

The boss might decide to challenge you by giving you a big opportunity. If you succeed, that opportunity might lead to bigger and better things. Likewise, the boss could hold you back by denying opportunities or refusing to acknowledge your skills or shunting you off onto a sideline that has no advancement potential.

Words CAN hurt your ability to accumulate.

I believe it is much easier to do great things when you receive support and encouragement from those around you. Ridicule can quickly kill your desire to achieve.

If your spouse makes fun of your thriftiness, or down plays your ability to start that super star business, you will be tempted to just drop the idea. If she yells at you when you spend money on certain things. or he gets mad if the checkbook isn’t subtracted out right away you may retaliate or you may avoid doing those things in the future. The ways you interact with others about money can influence your ability to be wealthy.

Early experiences with money issues can have a life long affect. If your parents punish you for spending or reward you for saving, it can have an emotional impact years into the future – and not necessarily the one your parents intended.

What has society done to alter your net worth?

Money Books to Read with Tweens

It is quick, easy and usually fun to read books about money, saving, spending, giving and managing to our little ones under the age of 7. But once kids enjoy reading on their own, it can be difficult to wade through those longer chapter books without all those colorful pictures in a read-aloud environment.

The books must be engaging, teach a relevant lesson, be easy enough for ages 7 – 9 to read, yet not so simple that the middle schoolers feel insulted.

Tooth Paste Millionaire by Jean Merrill

This is a classic book written in 1972 touches on many themes, diversity, tolerance, cooperation, math and money.

In it young Rufus is sent to the store by his Mom to buy some supplies, among which is a tube of toothpaste. Rufus takes his new friend Kate who has just moved to Cleveland with her family and doesn’t know anyone. Rufus considers the toothpaste too expensive, remembering that his Grandma had showed him how to brush using just baking soda. He goes home without a tube and invents his own paste, complete with flavoring. He and a growing group of helpers proceed to make gallons of the stuff and to sell it in recycled baby food jars.

With the help of Kate, they switch to tubes, find a factory and a machine operator and proceed to build a business.

In my 2015 Grandma Rie’s Money Camp, the other Grandma and I read this book to our two grandchildren each night of camp and finished it off that week. I also made up my own board game to go along with the book to help the kids internalize the messages of thriftiness, the rewards of having your own business, and the rest of the lessons that run through the book without lecture.

Kid Zillionaire by Raymond Bean

This is the first in a series of Kid Zillionaire books.

The book provides an out sized example of the benefits of starting your own business, which should plant an idea or two in your tween’s head, but I tempered that vision by having a discussion about the risks that can come with having your own business and in talking about the success (or failure) rate of many businesses.

Benji’s class is given an assignment to create some kind of an app. At home, Benji and his Dad love to work on inventions of all kinds and to test them out. They are in the middle of a crucial test when his piano teacher arrives to give Benji a lesson. Benji tries to find an excuse to get out of the lesson but his Dad holds him to it.

This makes Benji think that there must be a better way to come up with excuses, so he writes an app to do just that. When he demonstrates it at school, as required by the teacher for this lesson, classmates begin trying it out out on their smart phones under their desks, but the teacher is apprehensive that it isn’t morally right. Benji puts the app up for sale on an app store and instantly makes millions and zillions of money. He goes on in the book to do heroic and charitable things.

In my 2016 Grandma Rie’s Money Camp, we read this book each evening until complete. Since the grandkids are both old enough to read, they took turns with me reading the book together.

The Young Investor by Katherine R. Bateman

This non-fiction book was written by a grandma to help her own grandchildren know what to do with a gift she planned to give when they were teens.

It covers many relevant concepts, starting with an explanation of money – coins, bills, currencies, etc.

Chapters cover saving, investing, stock market concepts, reading stock prices, researching stocks, a bit on the economy and additional resources for the kids to use.

At the end of each chapter, she includes a fictional account of a young investor, to show how he applied the concept in that chapter. For example, in the chapter on saving Billy Ray started putting Christmas and birthday gift money into a bank account. One day he realized that the money in the account was growing more quickly than just the money he was adding. The compound interest word problems he had done in school now came alive and he saw the power of compounding on his own money.

Each chapter builds on Billy Ray’s money experience.

This is a great resource book. So far, I have been using it in Money Camp to get ideas to teach to the kids (now 12 and 9). I plan to gift a copy of the book to each of them when they reach the age of about 14 or when they are high school sophomores.

Do you know of some interesting books for tweens to help them learn about money and finances?