When I was 7 years old, I made a decision that has shaped and saved my life. Inspired by a soggy Highlights magazine I found in the dumpster where we went to look for “toys,” I vowed I would learn English because in my mind, that was the ticket to the life portrayed in those pages.
We lived in extreme poverty in a wooden shack held together by cow manure, with no toilet, plywood walls, and a tin roof, and both my mom and dad had to work outside the home to try to make ends meet… but those children had it differently: they had beautiful homes, good quality clothing, cool toys, and time to play with them.
While it was clear to me that enrolling me in English classes was not a priority, and I had to juggle school with chores, I knew in my heart there had to be a way. So I went to my only true friend and presented him with my idea.
I can’t recall the time I started having outrageous dreams for the future, but I can assure you my dad was always supportive and encouraging, and this time was no different. He demonstrated playfully the English words he knew, which gave me assurance that learning this foreign language would be fun and easy. Then he told me I could achieve anything I wanted to achieve. He could have started a positive dad blog if there was such thing back then.
That night, I went to bed with a smile on my face, full of hope, and big dreams.
The next day, my dad came home for lunch and brought me a big surprise. He had built me a wooden bank, which consisted in a solid wood frame with plywood on the top and bottom, and a slit to slip coins in. He taught me that I could start saving for my dream and that with each coin, I would be closer to enrolling myself in English classes.
I was thrilled with this idea, because all of a sudden my dream wasn’t just something nice, it was something possible. My young mind started spinning with ideas on how to get coins. At 7 years old, I became an entrepreneur like my dad, I started my first job at 12, I was always looking for opportunities to make my own money so I could save for my BIG future.
When I turned 11, I opened my bank and enrolled myself in English classes, and focused much effort to learn and practice. After three years, I graduated with honors and was selected to start teaching others!
Learning English was not only a great move and a way out of the slum where I grew up, it also provided me the opportunity to earn more once I decided to move to the capital and pay for my own college. Knowing English allowed me to participate in the Work and Travel program so I could spend the summer in the United States, and most importantly, knowing English was a true blessing for me when, after moving here permanently, I became a single mom and needed to make my own living.
I am very grateful for my dad for taking the time to teach me many life lessons. He taught me to dream big, to plan for the future, and to be self-reliant. His teachings have shaped my life and because of that, I’ve been able to face hard times with confidence and faith.
Because of what my dad taught me, I’ve striven to teach my daughters to be ambitious, money-smart, and generous. If you are a girl mom, it’s time to teach your daughter to be money-smart. Boys, too. All kids need to learn about money management at an early age.
I am very passionate about women having tools to empower themselves to be confident, independent, and high achieving. And it starts at home.
That’s why I attended the inaugural #WomenInspired event in Houston, as part of the year-long partnership with Prudential and DiMe Media. It’s all about motivating moms for financial success, because Prudential’s goal for this important initiative is “To empower women with financial solutions so they can be confident they are making the right decisions for themselves and their families.” This vision is in complete alignment with my personal mission of equipping, empowering, and encouraging moms to create BALANCE, JOY, and SUCCESS on their own terms.
And taking charge of your financial success is one of the first steps we can take to own our lives, own our success, and make dreams possible for ourselves and for our kids.
The #WomenInspired tour provided a safe platform where a group of mom entrepreneurs gathered to learn about financial security.
And I think that’s the key point I want to make, because as much as I know I am an advocate of financial literacy, we can only perform to the level of our awareness. These women inspired me because they stepped up and showed up. We all opened our hearts, sharing our challenges, our fears, our concerns, our grief, our struggles, our needs, our desires, our goals and our dreams, as well as our faith to overcome and achieve. We all realized there is always more to learn, and that it is necessary to learn from a financial advisor.
It was inspiring for me to listen to these beautiful women’s stories, learn from their perspectives, as well as laugh, hug, and cry together. More than an event, it is a movement, and a sisterhood.
One of the highlights for me as a mom was to attend this event with my firstborn daughter, Elisha, and to see that Cristy‘s twin daughters were also in attendance. Starting young, arming themselves with tools to empower themselves financially, and developing a healthy money mindset.
Our brains are hard-wired for instant gratification rather than for long-term financial wellness, so it can be hard for most people to plan for the future, but as we take advantage of financial literacy education, tools, and resources, such as the ones Prudential offers, and share our challenges with people we trust, we can feel more prepared for the unpredictable twists and turns of life, and our own financial mistakes – mostly those of omission (like not saving for college, or not saving for retirement).
And by teaching your daughters to be money-smart, you are raising an empowered woman. Just like I learned from my dad, my daughters can learn from me.
LaToyia Dennis, one of my coaching students, and founder of Motivated Mom, had us laughing with stories about her son, and how she helps him understand where money comes from and how it is used. She inspired us to be transparent in our money conversation with our children. The reason I mention that is because I have admitted to my kids that much of my grief in becoming a single mom was caused by my being financially co-dependent. Sometimes as women, we know what to do, but the desire to people-please gets the best of us, jeopardizing our ability to take charge of our lives and be prepared when changes impact us.
As I teach my daughters money-management (how to earn, save, tithe, invest, and spend money), I know this knowledge will be empowering, no matter what life holds in store. Even after making so many disempowering and passive choices in my first marriage, I was able to reinvent myself, using the same principles I used to learn English, go to college, buy my first home in the Dominican Republic, and travel all around and outside of my country.
A lot of people think it’s inspiring how I have rebuilt my life, but without the foundation of my dad’s teachings, as well as my mom’s aversion to debt, I am not sure I would have made smart choices.
I loved my friend’s Cristy’s definition of being financially independent (which she learned from her abuela): “you can be in a relationship because you want to, not because you have to.” I can now say that’s true for me, and as I have become stronger, I have been able to raise stronger daughters.
I pray daily that my teachings and my choices inspire my kids to be money-conscious and financially independent. I pray for the courage and humility to admit my money mistakes and to discuss them transparently.
An empowering money mindset and healthy money habits (budgeting, prioritizing, saving, avoiding crippling debt, purchasing insurance, investing, planning for retirement, etc.) are a great legacy for our children.
And since no matter how much we plan we don’t really know what the future holds or how long we will be here, we must teach them by example that it’s important to seek expert advice to grow and protect their wealth.
Of course, a material, financial legacy is also important to shield our family from an uncertain future, so the more financially independent we are, the more generous we can be with our children, grandchildren, and our entire posterity.
It brings me so much joy to know that my children have truly lived the life I envisioned in the Highlights magazine, because my dad believed in my vision, paved the path, and taught me the financial principles I needed to know to make it possible. It’s time to teach your daughters to be money-smart!
How do you teach your daughters / your children to be money-smart and financially independent? Share your thoughts, join the conversation with #WomenInspired, and encourage other women to take control of their financial future!
Elayna is a homeschool educator, single mom of 4, founder of the Positive MOM Community, award-winning Storyteller, Story Strategist, and Student of Pain. She’s a bestselling author, internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, and 3x TEDx speaker. To receive a gift from Elayna, click HERE.
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