I was recently listening to a super interesting talk titled “Why younger siblings are better at sports”. As the younger sibling, I had a vested interest in this topic. The talk got me thinking about how siblings can impact each other in terms of money.
Before I talk about money, let me share some of the interesting points from the talk about siblings and sports.
Why younger siblings are better at sports
There have been several studies which looked at the family dynamics of top sports stars. These studies show that in a majority of cases, these sports stars were not the eldest sibling. Just look at the tennis stars, Serena Williams (younger sister) vs Venus Williams (older sister).
They then went on to explain why younger siblings are better at sports and it comes down to three main points which are linked to their childhood:
ONE: Learning from failure
If a younger sibling is playing a sport against their older siblings who are faster and stronger, they are likely to get beaten more often than not.
As with most things in life, we learn from failures. When playing sports against a stronger and faster older sibling, it is more difficult for the younger sibling and more often than not they are going to lose. It’s from these losses that they are learning. They have to learn new skills to compensate for being smaller and weaker. These can be skills, tactics or the mental side of the game. In the process of working out how to compensate, the younger sibling is refining an ‘edge’. As they get older, and the physical differences between siblings go away, the ‘edge’ is still with the younger sibling and allows them to go on to do better as adults.
Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever, was the youngest of three brothers. He credits the hours of losing to his brothers, especially Larry, with his success. He said:
Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever, was the youngest of three brothers. He credits the hours of losing to his brothers, especially Larry, with his success.
"I don't think from a competitive standpoint, I would be here without the confrontations with my brother (Larry)"
TWO: Learning to deal with failure
Younger siblings have to learn to deal with failure more often due to physical disadvantages. This gives them a mental advantage when they are older and face failure. They appreciate that losing isn’t the end of the world.
Also, they have less fear about playing against players who might appear to be physically stronger or faster than them as they had to face them their whole life.
As we continue to move to a world where parents do whatever they can to avoid seeing their kids fail (helicopter parenting), the experience the younger sibling gets from playing (and failing) with their older siblings will give them a very big advantage in life.
Having an older sibling gives the younger sibling a goal to aspire too. It creates that desire to win and a higher level of competitiveness which last into adulthood.
This point hit home to me. My older sister was a really good Irish dancer when I was younger. She travelled around the country for competitions and received many medals. Whilst I was proud of having a champion sister, I also had the competitive mindset of ‘Whatever she can do, I can do it too!’. I then set out to do just that. I started to do Irish Dancing, even though I never liked watching it or the music. I wanted to prove that I could also win competitions (there was no other pressure from anyone - just my desire to do as well as my older sister … I know, super petty!!). I practised for about a year and in my second competition, I got the top medal. As I proved I could do what my sister was doing, I then quit. Whilst I’m not proud of why I started or finished Irish dancing, the experience of working hard on a specific goal and achieving it definitely helped me later in life. I’m not sure I would have had that motivation if it wasn’t for my sister.
Siblings and Money
The talk about siblings and sports got me thinking about whether any of this translates to siblings and money. Is a younger or older sibling more likely to be better with money?
Unlike sports, there is a lot less data as money is not a topic that most families talk about with their kids. The limited data available suggests older siblings save more and if there are more than 2 siblings, the youngest is likely to care the least about money.
Interesting statistic: People without siblings generally earn more than those who do. However, an only child will suffer more from “Keeping Up With The Jones’” and this leads to a greater level of spending. Therefore, if you have one child, make sure you read this blog about teaching your kids about Keeping Up With The Jones’.
The limited data is largely due to money not being discussed in most households, especially with kids. I don’t have any memories of what my sister spent her pocket money on or whether she had any savings. We just didn’t talk about it. I do remember when she got her first job at 15 or 16 years old and thinking that I wanted to get a job so I could have more money to spend.
Without much data available, I started thinking more about my kids. As mentioned in previous blogs, for my daughters, when they save some of the money they receive, we say this is like planting a seed. As we invest their savings, those seeds grow into trees or ‘Blue Trees’ as we call them. The interesting thing about this concept is that when I tell them how many Blue Trees they now have (i.e. a visual representation of how much money they have invested in the stock market), they will ask ‘How many Blue Trees does my sister have?’, especially my youngest daughter. This was interesting as my wife and I have never encouraged them to compete to see who could save more. As we don’t hide how much each of them has there is a natural sibling rivalry impacting their money decisions.
Should siblings compete over money?
At the highest level, the answer is definitely NO. Money is not a competitive sport. We don’t want kids to grow up thinking that having lots of money or earning lots of money is ‘winning’. As I’ve written about many times before, I know lots of people who earn a lot of money but aren’t happy.
This is a really important point and something I say to my daughters all the time. In the future, I don’t care which of them earns the most or has the most savings, I want them both to have enough money to be secure, work doing something they enjoy and have opportunities to do things that will make them happy.
That being said, I’m not against using sibling rivalry to help kids learn money lessons. For example, giving each sibling a fixed amount of money and asking them who can get the most food from the supermarket to give to the food bank. This allows them to compete whilst learning about the value of money and giving.
I also believe that some level of rivalry can help them in terms of developing skills such as selling which can help them earn more money. For example, when they are a bit older, I’d happily challenge them to see who can sell the most of something (like the Scouts have competitions to sell cookies). Like sports, these skills need practice. Competition between siblings can increase motivation to hone these skills.
Unlike in sports, there isn’t a physical advantage between siblings, so both can benefit equally from some friendly selling competitions. Although, there might be some advantage in terms of confidence and intelligence which comes with age for the elder sibling(s) and therefore benefit the younger sibling later in life for the same reasons they benefit in sports.
Open money conversations between siblings
As mentioned above, there isn’t a lot of data about money and siblings as most people don’t talk about money with their kids. I feel this is a shame. I believe there are a lot of merits in having open conversations between siblings to compare how they are using their money.
If families are open about money then this allows siblings to understand what someone in a similar situation as them values and maybe helps them question what they really value themselves. This could be simply asking the siblings ‘What did you do with your pocket money last week?’ Or ‘What are you going to do with your pocket money this week? How much are you going to save?’ when they are together.
One sibling might like to spend and the other likes to save. Getting your kids to talk about why they bought something or saved can help their siblings see a different way of thinking. If one has lots of savings and the other has a lot of toys that they no longer play with (or used their money on a computer game they no longer play with), it might inspire them to consider saving some of their money in the future.
For example, whilst my youngest daughter has the same amount of Blue Trees (savings) as her older sister, despite being two years younger, we highlighted that her sister saved a lot of her money to buy a laptop she really loves so didn’t save as much this year (although she always follows the first rule of wealth by saving at least 10% of the money see received!).
We don’t want siblings growing up believing that whoever has the most money ‘WINS’. This is not healthy.
If you do have more than one child, then there are things you can do to help increase the chances of both of them growing up financially healthy and wealthy:
Use mini-competitions to help them hone money skills such as selling and finding the best price.
Get them to share what they are doing with their money, and why, with each other.
The more open your family is about money, the more opportunities they get to learn. Not just from you teaching them, but also from hearing from good and bad experiences of their siblings.
Thank you for reading!
P.S. Why not challenge your kids to see who can solve Grandpa’s Mystery Code first? To solve the code, they need to read the stories in Grandpa’s Fortune Fables and answer the questions correctly. Each correct answer provides a clue to the code.