What Baby Sara Taught Me About Personal Finance

by David Ning · 10 comments

I knew baby Sara was smart, but when she started teaching me personal finance concepts…

Many of the kids and money articles discuss how we can teach our children money matters, but let’s turn the table this time. Since baby Sara’s birth a week ago, she already reminded me of many principles that you and I can both benefit from. Here they are.

When Sara first started breastfeeding, she still needed to learn how to properly open her mouth to take her milk. She was frustrated because she was hungry, but she needed to learn how to get her nutrients first. You can’t be impatient, everything starts off slow. When was the last time you were frustrated because your retirement account was small and you know you needed much more money? Thinking about giving up? Don’t. Imagine the consequences if baby Sara gave up just because she couldn’t eat.

Once she struggled through and began sucking, it was smooth sailing. We wanted her to take more at each feeding, because we didn’t want her to be hungry while she learned next time around. However, the doctor said that her stomach is tiny, and our plan just wouldn’t work. Everything takes time. You can’t expect your investment portfolio to come back in a year after it drops 40 – 50%. It will, but not right away. Have trust.

For a few feedings, we wanted Sara to have more milk and fed her with a syringe the nurses gave us. It worked wonders, but we noticed that the more we used the syringe, the worst she got. In effect, we were helping her practice waiting for food to come to her instead of going after it. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice only forms a habit. Do you have your finances on auto pilot? Perhaps it’s time to look at whether it’s still the most appropriate strategy for you.

You are never going to know what your reaction would be until the moment arrives. When we went to a baby class, about half the moms wanted to give an all natural birth. In order words, no medication or epidural. When we asked the instructor how many people took an epidural once they got to the hospital, she said 97% did. You can claim to have high tolerance for volatility all you want, but until you experience a crash, you are just guessing. That’s why you should start small and get used to the fluctuations before you fully commit to a new investment. Take the time to learn. Again, be patient.

When the situation isn’t ideal, you must realize that you were a big part of why it is the way it is. If we taught Sara to wait for food, we can’t complain when she doesn’t cooperate. With our finances, we are often the one to blame. No one cares about our money more than we do. If you only have one dollar, you can either spend it now or later. There’s no way around this. Take responsibility.

Learning beforehand is important. Those baby classes were extremely useful. It helped guide us in the right direction, but more importantly, it helped us stay claim in the moment when most others would panic. How many of you established an emergency fund because you read sites like this one? You may not appreciate it now, but you will when the time comes.

You can adapt. Studies have shown that while most people worry about their retirement, less actually run out of money. If you are late in saving for retirement, start now, but don’t worry. You will adapt. Baby Sara wakes up during the middle of the night, so we will just sleep whenever she sleeps. It’s really no big deal.

Things get easier as you learn and gain experience. Sara is 8 days old, and we are better already. We do everything more efficiently, and actually, so does Sara. Everything, including money matters, always seem overwhelming at first. Stay the course, and you will learn and figure it out. I know you can do it, and so does Sara.


Just keep doing the right things, and you will be able to sleep at night.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy March 15, 2010 at 9:52 am

“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice only forms a habit.”

So true.

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Billy Wong March 15, 2010 at 11:00 am

Taking responsibility is what many have trouble with. Stop blaming everything and everyone and just figure out how you can make the situation better for yourself. Like MoneyNing said, no one cares about our money more than we do.

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basicmoneytips.com March 16, 2010 at 3:52 am

My son is 16 months old and I can see your points here. Things do start slow but I think you can get into a routine quickly. Much like anything, in investing, you can be diligent about things, like regularly contributing to your retirement accounts or savings accounts.

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Joseph | kickdebtoff March 16, 2010 at 4:49 am

Great lessons from baby Sarah.
Our first struggle in getting our finances in order was discouragement. when we started out the journey to be debt free we were excited really excited at the idea that we can one day be free from debt. But after several months of aggressively attacking debt, we hit a snag. we were worn out but we re-evaluated our goals and set priorities on our strategy. We also realized that it will take some time… but we are still kicking it off…
By the way Congratulations for your new born

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MoneyNing March 16, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Thanks. One way you can help re-ignite your fire may be to shake things up a bit. Change your plan, put money towards a different type of debt for a while. The more you thought you put into it, the easier it is to realize that debt is a big waste of money, which in turns can help you get out of it more easily.

Btw, it’s Sara, without the “h”.

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Financial Samurai March 16, 2010 at 5:28 am

What’s up David. Congrats to you and your wife for delivering such a wonderful baby girl. This is where being a FT blogger must be AWESOME.

Love to read a series of posts chronicling the total cost of child raising in the future. I’m fascinated with the topic.

All the best.

Sam

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MoneyNing March 16, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Everything is wonderful. I’m truly blessed that I can spend pretty much the full day in the house.

I will be sure to write a post talking about the cost of raising a child, though I’m not sure if I’m ready yet since I’m at day 9 of 18 years :)

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Katy Song March 16, 2010 at 11:37 am

My favorite part about this article is taking responsibility. I know a lot of us new parents out there cannot believe that we are responsible for another being, but this is the time to grow up. All of our decisions have an impact on how our family can prosper in life. It is a choice to take responsibility, potentially delaying instant gratification for a loftier goal in life.

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Steve |MyWifeQuitHerJob March 16, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Really enjoyed this one David. Once you get past the 3 month mark, it gets much easier.

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MoneyNing March 16, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Thanks for the encouragement and confirmation that it does get easier. :)

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