Our youngest turned 5 today. Her dinner request was McDonald’s, so after Craig got home from working in the bookstore tonight, we loaded everyone up and headed to the nearest French Fry Haven. This particular fine joint had large television sets around with CNN doing its best to make us throw up everything we had just eaten.
During our time there, Maddie heard something on the screen she didn’t understand and asked, “What is Wall Street?” Ahhh, the question I’ve not thought to answer because it involved something I’ve sort of thought of as everyone else’s problem. Still, I tried: I explained that Wall Street is an actual street in New York where a lot of people make a lot of decisions with other people’s money. She nodded like I’d answered her question, but I figured while we were here, we might as well keep going.
I told her that we were all hearing a bunch of things on the news about Wall Street now because the people who make decisions with other people’s money made some bad decisions. Some really bad ones. And that a lot of people made a lot of bad decisions with their own money because they got really poor financial advice. Some really bad advice. And what this means is that all of these people – the ones who made bad decisions for everybody else as well as the ones who made their own bad decisions – are in a lot of trouble right now, trouble that needs help.
I told her the people who make decisions for us in the government have decided to help. She looked up like this was a great thing and I nodded and said that yes, it sounds like a nice idea – the government helping the people who made bad decisions out of their troubles – but that what it really means is all of us have to pay for these mistakes. She wondered how, and I told her we will pay for them with our taxes.
Our kids understand the idea of taxes. They know Craig works at a school where parents pay for tuition. They know we homeschool, which means we are responsible for buying our own materials. They know there are “public” schools all around, but that those schools aren’t really free either – we all pay for these schools even though we don’t use them. So when I said we would be paying for these bad decisions with our tax money, she filed that information in the same place. We don’t use the schools, but we still pay for them; we didn’t make the bad decisions, but we still pay for them. As I was explaining all this, I realized I was becoming more confused – none of this makes any sense.
Craig and I are going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program this fall through a Westminster-sponsored initiative. I started on my own last year, but didn’t make it very far; I need deadlines and accountability, neither of which I had last year. Craig has a meeting this week and asked if I’d done the homework yet. I went to get the notebook and proclaimed I was on my way to find financial peace.
Right at that moment he was looking up our investments online and said, “You’d better not come over here then.” Of course I went over there and noticed that our investments were down 25%. For whatever reason, I never remember that we even have investments, so for all these past weeks the financial problems really have been everyone else’s; tonight, however, they became mine, too. I want to know where in the world our financial piece went (I have a good idea already of where my financial peace went).
It was easier to explain things to the girls when I wasn’t emotionally (and financially) involved. Good thing they asked before Craig looked things up tonight; tomorrow I probably wouldn’t have given as objective of an answer.