From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Teaching kids about money
One of the most challenging tasks we face as parents, is instilling a healthy
attitude in our children about money. When you think about it, children are
members of the underclass in every family. They make the fewest decisions and
have the least spending power. As parents, it is part of our duty to teach them
about money and help them find a healthy way to earn it.
Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.
- Our children are influenced by our attitudes and values. The way
that we feel about money will influence our children in both positive and
negative ways. Financial discussions which are highly charged with emotion
and worry, create anxiety in young people about their future. For this
reason, parents choose different approaches to tackling this subject. Some
believe in making a full disclosure to their children about money, while
others postpone the discussion in the hope that their kids wonít worry. In
all cases, parents must realize that unless we consciously decide to do
things differently, we will probably end up choosing the same approach as
was taken by our own parents. The problem here is that our parentsí
attitudes and values were based upon problems of their day, not the 21st
century. Even the best advice from another era may not be helpful to our
children in planning their future. I recommend that parents discuss the
following question amongst themselves: How do we want our
kids to feel about money?
- Children tend to inherit our style of financial worry. Financial
responsibility is one of the hallmarks of good parenting. For the most part,
parents expect to take care of children during their younger years, but we
also hope that through various forms of training and education, our kids
will become prepared and able to support themselves and their own families.
In addition, with people living longer these days, each of us must be
prepared not only to support our children during their young years, but also
to help with the support of our parents during their elder years.
Unfortunately, many young adults are never taught to include this expense in
their long-range plans.
Rather than be coy about this issue, I think it is wise to advise your
children and their mates of your expectation that caring for each other is a
two-way street in life. When addressed early enough, support for members of
your extended family can become part of your children's long-range financial
plans for the future. Opening up this topic up for discussion before it
becomes a reality, reduces the potential for surprise and may prevent major
misunderstandings during times of crisis. When one is given some notice that
assistance will be needed, the assistance can be budgeted and contributed with
love, not resentment. Even if it never becomes necessary for children to help
support their parents, it is a comfort to know that you were prepared to help.
- Encourage kids to find a career that they love; one that will love them
back! As parents, our job is help our children find suitable careers
which will allow them to achieve satisfying and independent self-support.
Anyone who has chosen a career path that they donít like, can confirm the
difficulty of getting out of bed and going to a job that they donít enjoy.
The best careers stimulate us to grow, cause us to feel challenged, and
provide the financial rewards which are needed to support ourselves and our
families. As a general rule, education is directly related to how much we
can earn per hour. Thus, our academic choices will often determine whether
we will earn $5 per hour, $25 per hour, $100 per hour, or more. When
planning their future, it is wise for kids to consider the kind of financial
compensation they will want.
- Avoid getting comfortable in low-paying jobs. In families where
teenagers are expected to go to work early, they must beware of the danger
of becoming satisfied with earning the minimum wage. Teenagers, who are
satisfied with a paycheck that is just large enough to put gas in their car,
may too readily dismiss opportunities for higher education, electing the
immediate versus delayed gratification which goes along with further
education. Unfortunately, most low-paying jobs typically lack career ladders
that might lead to greater opportunities. Especially at risk, are those kids
who struggled through high school and now lack the self-confidence to pursue
higher education. Many young adults simply need encouragement to seek out
specialized training or education programs which are often offered by local
colleges and universities.
- Kids learn great lessons when they make their own money decisions. As
parents, we are charged with the challenge of teaching our kids the value of
money. In the effort to help prepare them to make good decisions in life, it
is valuable to discuss the importance of money management with your
children. But to make the experience even more real, it is even more helpful
to practice the art of money management.
Summertime car trips have always provided wonderful opportunities for growth
as a family and family bonding. By the time our kids were age 2, my husband and
I had learned that it was far more pleasant to travel with children who had a
few dollars in their pockets, than it was to endure those embarrassing scenes in
stores where your children literally fall to their knees in tears and beg.
When they were small, $2-3 per day in allowance taught our kids how to
stretch each dollar and gave them a greater sense of choice and voice during the
family vacation. Instead of begging and pleading for gifts, stores became
opportunities to do their personal shopping and make some well thought-out
decisions. They soon found that purchasing decisions required the use of
addition, subtraction and even multiplication in order to predict the amount of
sales tax that would be added to their bill. Additionally, they learned that
they could save money by sharing expenses on certain items, but best of all,
they learned to be generous. To our great surprise and delight, we found that
when we empowered our children with their own spending money, they developed a
sense of joy and good feelings from acts of sharing. To this day, there is
nothing more treasured than the little gifts that the kids bought for us and for
each other in souvenir stands around the country. And Iíll never forget those
deliciously sticky pieces of their favorite candies which they proudly bought
from time to time to share with the family.
©Copyright, 2001, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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