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  • Emily Kern

A Childlike View of Money: Lessons from our Younger Selves

In fifth grade, I won $50 for a science fair project I (my mom) did. That $50 felt like $1,000,000 in my elementary-age mind. As a child, I felt “rich” receiving $1 from the tooth fairy or finding a couple bucks in a birthday card. I held onto my money, saved up for things I really wanted, and counted my pocket change. Kids don’t really compare their friend’s piggy bank to their own; they don’t care if their shirts came from the mall or from Goodwill (well, at least until they’re teenagers). They enjoy the little things in life. How could having a “childlike” view of money, as adults, impact our financial success? Here are some lessons we can learn from the younger versions of ourselves.

Having a childlike view of money means… savoring every dollar. Think about it. As you age, you (usually) make more money. As you make more, each individual dollar becomes (seemingly) less significant. Because you have more of them. If you only have 2 M&M’s, you’re going to savor those two M&M’s. If you have 20, you may eat a few at a time and you probably don’t care if one falls on the floor. Right? But what if we intentionally chose to savor all 20 of those M&M’s? When you value every dollar, regardless of how much you make, you’ll be more intentional about every purchase. This view will help you avoid lifestyle inflation, or spending more money as you make more money. Avoiding lifestyle inflation can increase your probabilities of achieving financial success.

Having a childlike view of money means… patiently saving up for the things you want. When you were 8, did you whip out a credit card to buy a new game if you didn’t have $40 on hand? NO. Unless your parents bailed you out, you saved up until you HAD $40 and THEN you bought it. 74 million Americans have more credit card debt than savings. Using credit cards is ONLY beneficial if you have the money on hand and just want cash back rewards; however, if you struggle being responsible with credit cards, channel your inner 8 year old and put the card down.

Having a childlike view of money means… letting your financial decisions reflect what truly makes you happy or fulfilled. What made you happy as a child? Playing with friends. Singing songs at summer camp. Being with family. Using a backyard stick as a prop for the game you just made up with the neighbor. The most happy and fulfilling times in life, as a child, are with people- not with extra things. And the same is true as adults. We’re just too distracted by our careers, our “to do” lists, and our calendars to realize it sometimes. People tend to buy things they think will make them happier. These “extra” purchases can lead to an incorrect assumption that more stuff = more happiness. Take some time to think. Do your spending habits reflect what brings you lasting fulfillment? Are you wasting precious dollars on temporary fulfillment- like $5 coffees and retail therapy? Remembering your most happy childhood moments is a great way to think about what truly brings fulfillment in life and where our financial priorities should be.

What funny memories do you have about getting money as a child? What financial lessons did you learn from your parents? I want to hear them! Drop a comment or email them to for a chance to be featured in an upcoming article.

Emily Kern


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