Children are wise, aren't they?
As seriously as I take my position as a mentor and role model for my kids, there are countless times they are the ones to teach me.
Saving for future goals has come later for us, when compared to many of our friends and colleagues at the same life stage. The decision to support JB's return to school, after we had already started our family, meant going into further debt and putting a lot of what we thought we wanted for our future on hold. It also meant relying on the generosity and support of our extended family to help navigate the unexpected surprises and costs of being in school and having a young family.
When we purchased our first home—just as JB was finishing graduate school—we affectionately called it our starter home, even though it was a huge investment for us at the time. We were grateful it had enough bedrooms to hold our family, plus an extra guest room for out-of-town visitors. When we first moved in, it felt decadent. But still, we were telling ourselves it was the house that would tide us over until we found our dream home.
At that time, our two children hadn't started school and we were still in the dark about the cost of having them in extracurricular activities or going on family vacations. When our family grew to four children, over the span of a few years, our vision of what was possible began to change.
Finding a home that would fit a family of six was a much greater challenge with respect to cost. And adding daily living expenses and unexpected home and car repairs, while also planning for extras like family trips on airplanes made it feel impossible.
We thought it would benefit our family most in the long run if we put off big family trips and held back on saving for their educations; but we were wrong.
During one of our dinner table discussions about what we were looking for in our next home, our then eight-year-old son piped up with a question that changed everything.
Why are we looking for a new house when we already have one?
Don't you guys want a bigger house and your own rooms, we asked them.
The verdict was unanimous—they did not.
The discussion turned to what they really wanted: to stay in a home that felt safe and happy; to go on trips and create memories together; to know their parents weren't worried about going into more debt for the sake of extra square footage.
Sitting at that overcrowded dinner table, in our tiny kitchen, where elbows often collide and laughter always takes a seat, it became clear. It sounds overly nostalgic to say this now, but that's the beauty of taking on the viewpoint of a child: we already had our dream home. We already had more than enough. And it was incredibly humbling to hear that from our children.
There were so many other ways we could dream as a family.
We have started planning for their educations (no small feat with four children born in an eight year span); we are taking a big trip together every other year and smaller road trips in between; and we are investing in dance and music and art lessons because they make our kids happy. We also have a greater ability to help others and to incorporate those lessons into our family life.
After taking the #LifeReady quiz from Manulife, I know there are still a lot of steps we can take to reach our new goals for our family's here and now, as well as for our future. And that means we are among the 72% of Canadians who feel they can improve their financial readiness, too.
But we've already taken the biggest step in the right direction, by making decisions as a family and focusing on what matters most.