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The lecture that every kid needs to hear

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By Michelle Singletary
My 16-year-old son will be working for the first time this summer.
He already has plans to buy an iPad with his earnings.
And he made the mistake of telling me.
What followed was another one of my lectures that ended with him shaking his head. Iím sure my many money conversations will weigh heavily when he and his two sisters are possibly faced with determining who I may have to live with in my retirement years. I bet theyíll play rock, paper and scissors to decide.
Still, despite the moans and groans and threats of putting me in a nursing home, I lecture anyway. I talk about what it means to be a good money manager. I encourage them not to overspend or go into debt. I stress the importance of saving.
Many students will be making their own money for the first time this summer, and so now is a great time for parents to discuss responsible money management with their children. Or maybe your child has already been working for a couple of summers. Are you seeing the development of good financial habits?
There are many initiatives around the country to encourage schools to teach financial literacy. I applaud such efforts and support them. But various studies have also shown that the biggest financial influence in childrenís lives is their parents, for better or for worse.
In a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 28 percent of respondents said they learned the most about personal finance from their parents or at home. And in a T. Rowe Price survey, 28 percent of parents agreed with the following statement: ďI am not good with money, so I should not be the one to teach my kids about money.Ē
But you do matter. If youíre not a good money manager, learn to become one. As you learn, teach your children, who will then teach their kids. Model good financial behavior and they are more likely to emulate you.
So just like his sister before him when she got her first job, my son was given the ďnow that you are earning your own moneyĒ talk:
On saving: From the very first paycheck, learn to save something. Anything. Itís the most vital lesson I learned from my grandmother. Big Mama wasnít so much concerned at first with how much I saved, but that I develop this lifelong habit.
Have your child tie the savings to a specific goal.
Itís also a good idea to show kids how to budget their earnings. What summer expenses will they be responsible to pay? I plan to charge my son a little money for the gas it takes to drive him to work (he canít drive yet). I want him to begin to feel what itís like to pay for some expenses, which up until now he didnít have to be concerned with because he didnít have a job. Itís important to show him that his pay has to be divided between necessary expenditures and his wants. Since he doesnít have to work, his dad and I feel his summer job and the money he earns from it should be used to teach him how to be a good worker and financial steward.
On giving: He must tithe or give a tenth of his gross income to the church we attend. My husband and I make it a priority to donate to our church and charitable causes. We want to teach this custom to our children. My son already is a generous giver. But I reminded him that his giving will be more than heís used to and that to whom much is given, much is required.
If you encourage giving now as a regular part of a childís money management, it could become another lifelong habit.
On spending: Iíve talked to my son about watching what he spends on a daily basis. More money tends to spur the desire to spend more.
On splurging: In the end, I didnít discourage him from buying the iPad. I encouraged him to save up for it. I want him to have it because I know heíll work hard and he should get something fun with his summer earnings. Although, depending on which iPad he wants, he may be saving for a while. Nonetheless, I want him to also learn that itís OK to splurge if you have the funds to do so. If you know me at all, you know thatís one lesson that took me a while to learn.
(c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group
Story tags » Personal Finance



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