How Summer Camp Can Be a Great Investment for Your Retirement

A key part of my retirement plan is to raise our children to be INDEPENDENT.

One thing I see too often in my practice are parents helping support their adult children. Supporting them, well beyond just helping out. A recent NY Times article says 60% of all young adults receive financial support from their parents.  Contrast that with the 1960s when most 20-somethings were financially independent.

Not only can this be a major financial drain on retirement savings, it can teach the wrong lessons to our kids.  I've witnessed couples literally decimate their financial security for the sake of "helping out" their children.

Prepare the Child for the Path, Not the Path for the Child

I'm determined that our children will grow to be independent adults. Now, don't think I'm fooling myself. I KNOW that we'll help them out from time to time. And I certainly indulge them a bit now. However, I'm doing my best to equip them with the life skills to make smart decisions and most importantly the wisdom to make quick adjustments as their life unfolds.

For the last 8 years our children, Spencer and Emma, have attended the Camp Fire camp, El Tesoro. It has been one of the best decisions we've made. El Tesoro is no country club camp. The cabins are not air conditioned (remember this is Texas), the bathrooms are communal and the activities are old school (no ski boats here). "El Tesoro coordinates activities, cabin assignments and camper ratios based on camper ages. The format allows for increased independence at each level of the camp experience. Regardless of the camper’s age when they start their El Tesoro journey, be assured they will be challenged appropriately at each stage."

The experience has taught them valuable life lessons. Like how to:

  1. manage money--We give each of them a set amount at the camp store that must last the entire summer. Each has made the mistake of buying too much too soon and suffered for it.
  2. follow rules--They've had to adjust over the years as the leadership of the camp changed and the rules along with it.
  3. help and support cabin mates--Together they've consoled, encouraged, disciplined and supported each other.
  4. give a helping hand--Each cabin has an "inclusion" (special needs) camper  that is always part of the cabin team.
  5. take care of themselves--There are somethings our kids just won't learn at home. Not having us to lean on (or step in) has allowed them to make their own decisions.
  6. clean up after themselves--Okay, let's be real, this lesson has yet to be learned.
  7. make friends-They have a special bond with their camp friends. Each year they have grown along side each other and formed a special bond.
  8. lead--Each year, their responsibilities at camp have increased. This year Spencer is a counselor, in charge of a cabin full of 7 year olds. Emma is in the counselor in training program. This has given each the opportunity to learn to lead others.

I Love My Children

Spencer and Emma are truly unique and wonderful young adults. I'm so proud of how they've grown. Each has struggles and it is hard to coach but not fix as they have failed and tried again. Preparing them to deal with the obstacles that await them on their path, however, is the greatest gift I can give them as a parent.

Oh yeah, AND the greatest retirement investment I can make :-)