I am Working for Money to Buy Toys.

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On our way from church this morning, my 3 year old son earnestly requested me to pass by the supermarket so that he could buy toys. He is obsessed with dinosaurs and there’s this particular collection of 8 dinosaurs that he’s been eyeing for months now!

The thing is, at the start of the year, I decreed that all money for toys in my household must be earned. I then gave my children the job of washing my car every day. Before I had them, I used to personally wash my car from home twice a week as a form of stress release. And once every quarter, I’d have it professionally washed. I gave birth to my children within 2 years and when my son clocked 3 years, it was time for him and my home crew to take over the home car washing task!

Anyway, back to the trip from church. So, when my son asked for the supermarket detour, I inquired from him, “Where is your money? You need money to buy toys.” Suddenly, my children’s nannies started laughing out loud. My son’s nanny, Nuusulah, seemed to have put 2 and 2 together. She commented, “No wonder Johnnyoo is always asking for more water to wash the car. He keeps on saying that he’s working for money to buy toys.” Nuusulah went on to add, “Every day when you come back home Johnnyoo tells you that your car is dirty and it needs to be washed. Then he quickly helps to get the buckets and things for washing the car.”

My 2 year old daughter busy washing her assigned part of the car.

Come to think of it, for a couple of months now, I had to park my car in a particular spot because there’s easier access for the water pipe to the car and my son kept on insisting that I park my car in that particular spot.

Also, the other day when I went shopping in the market with my 3 year old son and my 2 year old daughter, my daughter started crying out for a kiddie bag and I asked her how much money she had to buy the bag. I even added that, “My money is mine, for you where is your money?” I remember my son mentioning that he wanted toys and that he had his money. Kumbe I had never actually given him his hard earned money.

Johnnyoo, his sister and his nanny washing the car in the evening.

Here’s 4 critical lessons I learnt from this:

  1. It is very important to teach finances to children earlier on in life. It is never too early to teach children about the responsibilities around money but it will be too late to teach them about money when they cannot fend for themselves later on in life.
  2. When you promise something, follow through with it. I actually promised to give my son UGX 500 every day he washed my car and he has diligently washed the tyres of the car since the beginning of the year except for 18 days when I travelled away from home. He has effectively earned 117 X 500 = UGX 58,500 which is about $16.34. The dinosaur set he wants costs only UGX 22,000/-. So he has earned it! Now I must get some piggy banks and start teaching him basic financing.
  3. Creativity and innovation starts earlier on in life. Exposing your children to different avenues of growth enhances their creativity. My son took on the task of daily reminding me about how my “dirty” car needed a wash mainly for him to keep track of his growing finances and also to remind me about the commitment I made to pay him. My children have a number of tasks around our home: cleaning the compound, planting, digging and so many others but the only avenue I chose to let them earn from was washing my car.
  4. Accountability starts at a young age. Because my son needed the people within his environment to understand his motives, he kept on reminding his nanny to give him more water so that he could wash the car well enough to earn his money to buy his toys.

My next line of action is to teach about saving and investment. It’s easy to teach about saving however i’m still wondering about the approach to take around investment for a 3 year old. Hhhhmmmm…..

Teaching children entrepreneurship skills and financial literacy is something I personally take seriously especially for our young ones here in Africa. These topics are somewhat taboo for us yet they are the very reason we seem not to progress beyond the common 1 year business lifecycle. International records show that Uganda is the most entrepreneurial country in the world however national statistics show that more than 80% of businesses do not get to live beyond their first birthday. This is not rocket science but a pointer to the fact that we are not taught some basic fundamental skills earlier on in life.

I was greatly honoured to have been invited to the Stanbic Bank Schools Championship where I gave a keynote address on entrepreneurship to secondary school children. Here’s the YouTube video link:

Have you taught your children about money? If you did, how did you go about it? If you haven’t or didn’t, why didn’t you?