Learning the basics of money

Last night, as part of our Life Lessons, we discussed that you won’t really learn in school, at least not in K-12 school, very much about money. And yet, this may be one of the most important topics, one of the things that can be most practically used in our world today, and one of the things that we could even apply to our lives spiritually – either for good or for bad.

I told the kids that since this is not something that they are going to learn elsewhere, we are going to have to take the responsibility to learn these things on our own.

We started with an overview video, just to give them a sense of the universe of things that we need to discuss and learn together. It was difficult for them to follow because of all of the terms, so we just took three of the points at a time and talked about them, discussing the terms and the basic concepts along the way, attempting to simplify the ideas along the way to remove the mystique that comes with al of the terminology. Here is the video we watched:

So I think that we are going to, over time, start working through the concepts one step at a time. It will be a long time before we finish but we will intersperse several other life lessons along the way so we should be able to mix it up and keep things relatively fresh. Here’s to an adventure into the world of finances!

Boast Only in the Cross of Christ

About 20 years ago, someone gave me some DVDs from the 2000 OneDay conference by Passion at Shelby Farms. I watched John Piper’s talk from that day and his opening stories showing the contrast between the two women who died in Cameroon and those in the Reader’s Digest article hit me like a ton of bricks and stayed with me. Many times in the years following, I felt like I was on the path toward being the “shells” people. It was a rut that I wasn’t sure that I would ever be able to leave.

Thankfully, God gave me another opportunity to serve him and both my wife and I were gripped by the idea of seeing the unreached reached.

Last night, for our Life Lessons time with our kids, we watched this same talk on YouTube. It is here:

I believe that all of us want to have our lives count for something. Piper says that we don’t have to be good-looking, be particularly smart, have a lot of money, etc. Instead, we need to be gripped by a few ideas that are great. We need to allow them to take ahold of us and consume us where we can’t seem to shake them regardless of our circumstances.

Being gripped by the vision of the cross of Christ, taking our joy in the fact that Jesus bought for us every good thing that we have instead of having what we deserve, and helping others to take their joy in him, and live for him as well…those are the things that change the world. Everything else will pass away sooner or later.

Do Your Research

This last Thursday, our Life Lessons evening focused on doing your research, getting the facts and understanding, and knowing what you are talking about before forming opinions and making comments about particular subjects.

What led me to this topic as a Life Lesson was frequent questions conversation at our house with our kids about capitalism vs. socialism. They would frequently point out something that they saw or understood in Europe, especially here in Italy where we live, and ask if I thought that it was an example of socialism. We often didn’t have time to dive into the nuances of the conversation, so we frequently left the conversation open-ended and without a satisfactory ending.

I decided, therefore, to illustrate the need to do your research and gain understanding by watching three videos together from YouTube, learning what capitalism, socialism, and communism are and then discussing them together as a family to confirm that everyone understood, at least at the level of the fundamentals of each system if not also the implications and perceived advantages or disadvantages of each system.

Interestingly, I found that it was a little difficult to find videos on these topics that gave a simple rendering of the facts without much opinion or political background for each of the systems. I found that even those that were presenting the facts were frequently also presenting a lot of the back-and-forth that we see in political conversation, thus making it challenging to present to kids without being too confusing and getting caught up in the swirl of unnecessary political conversation.

If you are interested, here are the three videos that we watched:

In each of these videos, I simply asked the kids some basic questions to check their understanding. For example:

  • What is capitalism / socialism / communism?
  • What is the goal of the system?
  • How is it achieved?
  • What are the potential advantages / disadvantages of this system?

We tried to stay away from the political conversation although, of course, even as the kids asked questions about the advantages and disadvantages, we couldn’t completely ignore our opinions on each of the systems given that we have certain values that we have each grown up with and consider more important over another. At this point, though, my hope is that my kids have a sense of the differences between these economic systems and can begin to form their opinions based on knowledge and understanding instead of simply being caught up in a wave of political or emotional frenzy based on who they like, who they don’t like, or some other type of making decisions that lack real knowledge of the subject that they are discussing.

Extreme Ownership

A few months ago, I watched a TedX video by a guy named Jocko Willink, a former Navy Seal who commanded a unit of Seals in Iraq. He spoke about a particular experience in Ramadi where they experienced one of the worst things imaginable. In the confusion of war, two units who were on the same side started shooting at one another, ultimately killing one of the men that they were working together with.

Jocko spoke about the aftermath, thinking about whose fault it was that this happened. He said that he ultimately decided that it was up to him to take the blame. He was in charge of what was happening on the battlefield, and despite the bad decisions and miscues among the team that could be to blame for the horrific experience, many of which were acknowledged in their debriefing, Jocko decided that he should be the one – if someone were to be fired – to be blamed and fired for the problems that they experienced.

This is going to be tonight’s Life Lesson for my kids. I’m planning to simply watch this and ask some questions:

  • What happened?
  • Why?
  • Why did Jocko take responsibility when there was blame to go around?
  • How do we apply this to our lives?

I want my kids to understand the importance of taking responsibility and ownership for their lives. They shouldn’t simply be tossed by the waves of life, and they certainly shouldn’t pass ownership to someone else. That is for them to do, for them to take ahold, whether for good or for bad.

This is a difficult lesson in a world that typically does the opposite, that frequently simply points the finger at another instead of taking ownership of their own work and their own lives. My hope is that they will learn this lesson early.

Make a Budget

The next lesson in the Life Lessons series is that we need to learn to make a budget. In this time with our kids, we started with a simple budget using, as an example, an estimated starting school teacher’s salary in the US. From there, we then considered taxes, tithes, living expenses, and other ways of prioritizing the ways that we spend our money. I wanted the kids to have a sense of how this works, even though we didn’t really get into a great amount of detail on each of the items.

Here is the spreadsheet that we used as we discussed this example budget. I simply used a Google Chromecast to show the screen from my computer to the TV where the family watched and discussed the budget together.

As I think about future Life Lessons related to finances, I want the kids to think about prioritizing how to use their money, including how to manage their tax burden, where to give their money, how to invest or how to make money, etc. More to come!

The kingdoms of this world vs the Kingdom of God

This is the first of the Life Lessons that we have started with our kids. I’m posting this here for future reference for my family as well as for anyone else that may be interested in reading or using them!

First, as a family, we watched this YouTube video about the Capitol Hill riots in the US:

From there, I asked the kids a question: Why did this happen? Why are the people so upset that they spent all of their money to come to Washington DC to protest and riot in this way?

I told them that they couldn’t simply say that the people want Donald Trump to be president. They need to understand what else is happening at a deeper level.

After several responses, we discussed that it is important to remember which Kingdom that we belong to. Very often, we get confused. We think that the politicians will help us, that we can put our trust in them, especially if they align with our political beliefs. But the truth is that – and this is the Life Lesson – the kingdoms of the world are always temporary. They cannot be depended upon. We can only put our trust in the Kingdom of God. It is the only kingdom that will last forever and is truly good.

As we watched the video above together, I asked the kids about the differences between what happened in this situation vs. how we are to live as members of the Kingdom of God. Through this conversation, we read the words of Jesus which point us in the direction of understanding the nature of the Kingdom of God:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-12

Life Lessons

As a family, we don’t always get to spend as much time together as we would like. With kid activities, work, and other things infringing, we frequently are on the run.

At the same time, when we do have some downtime and can be together, we are often pretty tired, so we default to the easiest thing to do. Often, that can be watching TV or doing whatever sort of needs to be done to get ready for tomorrow.

It became clear to me that there are several things that we were missing in how we were teaching our kids. Several things that I think are important that we never really spend any time talking about. They won’t get these lessons in school, at university, or anywhere else except for experience in life, so it is important to figure out how to set aside time to discuss them.

There isn’t necessarily a curriculum of things that I was wanting to go through, but there are certainly a set of topics to talk about. We’re only two topics in so far, but the kids seem to be engaged in what we’ve been discussing.

Below, I’ll list some of the topics that are yet to come, and continue to update it as we go forward, subsequently entering posts for the individual topics as we do them.

Upcoming Life Lessons

  • Extreme Ownership
  • Be on time
  • Marriage
  • Race relations