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Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday Musings: What do you really NEED? (And the story of Rumpelstiltskin!)




As you may know, I have 3 grown children and 1 daughter who is a senior in high school.  My oldest daughter is married and has given me two cute little grandsons, Charlie and Henry!  She is in her second year of law school and is one busy mamma!  My second child, a son,  just got married last fall and he and his wife are still in school.  They currently live in our basement.  My third child and second son got married over a year ago and they have happily settled into a little apartment while they finish college.  And my youngest has just been accepted to several colleges and is trying to figure out where she wants to go and what she wants to do with her life.

I am enormously proud and happy with my children!  I feel like they are good and wonderful people and are well on their way to successful and joyful lives!  I love their spouses and feel the same way about them!

But in the back of my mind, I am a little worried.  Worried as I always have been, that I have not taught them enough.  That I have missed some part of their training.  That something I've done or not done will cause them trouble further down the paths of their lives.

Today I'm thinking about money.  I'm thinking about credit cards.  I'm thinking about school loans and auto loans and rent costs.

My husband used to explain to my children that there were 3 ways to categorize things when they begged for stuff that money could buy.  He told them that there were NEEDS, WANTS, and WISHES.

NEEDS are things that are absolutely basic to life.  Food.  Shelter.  Clothing.  Without them, you would die.  Those things always came first in the budget.  And our children were never without.  They were never hungry, homeless, or naked.  We were obligated to see that their needs were always filled.

WANTS are things that make life better.  Food that is tasty and healthy for you.  Shelter that gives you a nice home with helpful furnishings.  Clothing that is appropriate for the weather, school, or church.  Our children almost always had their wants fulfilled.  We were not obligated by law to fulfill their wants, but we loved them and it was our pleasure to provide for their wants.

WISHES are things that are not at all needed in life.  They are just things our hearts desire.  That silly new cereal that was advertised on Saturday morning TV.  Fruit snacks.  Twinkies.  Chocolate Cake.  Wishes are that cool house in the elite neighborhood with the swimming pool.   Wishes are your very own bedroom that you don't have to share.  Wishes are a backyard playground and trampoline. They are designer jeans and special hoodies and video games of all kinds. Once in a while, we indulged our children's wishes.  We bought them exactly what they wanted.  We spent the extra money on the desire of their hearts.  It gave us joy to do so...when we had the money.

But we never went into debt for wants or wishes.  We never put that kind of thing on the credit card.  And we never traded a need for a want or wish.  No one went hungry so that someone else could have a special toy.  Needs first.  Then wants.  Then wishes.

My worry is that my children have not retained this counsel from their father.  School loans are so very easy to obtain.  Credit card companies target young college students.  Just sign here for "free" money!

But it isn't really free.  Only Rumpelstiltskin can spin straw into gold.  Someday, sometime he will come back and take your "first born child."  It won't be easy to find out his name.  And the life you've built on his funny money will be so dear to you that you won't want to give it back.  But he will indeed take it!

There are good reasons to borrow money.  Those needs must be met.  Future needs must be planned for.  College costs can be a good reason for debt.  A better career can await you when you have a degree.  Future needs, wants, and wishes can be better provided for.  But how much straw into gold do you need?  How many times do you really need to make a bargain with Rumpelstiltskin?  And what are you willing to give up to pay him back?

Years and years of not being able to move forward financially while you pay back loans with all the extra interest?  No ability to buy a house while you waste money on rent and live in less-than-desirable neighborhoods?  Never being able to provide your children with anything more than basic needs?  Possibly not even being able to provide that?  Fights with your spouses about finances because you feel so "one down" from others or you never get to spend money on anything "fun?"  Driving your now broken-down car forever?  Having to beg and borrow and scrimp for enough to meet your bills?  Maybe not being able to pay the bills?  Having the electricity turned off?  The gas?  The TV?  The phone?

There are many scenarios that await those who deal with Rumpelstiltskin.  He is not a kind master.  And while it worked out for the poor Miller's daughter--she was not really to blame for her father's boast of her exceptional "talent" of being able to spin straw into gold--you, my dear children, are blessed to have parents who would never boast that of you!  We know you are wonderful!  We know you are talented.  We know you have the means to do great things.  But we do not boast of you beyond your strength.  We do not expect you to live beyond your means.  We do not want to you marry the king.  We want you to be free and happy and successful in what your own talents can bring you.  Without the lies of debt and the prison of interest.

So in case we failed to teach you this principle well enough, please hear it now.  Don't go into debt for wants or wishes.  Steer clear of the evil Rumpelstiltskin whenever you can.  If you must deal with him, make only the promises you know you can keep.  And be done with him as soon as you can.

While we are no longer responsible for your needs or wants or wishes, we are happy to share whatever we have learned about making limited resources stretch to meet the needs and some of the wants of life. We encourage you to learn how to spin whatever you have into the "gold" you need.  We love you.  And don't want you to suffer.

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