Love your Children: Set Them Up for Success
I have to start this little post by thanking my parents for making me do hard things as a child and learn the skills I needed to get to adulthood pretty successfully. That being said, it’s still a process. Even when your kids are grown up, there are still a myriad of choices you make that will directly impact their success in the future.
My husband and I talk about it quite frequently but we have seen several milestones in the lives of our children where they start needing us as parents in a different way. When the child is an infant, for example, they rely on you for EVERYTHING. Then they become a toddler and start being able to go potty in the toilet, get themselves dressed, etc. If you love them and want what’s best for them; as soon as they can do those things, you need to let them. I understand that it can be embarrassing to go in public with a kid wearing mismatched clothes and two different kinds of shoes but if they start making those choices as a young child, they know how to make those choices and they start to decide what they like and don’t like. Having gone through it with three girls of my own, I can tell you they come out of the awkwardness and start putting together some really cute styles eventually. At some point, they are embarrassed to be in public with you and your style….
The next milestone I like is being able to make a sandwich. Once your child can make a sandwich, you should never have to pack his or her lunch again. If you want to write them a cute note and put it in their lunchbox or pack them a lunch for a special occasion- do it. Just don’t pack their lunch every day. They come to expect it and they never learn how to take care of their own basic need to eat. Support them and show your love in other ways. It helps if you allow them to have input about the items you purchase and have available for them to pack. They may still need some guidance about packing a balanced and nutritious meal for a while. Once they have lunches figured out, teach them to cook other things so they can start helping with dinner too. When they have input, they are much more likely to eat and enjoy the things they are eating.
As soon as they are able, you should expect your kids to help around the house. Whether they have to take turns with dishes, do their own laundry, vacuum and dust, or shovel gravel into a patio outside (this one is from recent experience for me), they should know how to dig in and get the job done. The likelihood they will do this without complaining is low but these are good skills to know forever!
The next milestone I want to talk about is driving. My oldest daughter just started driving and it is wonderful. We practiced with her a lot before she had to drive with the instructor so she felt ready and we trust her to drive. It is now her job to run her sisters where they need to go. Both my husband and I work so it frees us up substantially. My oldest two also put together the dinner menus for the month and do all the grocery shopping (sticking to their weekly budget of course) and most of the cooking. At this point they need my love and emotional support and my credit card for grocery purchases. They have learned under my roof with supervision how to take care of themselves and will be all set when they move out on their own. I’m sure other things will come up as we go but I’m trying my best to set them up for a successful transition into adulthood.
What else could a child possibly need? For starters, what if something would have happened to my husband and I while our kids were really young? What if something happened now? For that, we have a basic will in place. The will names who would take care of our kids if we were gone. It also lays out our wishes regarding our assets. We also have life insurance policies on each of us and all our bank and retirement accounts set up with pay on death beneficiaries. I don’t want to set my kids up to be orphans with no money.
As you accumulate more wealth and a variety of assets, it might make sense to have a trust put in place. A trust can be relatively inexpensive to set up but can direct the trustee to administer the assets in exactly the way you intend all while staying out of probate. If you love your children, don’t set them up for fighting about your assets or feeling anxiety or guilt about trying to get things to go where you would have wanted them to go. Set them up for success. If you don’t feel like you need a trust, at least make a plan. Put in writing what your intensions are so there is no question. Having a trusted financial advisor and/or CPA can help with this daunting task. While we don’t write wills or trusts as CPAs, we can help you find an attorney that is right for you. Your trusted CPA will think through the asset transfer process and the tax consequences that might be associated with the transfer. A little planning on the front end will go far on the back end for your beneficiaries.
Once again; if you love your children, set them up for success in every stage and at every milestone.
Andrea Winkler, CPA