This article was originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 21 July 2012.
The Baiocchi household had a momentous day recently – it was the occasion of Jack’s eighteen month check-up, where the nurse would measure, prod, poke and generally assess whether or not he was developing at the rate he should be. It seemed a bit unnecessary to me. As far as I was concerned, all the important developmental milestones had already been achieved: he knew not to stand in front of the TV when the rugby was on; he understood that the Wiggles could be watched for no more than 18 hours out of a full day; and he knew what the TV remote was and when to bring it to me when I needed it. He hadn’t quite grasped the concept of fetching a beer from the fridge on command, but recent progress had been encouraging.
So you can imagine my surprise that day when the nurse said that Jack’s vocabulary was poor; that by the age of eighteen months he should know between 50 to 100 words. Liz and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows, as deep down we knew that we could only reliably identify about 5 words, and even then we were being generous. It occurred to me that learning to fetch the TV remote and throw the rugby ball perhaps wasn’t the best use of the time Jack and I spent together.
When we got home that day, Liz and I decided that the Wiggles were banished, that Lego, balls, sticks and all the other fun toys were to be locked away – from now on Jack’s only source of fun would come from books. Before the new regime took over however, I turned as usual to Google for advice on Jack’s apparent slow progress. Some quick research produced startling results – it turned out that the nurse’s benchmark was just one of many. Other experts referred to a vocabulary of up to 20 words, with some as low as 10 words. Jack was saved – the toys could stay and we weren’t going to be enrolling him in vocab-bootcamp.
The fact that Jack’s progress didn’t necessarily match up with another toddler the same age reminded me of how we all progress financially at different speeds. Some people are just starting down the path to wealth accumulation; others are already enjoying the fruits of years of planning and investing. The message is that there is no right or wrong strategy we should be following: we’re all unique and how you structure your finances should reflect that uniqueness. The key is to make a start – whether it’s investing, saving or learning to fetch a beer for dad, the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll achieve your goals.