What’s for Dinner? Good Cents.

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Get Rich by Eating Dinner with Your Family

By: Rick Kahler, CFP®

When I was growing up, dinner in our house was served at 5:30 pm. Everyone in the family was expected to be there, hungry or not. I never thought one day I would thank that rule for my ability to save and invest.

Many past studies have found that families who eat more than four meals together weekly have children who perform better academically, are more responsible, have a lower rate of alcohol and drug abuse, and have healthier eating habits as adults. The research also finds these families are generally healthier and have stronger ties, deeper relationships, and better communication than families who don’t dine together often.

If that list of benefits isn’t enough to motivate parents to start having set mealtimes, you can now add “greater wealth accumulation” to it. The family that eats together also grows rich together, according to a research study by Chatterjee, Palmer, and Goetz, recently published by the University Library of Munich.

This study, done between 1994 and 2004, showed families that often ate together accumulated wealth almost twice as fast as those who didn’t.

What does eating together have to do with accumulating wealth? The researchers concluded that having meals together is a measurable, outward manifestation of self-control, which is a critical characteristic in accumulating wealth. They contend that working adults who have frequent and regular meals as a family demonstrate considerable self-control.

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This makes sense when you think about what eating together requires from an active family. Family members must balance work schedules, school activities and personal demands to make attendance at the nightly meal a high priority. Also, eating together isn’t a “one-off” event. It happens routinely and requires family members to stick to their commitment and make adjustments when they fall below the standard.

Like parents who decide their family will eat together, those who want to accumulate wealth must first set the goal of saving and investing. It must become a high priority, with all the other financial demands of life taking a back seat. Saving and investing is also not a “one-off” event. Wealth accumulators save routinely, usually contributing a significant amount of every paycheck to their future financial independence. Sticking to the plan requires continued commitment and adjustments when the commitment begins to falter.

How does a person go about building self-control? The study found that an individual’s ability to apply self-control in one area often leads to self-control in seemingly unrelated areas. They suggest it’s similar to strengthening a muscle. The capacity for self-control increases with practice and is developed through conscious and routine use. The more you use it in small tasks, the stronger it becomes and the more you will use it in larger tasks.

Family meals seem a pretty simple thing to do for your kids that could pay big dividends both in the present and in the future. Plus it gives parents one more tool for encouraging kids to clean their plates: “Finish your vegetables. Someday, when you’re a millionaire, you’ll thank me.”

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Rick Kahler is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional licensed with a registered investment adviser that provides personal financial advice online for a flat fee. He is an author of four books on financial psychology and recognized by BusinessWeek magazine as one of the 15 most experienced financial planners in the nation. Contact Rick for help on virtually any financial need.

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