Ask Paul: How do I protect my kids from my money worries?


Dear Paul,

As a single parent, how do I navigate this cost-of-living crisis? I don't want my children to feel financially stressed, but I can't hide everything. I work all week, but can't buy a home in the current climate - a goal I was working towards pre-COVID.

Throw in a set or two of braces and everything else going up, and I feel like there are no answers. I'm tired of reading articles telling me to cut a few dollars here and there when I feel like maybe I could do with a financial adviser looking over my finances, but that's also unaffordable.

ask paul clitheroe how do i protect my children from my worries about money?

I try really hard to be positive, but at times this situation gets me down. I feel like I make wise decisions and do all the right things, but doing this all alone is sometimes such a heavy burden to carry. - Mel

This is the key question of our times, Mel. Everything is expensive, wages are generally not keeping pace with inflation and millions of people feel they are treading water, going backwards or worse.

I'm not going to tell you to keep cutting costs. I know you will have done that.

For those who have not, it is not a subject we can avoid. Financial pressure hits us all at some stage, usually at the worst possible time!

For Vicki and me, it was 1990. Our mortgage hit 18%. Vicki was not working due to our young kids and my business was doing okay but not great at that stage. We sold the car and bought a cheap second-hand one. Fortunately, I could take public transport to work. It was bulk food buying (I grew to love vegetable curry) and we went financially backwards for nearly three years.

So, without the obvious, pious lecture about cost cutting and maybe doing some extra part-time work (how does a parent do this?) what do I say to you, to someone who is making wise decisions?

Well, I think that it is okay to just keep your head above water for a while. Please don't see this as a negative. The truth is the world keeps changing. Children grow and over time become adults.

Our careers can evolve as the kids get older. I've just turned 68 and have had the advantage of having lived in tough times and good. Inevitably, the hardest financial time is the younger kids' stage, even without rising interest rates, inflation and ever-increasing expenses.

This is not the solution you seek, but I think this is the time to simply survive and let your situation and the world change, which they will.

Exactly how the world will change, I have little idea. But as I look at some 7000 years of history, what I do see is a huge improvement in the vast majority of people's lives.

I also thank heavens that we are fortunate to be living in this beautiful country, with not only great free beaches and parks, but relative security, peace, healthcare, education and some very good safety nets, ranging from government benefits to charitable services. Just hanging on financially is no fun. I get that, been there.

But it never left my mind in the recession of the early 1990s that Australia was arguably the best place on the planet to be "just hanging on".

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Paul Clitheroe AM is founder and editorial adviser of Money magazine. He is one of Australia's leading financial voices, responsible for bringing financial insight to Australians through personal finance books, the Money TV show, and this publication, which he established in 1999. Paul is the chair of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and is chairman of InvestSMART Financial Services. He is the chair of Financial Literacy at Macquarie University where he is also a Professor with the School of Business and Economics. Ask Paul your money question. Unfortunately Paul cannot respond to questions posted in the comments section. View our disclaimer.
Lexie. Lamb.
September 7, 2023 1.16pm

Hang in there Mel,

the kids will appreciate all the work you are doing for the family.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.........

Anna J
September 30, 2023 7.51pm

Hi Mel,

I'm not sure about you but I didn't see an answer to your question at all in Paul's response.

I thought you were asking about how to protect your kids from the burdens you are carrying and Paul addressed your burdens with some encouragement but not the essential part of your question about the kids.

If it helps, I've been a solo parent for a number of years and regardless of my stresses, I am honest with my kids if I'm having a down day and just used to keep it age appropriate without burdening them with what they can't control. They can handle and understand people have feelings and have sad days don't feel bad and try to hide it, you're also creating an opening for them to be able to express the same when they have a bad day.

I'm the meantime, some advice a good friend told me is just take it a day, an hour or a minute at a time, focus on the present, be in the moment, allow yourself some grace and know that you can't control what will happen in the future, you're making history, so enjoy the kids, don't put pressure on yourself, no one has it perfect, but it takes one loving parent to perfectly raise well rounded kids. You're doing amazing!