For a lot of you tax refunds are rolling in right now, and you are considering what you will be doing with your own tax refund. Will you spend it freely without a care in the world? Will your tax refund pay off bills? Will you save it? It’s a big decision, at least it was for us this year thanks to my husband and I way overestimating how many taxes we would owe and receiving our own large tax refund. And for me getting a tax refund always reminds me of the feeling I had during one of my earliest surprise financial windfalls.
A Childish Financial Windfall Story
I was eleven years old, and was living in Venezuela. My family in order to escape the constant upper 90 degree heat spent a lot of weekends in the Andes mountains. We always did the same things when we visited the mountains. We stopped at a place ½ way up to our hotel that had a waterfall that we could play under while our parents got us strawberry smoothies at a nearby hut that sold them. We enjoyed, once we got to our cabaña, putting on a sweaters feeling cold in the cool 80′s. And we hiked around the mountains watching my dad play with his expensive camera trying to capture the beauty of the tropical jungles. One day, however, our usual routine was interrupted as we were crossing the street to get to a creek that looked so inviting. Right there out in the middle of the road was a 100 bolívar bill just lying there in the sun all alone, my first financial windfall.
Now back then 4 bolívares, bees as we called them, equaled a dollar. Also it should be added that I only received 4 bees a week as an allowance. So for me as an 11 year old finding a 100 bolívar bill on the road was probably one of the most exciting things that had ever happened to me.
But as eleven year olds often do, I was not wise with my sudden prosperity. You see I lived with a health nut that refused to pay for me to eat the yummy school cafeteria tequeños. She preferred I take my lunch. Normally with my allowance I could afford to rebel and eat tequeños once a week. (The other ½ of my allowance I used to buy chicle(gum) through a hole in the fence from the guy who set up a shop in his back yard which connected to my school–but that’s another story.) Being a junk food lover, as I still am today, I was very excited by the prospect of getting to eat lunch at the school and not having to take my lunch every day. And no sooner did I get my financial windfall of 100 bees, than did I blow that windfall on tequeños and Shasta naranja (orange Shasta).
Tax Refunds: Setting an Financially Healthy Example
For children I think that my story is a pretty common one as it is totally normal for many children to have no natural discipline when it comes to getting a financial windfall. After all many children have to learn how to manage their money, and often times they do so by looking to their parents for guidance and example. It is a parent’s job as an adult to guide them and teach them how to spend their money more responsibly than I did.
The problem arises when we as adults have weaknesses for our own adult version of tequeños and Shasta naranjas. Our children see us spending our money irresponsibly and then mirror our behaviors as they would mirror any other behavior that they see coming from us whether it be how we handle stress or how we handle our money.
I think it’s important that while we are basking in the afterglow of the sometimes surprise tax refund to remember that little eyes, our children, are watching us looking to us as an example of how they should handle their own money. Do we teach them to gorge themselves on tequeños, Shasta naranja, and chicle? Or do we do something more responsible like plan for the future and budget for a financially healthy life?
How are you spending your tax refund this year?
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