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Kids And Money: Why Is Integrity Important?

The other day I heard a great short story and shared it with my kids. It led to a great conversation about reputation and money.


First, let me share the short story with you.



The Frozen Chicken Story


A woman goes into a butcher's shop and asks for a whole frozen chicken. The butcher goes to his freezer and pulls out a chicken. He puts it on the scales and it weighs 1.5kg.


The lady asks if he has a bigger chicken. The butcher goes back to the freezer, puts the first chicken back down and realises he doesn't have any more frozen chickens. He decides to pick up the first chicken again. This time he sneakily puts his thumb on the scale so that the chicken looks like it weighs 2 kg, thinking he could get a few extra dollars.


The lady says:

"That's great .... I'll take both chickens please!!"

Moral of the story:

If you are dishonest/sneaky, you will eventually get caught out and that is going to really damage your reputation, i.e., make sure you always have high integrity.


The best definition of integrity I've heard is:

"Doing the right thing when no one is watching"


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What has this got to do with kids and money?


I really hope that you are already raising your kids to not attempt to scam people out of money, like the butcher in the story. However, this isn't the area of conversation I had with my eldest daughter.


Instead, we talked about the little money decisions which could impact a person's reputation if they didn't act with high integrity. These could include:

  • Noticing that a shop has undercharged you and walking away

  • Hoping someone forgets that they lent you a small bit of money

  • Always being the last person to buy a round of drinks when out with friends


In each of the above, people might 'get away' with these relatively small instances but if you do get caught then the impact on your reputation could be large.


I asked my daughters "What might happen if they are known for cheating with money?"


They correctly said it could mean that friends stop wanting to go out with you as they feel you might take advantage of them.


I shared a great quote from Warren Buffett on this topic:

"It takes years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you'll do things differently."

I also highlighted that it might mean people won't lend you money in times of need, as they feel you won't pay it back.


I then shared a story from when I was younger and borrowed money from my parents.


My own experience


When I was a young teenager, I wanted to buy a jacket but didn't have enough saved for it. I asked my parents to lend me the money as it was in a sale. They did.


After a couple of weeks, they didn't mention the money. I thought they might have forgotten about it. Then the following week, my dad asked for the money back. I said the typical thing that many kids would say "You have a lot more money than me, why do you need this money back?"


My dad replied "It's fine. If you don't want to pay us back, that's your choice"


Whilst he didn't explicitly say it, I knew that if I didn't pay them back there and then, he wouldn't give or lend me money again. I paid it straight back and have always done so ever since.



A mistake on the bill


I also shared with my daughters that I've heard many people celebrate when they managed to save a bit of money as a shop or restaurant undercharged them by mistake.


I want my daughters to understand that it shouldn't be seen as a 'win', as the person at the shop or restaurant who made the mistake could end up in a lot of trouble which could have been avoided if the customer noticed the mistake (as I'm sure the customer would have been happy to highlight the mistake if they were overcharged).


Summary: Kids, Money and Integrity


Whilst you might believe your kids are angels and would never show a lack of integrity with money, there is no harm in sharing the story of the frozen chickens with them.


We should all ensure that our kids don't look to save money by being 'cheap' or 'sneaky' with money. This means we have to be open with them about why this is important and the implications of small actions.


Do you know the difference between Cheap and Frugal? If not, check out my blog "Cheap Kids vs Frugal Kids"


Thanks for reading and don't forget to subscribe.


Will


P.S., If you want your kids to grow up to be financially healthy and wealthy, they need to be taking the right actions with their money now. To teach them about these actions, grab a copy of Grandpa's Fortune Fables from Amazon.


Grandpa's Fortune Fables Book Cover by Will Rainey





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