Learning to Save From Walt Disney

I was struck by an interesting life lesson recently, and it came from the most unlikely of sources; the Disney version of Mary Poppins starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. In one scene of the film, little Michael Banks comes across two pence (“tu’pence” in the movie’s Cockney vernacular-pretty much the equivalent of two cents, not in terms of exchange rates, but in those of general value) and wants to give it to the lady in the park selling pigeon feed. Michael’s father, a stodgy banker, admonishes him and advises him to deposit the money in savings, where it can grow into more money.

Michael just wants to feed the birds and the chaos that ensues provides the climax of the film, leading Mr. Banks to lighten up and appreciate his children so they can all live happily ever after flying kites.

While I appreciate the lesson that Mary Poppins is intending to teach, I found that I reacted to it differently as an adult than as a child. The fact is that Mr. Banks, stiff and lifeless as he may have been, was right. Michael could have saved that money for his education, his eventual wedding, his first home, or his future.

As parents we have the duty to teach our children about a great many things, not the least of which is fiscal responsibility. The habits we form as adults stem from the behaviors taught to us by our own parents and the adults around us. The children of spendthrifts tend to become spendthrifts and the children of the thrifty grow to be savers, generally speaking.

Encourage your children to save by setting the example yourself. Let your child understand the value of money by teaching her that it must be earned and managed carefully. A wonderful opportunity exists when your child points out something at the store that she’d like you to buy for her. Instead of just saying yes and buying it or simply saying no and enduring pleading and whining for the remainder of the day, discuss with your child ways that she can earn the money herself. This will help her value both the money she earns and the items she purchases with it.

She may even choose to save her money, rather than feed it to the birds in the park at two cents per bag of feed.

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