The headlines about our children’s financial future can at times be very sobering. Enormous debt is being hoisted onto the backs of our kids and their kids.
I hate to be harsh, but the reality is life is not and never will be fair. Our children’s world is now going to be very different from ours. It will require them to live more frugally, delay more gratification and have much less as an adult than we, their parents, had. And it is our job to prepare them, to make sure they are prepared to deal with and thrive in this new world order. Now, while they are still under our roof.
Sit them down at dinner tonight and ask them what they will give up now to help support the family’s new bottom line. Explain that every family has a budget and now is the time to review that budget. Once a year take the time to discuss all that is “extracurricular”. Ask them to think about what “wants” they are no longer interested in. Let them be the ones to lay their offerings on the table first. And when they are unwilling, start making suggestions. No sports, no dance, no iTunes, no car. Nothing but “needs” for now, saving for “wants” for later. Basically, you are introducing them to budgeting by talking through a family budget.
Most parents reading this advice will blanch. But that is more our problem than it is our kids’ problem. Kids, especially the youngest, will see cost-cutting as a game. And, with practice, they will grow up to be frugal budget-conscious kids – the exact profile of the adult they must be to live well in our new economy. Teens will push back, as we are trying to change behavior that is almost set in stone by this age. But they are still under our roof and control. So, ask them to get a job and give up something after school to put in those hours. If you need it, ask them to contribute part of their pay to the household.
Practicing Financial Independence
Growing up, I worked part-time in high school, full-time in college and got a loan for law school that I paid off in monthly increments of $179.17 in about year five of my marriage. I paid for college and I lived at home during my college years – and paid rent to my parents for the privilege. Paying my way and then some made me the adult that I am today – a financially independent working mother.
I have two daughters, and both of them worked in high school. I did not ask them to get a job. They independently sought work so they could earn money to do the things that I and their father would not pay for. My daughters wanted me out of their money decisions – and a job helped them accomplish this. They saved $20 of each paycheck and the rest they used to pay for their lifestyle wants and needs that fall outside what I consider my responsibility to pay.
When I asked them to give me four things each that they would do to help our family cut expenses so we could add more to our savings, they each offered to take a cut in allowance. This gave us $50 a month to put back in savings. This prompted a discussion around ways to now stretch what was left of their allowance.
It’s time to have greater expectations for our children when it comes to money. It’s time for us to let our kids grow up financially so that they are strong.