by Lesley Meriwether
"As we are developing new spending habits through choice
or necessity or both, we should also build sensible spending habits
for our kids."
-- Elaine St. James, "Simplify Your Life"
Teaching kids about money is a gift that, literally, will keep on giving. Yet many young people leave home with no idea about how to manage their money. They don't know how to shop, write checks, pay bills or balance a checkbook. They don't learn these skill through osmosis; we must teach them.
If you're not good with money yourself, you'll be at a real disadvantage as a teacher.
"Don't do as I do, do as I say" is a pretty flimsy parenting approach. Get help for yourself: read books (my favorite is "Your Money or Your Life," by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin), or call a credit counselor (Consumer Credit Counseling Service, 822-8536), and/or take classes in money management.
Have family meetings to talk about money. Discuss your circumstances openly. If you are having financial difficulties, explain them -- and what you are doing about them -- to your children.
We do not want to deny our children their wishes, but no one benefits if these desires cause financial burden. Reality has some important lessons for all of us. How can children cope if they don't know the limitations?
The subject of allowance comes up frequently in families: Should kids get an allowance, under what conditions, and how much money should they get?
Zillions magazine surveyed over 800 kids between the ages of 9 and 14. Whether kids got a regular allowance or were given money when they needed it, the amount given to them each week ended up to be about the same: The median (half got that or less, half got that or more) for 9-10-year-olds was $3 allowance plus $4 extra per week, or $7 a week if they didn't receive an allowance; for 11-12 year-olds, the allowance was $5 and the extra was $8 a week, or $13 a week if they didn't receive an allowance; for 13-14-year-olds the allowance was $5, the extra money was $10; and for those who did not receive an allowance the weekly total was $15.
In the survey the youngsters who had a regular allowance managed their money better. They also were able to save for special things. Half of those who did not have an allowance wanted to switch to the allowance plan. Important money lessons to teach your kids:
Talk to them about how advertisers appeal to our emotions rather than our needs. Review magazine or TV ads and ask your children, "What are they really selling?" This can turn into a competitive game to find which ad is the most incredible. (There will be many contenders.)
Before kids leave home they need to know how to manage a checking account, write checks and reconcile balances; how to use credit cards; how to fill out financial forms, including tax returns; how to read the fine print on any financial transaction; how to keep financial records and information.
As we continue to move through the economically hard-pressed '90s, those of us with financial skills will have a definite advantage. If you can count yourself and your kids among the financially able, you've made a great investment! -END-
Lesley Meriwether is a registered nurse and psychotherapist with the Arcata Family Medical Group.
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