Have you ever thought that your greatest asset might be under your own roof and not locked away in a vault? What I am talking about is family. You have heard the expression that family can be your worst critics or largest supporters. I agree with that statement, but I also agree that families can be the highest-valued possession you have on this earth.
How Can Families Be So Valuable?
If you come from a family that can barely rub two pennies together or come from a broken home, you might think I’m crazy in saying that your family is the greatest treasure one can have on this earth. If you fall into one of these categories, give me a chance to plead my case.
Families Are A Wealth Of Knowledge
Families do greatly define who you are and what you do in you life. They teach you morals, life skills, whether you prefer to vacation at the mountains or the beach, and influence your livelihood. When it comes time to choosing a career, you might just go right into the family business. Or maybe your parents with that family business, steer you away and tell you “Knowing what I know now, I never would have gotten into this trade when I was your age.”
On the flipside, families can also teach you how not to live. I have read several blogs where the author didn’t follow the lifestyle of their parents and became a better person because of it. Had they followed suit, they would have been a drug addict or relied on handouts the rest of their life.
Looking at my wife & I for example, we have similar upbringings but we were definitely raised differently in one aspect of life. Her family taught her the advantages of self-employment whereas I grew up with the mindset of working for an employer. The jury is still deliberating if her knack for creative, entrepreneurial ideas comes from this upbringing or she was born with it.
Families Prevent Poverty
Statistics show that the poverty rate of married, two-family households is significantly lower than unmarried households. In 2009, 70% of the poor families with children were unmarried! This strong correlation also transcends into the prison population. Quoting from a study by the Urban Institute, “A large percentage of poor children live with just one parent, usually their mother, and single-parent families are more vulnerable to economic downturns than are two-parent families.”
Google anything along the lines of “family and anti-poverty strategies” and the search results will come up with a list of various think tanks and op-eds about the topic and a host of solutions.
There is no such thing as a perfect family, but belonging to a family can be better than no family at all.
Having a family isn’t necessarily cheap. Raising children is as expensive as you make it granted there will be additional, unavoidable expenses that need to be budgeted for such as braces and the additional travel & dining costs that come with each child. But those annual tax credits for being married and having children sure do help!
Being in a family can prevent poverty. Say if you get injured or sick, your spouse can step in and earn an income to help out. Families can also provide connections. How often are people offered a job because of who they know than solely decided on merit?
Two-parent families have many anti-poverty advantages. From the personal finance viewpoint, the biggest advantage is the dual income potential. It’s one reason, I left my former employer and decided my wife could work part-time self employed allowing me to pursue a career that pays less but has a regular schedule. When she is working, I am home caring for the baby and vice versa.
The ability to pay the bills & still put money away for savings is a big deal. This allows opportunities for the children to have a better education, be less exposed to the stress and issues (violence, drugs, alcoholism) that is more prevalent in lower social classes, and to have a head start in knowing what it takes to be financially successful.
What About Single Parent Households?
There are many children raised in single-parent households that are successful (& many raised in two-parent households that are not). It’s just the single parent has to work extra hard to put food on the table, keep the lights on, and make sure the child graduates from school. One parent can only do so much and, in my opinion, more single parent households experience more sacrifices and missed growth (financial and personal) opportunities than two-parent households.
Parents naturally want the best for their children. They make decisions that they feel are best for their families and children. Unfortunately we are all human and the world isn’t perfect.
Another key element missing from a single-parent household is the presence of an additional role model. That is one less person able to teach a child knowledge about life and provide future career advice.
The Hamster Wheel Concept
This is a metaphor (help me out English majors) that my wife likes to use occasionally. I’ve been doing my best to refrain from turning this into a social policy paper, but I believe the hamster wheel applies to personal finance and economics.
Families, regardless of social class, tend to mimic their surroundings and thus stuck get on the hamster wheel. If ou need it phrased in a different way, think about running on a treadmill. You keep running, like the mouse on the wheel, but stay in the same place. You never move forward or backwards.
This might not be a bad thing if you are rich, financially independent, or have the answers to every aspect of life. If you are poor, this is bad because you will never escape the cycle of poverty or experience upward social mobility.
People more than likely do as adults what they saw their own families do when they were children. Your family bought Ford automobiles so now you do too, 30 years after moving away. Or your family always put 10% of their paycheck into a savings account and that is how you learned financial literacy.
Example Of The Hamster Wheel: My wife volunteered as a receptionist at an organization that primarily served low-income families. With the able-bodied people waiting in the lobby for their appointment time, the common talk among them was based around getting “their check.” This “check” was government assistance and it was their primary source of income. Some of these people really didn’t know anything else and did not know the first thing about budgeting, saving, or the concept of financial independence. Thus they had no clue how to jump off the hamster wheel.
How My Family Is Valuable
If I haven’t said it already, my family (immediate and extended) is not perfect. But I couldn’t live without them as a child or now that I have one of my own.
If you are floating a new business idea or something else you want to change in your life, your family is going to be a very good source of opinion because they know your strengths and weaknesses better than most people.
Families & true best friends will support & help you when times get tough. We experienced family generosity this Christmas when we were able to borrow a relative’s vehicle instead of renting one when our family car became unsuitable for a 7-hour trip at the last minute.
Our families have also supported us as we got married, had a child, and as we currently build a house. The last item involves sweat equity on my part, but it is worth it.
Speaking of immediate family, my wife helps pay the bills by using her talents while still able to remain a stay-at-home mom. She’s also a good,healthy cook and wise with managing money. Our ultimate goal is to have a family business together and are currently working towards that goal. Time will tell. ?
What about your family?
Has your family or best friend taught you valuable lessons that have made you a better person? I hope so.
If nothing else, I hope the statistics show how poverty primarily affects one group of people, unmarried families with at least one child.
You might shrug your shoulders and think to yourself, “No big deal. I’m financially secure so my family is ok.” Well I have a tough pill to swallow but it is the responsibility of us who have realized the value of family to help those who haven’t.
After all, our tax dollars support assistance programs that help impoverished families in times. While I think it’s great that charitable and government support exists, I want the overall trend of family decline and poverty to reverse. When it does, our society will improve and we can focus our efforts elsewhere.
The one course of action all of us can take is educating our own families. This include financial literacy, being a supportive role model, and teaching our children right & wrong. If you don’t give them the correct tools for life, do you trust the quality of the other people’s tools more?
Where your family is weak, try to find good role models outside of the home to teach your children. Parents cannot teach there children everything, but they can be their most influential teachers.
How valuable is your family? Who helped you become a better person?
Thanks For Reading,