Thursday, June 10, 2010

Money Issues, Part Deux

Mollie writes:

Ahhhhh, money.  Like STD, drugs and unwanted pregnancy, a subject that warms the coldest parts of any parents psyche.   I'm glad Millie covered this yesterday.   I would wince every time the subject of money came up, from the very beginning when Roger's first sentence was "I NEED MONEY" (under age 2 in a restaurant in Switzerland) to right now, when Peter is wondering if buying that condo in Tucson was a good idea (yes, but only if he waits to sell it when the market is better).

During our children's early years, we pretended that sex, drugs and money didn't exist.  Our children were brought by the stork, drugs were something you took when you were so sick the doctor made you, and Daddy went to the office every day to save the world.  We never really gave Peter and Roger allowances 'per se' but, when they were young, money did pass through their hands.

Too quickly.

John and I were always amazed with how quickly the youngsters (any age under 10) could go through money.  We did try the budget thing, the savings thing, the allowance thing, but for one reason or another, it just didn't work for us.  As a result, we managed our kids' money for them until they reached an age where they could understand, in all its splendor, how long money lasts.

We started this when our youngest was in middle school.  With all pretense of Santa Claus floating right back up the chimney in a puff of smoke, we let the kids make a list of what they wanted for Christmas.  Once the list was presented to us, we priced their requests until their list exhausted our budget.  Then we stopped.

This doesn't mean that they got everything on their lists that were priced.  We also bought them things we thought they needed (clothes) and also struggled to make sure that the Christmas tree wasn't too lopsided.  We had years where Roger would ask for 10 action figures that cost a pittance and Peter would ask for 1 game system that would pretty much eat up his budget.  Ultimately, the kids would get the same number of presents, but the prices on the individual gifts were roller coaster.  I still chuckle at how many packages of socks and briefs were tucked under the tree, equalizing the count of presents from one boy to another.

In all due time, both boys did figure out that their Christmas budget was like a 'fixed income' and began listing things more pragmatically.   This didn't mean that they chose wisely, but they chose realistically.
That was enough for us until the high school years were underway.

Having a teenager work for money is a riot.  Minimum wage doesn't go far for a 10 hours a week work schedule, and when our oldest got his first paycheck, complete with deductions for taxes and social security, John and I got the first taste of parental satisfaction when Peter complained "Where'd all my money go?"  Peter scooped ice cream that summer, and the thought of big bucks flowing into his pocket was all he could focus on.  When he pocketed roughly 60% of his earnings, he was incensed.   However, by the end of summer, he had started his own savings account, and had some nice biceps as well.

Ditto for Roger.  Up until high school, we'd pretty much handled money for him.  But that summer job at the local pet store taught him lessons his mommy and daddy could only dream of.  After cleaning cages, stocking pet food (the BIG bags)  and sweeping up, Roger eyeballed that miserable little paycheck and realized that a college education was in his future.  He, too, opened up a savings account.

Money only trickled into their accounts, but it did stay there.  John and I became a little more open about how money is a transient, fickle friend.  Yes, we could afford a nice house, but only because we didn't smoke or drink (much) and bought used cars from our friends and family and our clothes at Fred Meyer, not The Gap.  We educated them on the fact that we bought used cars because we could pay cash for them, and paid off all credit cards at the end of the month because interest held no interest for us.  They weren't happy, they weren't proud, but they were in the loop.

By the time both boys entered college, they were the spitting image of their angry, cynical parents.  Both, in addition to experiencing withholding taxes on paychecks, had filed tax returns, paid additional taxes (Roger), gotten refunds (Peter), and just generally experienced the American Dream.  They had savings accounts, knew that there was no such thing as free lunch (unless provided by Uncle Sam out of their taxes which hardly makes it free) and could hold their head up high when it came to feeling abused and exploited.  They had experienced overdrafts, under payments, and outright fraud.

But they did, however, understand money.  It's hard to make, easy to waste, of considerable value one day and no value the next.  My youngest is happily funding his retirement on his collection of action figures (?????) the oldest is putting away his money into military pensions, IRA programs, you name it.  And it's a crap shoot to know which boy will be the richest in 40 years.

But I'm betting that both will be solvent.


  1. I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and his Financial Peace University. Because of his wisdom, we'll be debt free in a matter of months and our children will never own (or be owned by) a credit card if we have anything to say about it.


  2. Hey now, I'm not funding my retirement on action figures! That would be silly. I'm playing with them! Right now, I'm more worried about funding that eventual house than I am my retirement.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.