Author Topic: What to teach your kids about working life?  (Read 710 times)

Grinding for Freedom

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What to teach your kids about working life?
« on: March 07, 2019, 02:04:34 PM »
I'd like to hear comments from FIREd Mustachians with kids: What do you teach your kids about working life in general? Do you guide them to avoid grinding in corporate life, and follow their (possibly unrealistic) childhood dreams instead? More than anything, you want them to be happy, don't you?

Or do you guide them to the traditional path: study hard and get a well paying (though probably soul-sucking) corporate job? After all, this is how most of us have succeeded in building our investment portfolio, so it's not necessarily that bad option, right?

I'm also slightly concerned about the role model that I would give my kids as happily FIREd parent. Kids do sooner or later figure out that most people are going to work every day. So, how do you explain them that you don't?

And how would I convince my kids to go through the long rough path from elementary school to their first paid job and beyond, if I'm giving them a totally opposite example with my own "lazy" behaviour?

Blueberries

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2019, 01:12:31 PM »
I'm not sure my response will be helpful, but I'll bite.  I work from home and I will never retire because I love what I do.  My children know this, but because I work from home during school hours, they view it very differently from my spouse's prestigious career.

We just had a conversation this weekend about doing what you love and the money following.  I believe it with all my heart because I live it.  It's like the passionate wood worker; they don't do it for money, they'd do it because they are passionate about it.  They read about it, breathe it, sleep it, etc., and because of that, they are highly skilled and sell product.  To me, that's the dream.  We've also talked, in depth, about how that looks practically.   I want them to explore the things they love doing and see what careers might fit or how they could possibly create their own career realistically.  I've told them my belief that some passions will fade and some will stay with them and almost become part of them to where they would do it even without pay (i.e. the wood worker).

FWIW, we often have discussions about money, consumerism, etc.  (Edited personal.) I encourage my kids to question everything in life and not to just do "x" because they think they're supposed to (you don't have to get married, have a wedding, have children, go to college, buy a car, etc., just because that's what "everyone" does).

In terms of a role model, aren't you a great one?  "Daughter/son, we have done "x, y, z" and that is why I am able to volunteer at your school, do house projects, read, do what I love, etc., etc.  I've chosen path "x" because this is the life I wanted.  You may want that life, too, or you might not, but I want you to understand why I've chosen it and what it allows me to do."

The last part of your question is a battle I've faced.  I don't find public schools to be the best option for optimal learning, but for our family, it's the best option.  My children have pushed back against attending public school at times and I have given them our reasons.  I encourage and almost enforce reading outside of school, asking questions, research, etc. and we talk quite a bit.  I won't push my children to attend a learning institution beyond a high school diploma or GED and depending on how that looks, I wouldn't view it as a lazy approach.  But, that's my approach right now and I try to stay flexible with parenting.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2019, 08:08:23 AM by Blueberries »

Tass

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2019, 02:00:52 PM »
I don't think it makes sense to teach kids to follow their dreams, because it promotes the idea that there's a perfect hypothetical life out there and you can only find happiness by achieving it. Thus, the typical office worker is unhappy not because of poor health/social support/work-life balance, but because they never got to become a rock star like they wanted - regardless of the downsides of being a rock star.

I think it makes more sense to teach that happiness has many components and there are many ways to meet each of them. One way is to do work you truly love, but another is to do work you don't mind that gives you a sense of accomplishment. The question shouldn't be "what is my one and only dream" but "what options would let me check all my happiness boxes" - including the ways in which a career lets you check boxes OUTSIDE of work.

I studied both music and science in school, and my mother advised me to pursue science because there is more room to play music as a lifelong hobby alongside a scientific career than vice-versa. It's also a more stable and higher-paying field, broadly speaking, and security is a huge part of happiness. Ultimately, I could FIRE after some years in science and start working toward joining a small-town orchestra at that point, if that's what I chose.

I do think education is vitally important to living a well-rounded life, not just a successful corporate one. It doesn't have to involve college, but that's a great option, especially since I think getting out of the bubble of your hometown and learning to live away from parents is a big part of that education. Regardless of their career plans, I would encourage my kids always to be looking for learning opportunities.

Caveat: I do not have children. Interesting topic, though.

Blueberries

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2019, 04:00:01 PM »
I don't think it makes sense to teach kids to follow their dreams, because it promotes the idea that there's a perfect hypothetical life out there and you can only find happiness by achieving it. Thus, the typical office worker is unhappy not because of poor health/social support/work-life balance, but because they never got to become a rock star like they wanted - regardless of the downsides of being a rock star.


Perhaps my comments sounded very one-sided, as I am someone who believes you should do work you love, but I don't think that's the key to happiness and I hope it didn't come across that way.  I don't really believe in a key to happiness and I certainly don't think an unhappy person magically becomes happy because they are doing something they love doing. 

There will be work you have to do because you have to (I think most have been there!) and there will be work you do because you love it.  I hope my children strive for the latter and are fortunate enough to get to do it. 

Tass

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2019, 04:27:16 PM »
To be honest, I didn't read your post until after I wrote mine - so I'm fully criticizing my own upbringing, and not the one you are giving your children. I'm glad you love your work so much. :)

MikeBT

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2019, 09:06:22 PM »
The main things I will want to teach my children are:

1 - Be good at what you do. Work hard. But don't let work control you.

2 - Pick a career you enjoy but be pragmatic at the same time. Understand supply and demand.

3 - You were born on 3rd base. So it's not enough to hit a home run. You have to get the next generation to their own third base, too.

4 - Subject to the above, be grateful that you have a supportive family and a privileged upbringing, but don't ever feel guilty for it, and avoid anyone who tries to guilt trip you.

MayDay

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2019, 06:34:09 AM »
We tell our kids that you have to balance what sounds fun with how much money you want to make. That they should be whatever they want to be, but they'll have to fund life with what they make.

I want my kids to like their jobs, and I don't really care what they do as long as they are willing to live within those means. What I don't want is for them to pursue a passion degree with no plan for after graduation day.


reeshau

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2019, 06:45:01 AM »
I love @Blueberries example, and take away from it that you need to be intentional with what you show your children, not merely be the subject of their observation.  They will of course observe your behaviors large and small, but engaging them regularly to find out what they are thinking, and allow them to ask you honest questions, and receive honest answers, is a good way to help them navigate any household situation.  How could it be otherwise?

In short, it's the same intentionality with child-rearing as FIRE is with your financial life.  While the skillsets involved are different, the mindset should be familiar.  That doesn't mean you need to guide them to your path; they may find a "happily employed for a lifetime" path.  As long as my son thinks about his future--as long as he understands 45 years in the same cubicle is not a foregone conclusion--then I hope and expect he will have a better-than-average shot at being happy.  If he enjoys the time we spend in our backyard garden, then that could lead to a "dream job" as a horticulturalist, for example.  That may not be the most lucrative route, but with money saved for his education, and parents that won't need support when he's older, that could work out very well.

I sometimes daydream that being set financially means we could become one of those families that chase Olympic dreams by relocating to Colorado for full-time training.  Those stories often seem to have bad aspects: stage parents, or huge family debt.  And I have no expectations of this happening to us.  But, knowing that we could answer that call, *if* it did happen, gives me comfort that we can handle any other incremental combination of interest, talent, and ambition that my son exhibits.

nessness

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2019, 09:45:52 AM »
I don't plan to push my kids into any particular career path, but I do plan to make sure they have a realistic perspective on the path they choose. Like, if they want to major in Theater, fine, so long as they understand that it is highly unlikely they'll be able to support themselves from a career in theater and will need to work a second job.

I don't think encouraging kids to follow their dreams is always a good idea, since teenagers have a limited perspective (for example, I'm in a career that I didn't even know existed until college), and since dreams and values often change as we get older. But I'm not going to try to hard to fight against my kids' dreams either, or try to force them into a career in finance or STEM.

Hula Hoop

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2019, 06:28:24 AM »
I agree with everyone else that I'd like to balance 'follow your dreams' advice with a healthy dose of pragmatism.  My parents' advice was always 'follow your passions' but they are academic scientists whose work is their passion.  I don't think that they understood that most/many people consider work to be a necessary evil or at the very best don't hate it.  That is something that is simply not in their worldview.

My somewhat pragmatic advice to my kids would be tempered though by the fact that my sister is a successful classical musician.  When I say successful I mean that she is constantly booked for gigs, quite well known in the city where she lives and could survive financially on her own if she had to.  Luckily for her, my BIL earns a good salary so she and her kids have a bigger budget that she would have had on a musician's salary alone - but she would have been just fine without BIL.  My sister originally did a more pragmatic degree even though she lived and breathed music as she was worried about making a living and trying to be practical.  When she finished that degree (with only a small amount of debt) she was considering studying at the conservatorium on a scholarship and I really felt she made the right decision to go for it despite the financial peril of pursuing a career in classical music.  First, she lives and breathes music and is incredibly talented.  As a child, she would skip her homework but spend hours playing around on the piano and various other musical instruments instead.  Our parents never had to remind her to practice her instruments.  Second, my family is quite bourgeois and she was able to live at home with my mother rent free while studying at the Conservatory.  Third, she was 21 when she made the decision to try out the music career.  IMO your twenties are a time to pursue your dream.  If it hadn't worked out (as it didn't for many of her friends) she could always go back and study something more practical later.  She had even decided that if she didn't "make it" by 28-30 she would go back and do a specific post graduate degree in the health field which would give her lots of job options.

I see how much she loves what she does and how happy it makes her and I'd love my kids to have that too.  So if one of my kids wanted to do something 'impractical' when young I'd tell them to at least try it out in their 20s if that was truly their passion.

CarolinaGirl

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2019, 07:46:29 AM »
We tell our kids that you have to balance what sounds fun with how much money you want to make. That they should be whatever they want to be, but they'll have to fund life with what they make.

I want my kids to like their jobs, and I don't really care what they do as long as they are willing to live within those means. What I don't want is for them to pursue a passion degree with no plan for after graduation day.

THIS!  ^^^^
Both of my kids are total whizzes in all things STEM.  Instead of being engineers they want to be high school teachers.  Sure they could make a lot more money taking a different path but I couldn’t be more proud.  They are following their passion and not the almighty dollar like I regretfully did. 

Laserjet3051

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2019, 09:00:03 AM »
What our kids see us do, is far more impactful than what they hear us say. As they always say, teach by example. What does your example demonstrate?

Laura33

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2019, 01:05:22 PM »
Primarily that there are many different types of people and many different paths, so they need to figure out which one is right for them.  Some people have an overwhelming passion and talent that drives them; those people should probably follow their passion, as long as they are willing to live with the lifestyle that passion affords.  Other people don't have a "passion" at all, and that's ok too.  If that's you, then you should look at your skills and talents and things you enjoy doing and values, and choose a path that seems to align with those things -- but recognize that work is never going to be as fulfilling, so have reasonable expectations for what your workday will be like, and look for more enjoyment outside of working hours. 

Second, the laws of supply and demand always apply.  If a job sounds cool and fun, it probably pays for shit, because everyone and their brother wants to do it.  OTOH, if you have a skill that others don't, you can make a lot of money, because your competition for the job is very low.  In my case, for example, I interpret very complex regulations; many people find them either incomprehensible or deathly dull, but to me it's like a puzzle, and I am not content until the last puzzle piece clicks into place.  And that has given me an opportunity to earn good money.

Finally, whatever path you choose, work your ass off when you're young.  The harder you work, the smarter you get -- throw yourself into learning as much as you can, both about your subject and how the business runs and the people around you interact.  Go beyond expectations, get labeled a superstar if you can.  Getting as much great experience and learning as much as you can as quickly as possible opens the door to other jobs -- both promotions within your company and outside your company.  And going beyond expectations gets you a reputation as someone people want to work with.  That gives you more and more power to control your own employment situation; after all, it's much easier to leave when you have 5 other jobs waiting.  And here's the secret a lot of people don't figure out:  entry-level work is almost always scut work and boring.  But when you get to drive the projects and figure out strategy and all that, it can be fun as hell (at least periodically).  Really, there is nothing like having peons that you can delegate the boring stuff to.  ;-)  And the best way to get there is to bust your ass when you are the peon, so you're the guy who gets the better opportunity.

Finally, max out your HSA and 401(k) as soon as you can, even if you don't think you can afford to.  Because the best job in the world is the one you can walk away from whenever you want.

Aelias

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Re: What to teach your kids about working life?
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2019, 11:36:39 AM »
Figure out the things that bring you joy.  Not momentary pleasure.  Real lasting satisfaction.  Fill your life with those things.

Figure out a way to support yourself.  And understand that while work can bring you joy, it doesn't have to, at least not all the time.  And it's great if you can figure out how to support yourself doing what you love, but there is ZERO shame in having a day job. 

The better you are at what you do, the more freedom people will give you to go and do it and get the heck out of your face.

Understand that jobs will come and go and change along the way.  When it's over, it's over.  That goes both ways.

However you choose to support yourself, make sure it aligns with your broader values and doesn't have you doing things that violate your sense of right and wrong.  You'll sleep better at night.