By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
‘Tis the Holiday Season, the beginning of the New Year and a new beginning for some is right around the corner. Budget discussions in Congress, as well as in the common home, seems to be the topic most likely to stimulate some thought as people everywhere gather during this festive season and look forward to what financially might be ahead for them next year.
Although everyone is concerned with the national debt and their own finances, in a recent poll, teens reported feeling very optimistic about theirs. It appears the reason they are so happy-go-lucky about their finances is because they are expecting mom and dad to take care of them until they are twenty-seven years old. What a change this is compared to twenty years ago when most kids couldn’t wait to leave home and get out from under mom and dad’s watchful eye.
The president of Junior Achievement USA, in a recent statement, said that teens expect to live with their parents longer because many of them are unsure about their ability to budget or use credit cards. Interesting too was the finding that 33% of the teens surveyed in the Junior Achievement USA said they do not use a budget, and even worse, 42% of that group were not interested in learning to budget. Although the majority of the kids polled thought students were borrowing too much to pay for college, only 9% of them were currently saving for college. One third of them hadn’t even talked to their parents about higher education.
Schools do not have time to teach kids about saving money, budgeting, or opening a savings account or any of the other issues related to finances. This has to come from parents because parents are still the number one influence on how their children save money, budget and pay for expenses. College costs and debt has reached an astronomically high number, and the average kids finish college now with at least a $20,000 debt. No age is too young to begin teaching your child the importance of money and saving. It all begins with a piggy bank, and expands with savings accounts, bonds and other types of investments.
Below are some suggestions of ways to help your child understand the value of a dollar, so they will be more realistic about their future and their money instead of depending on yours.
1. Begin when they are a baby. Saving money for college or higher education should begin with the first day of your child’s life.
2. Kids learn best when chores are rewarded with money, and teaching them that some of that money should go into savings. Parents who talk to their kids about saving some money raise kids who automatically have money saved.
3. No chores, no allowance. An allowance is sort of like paying someone for vacation or existing. Who does that in the real world? Why would you teach your child that lesson?
4. Set an example: You cannot have everything you want. Explain to your child that you have to earn enough to buy things you want.
5. Many parents parent with guilt instead of discipline when teaching their children about money. If you give your child what they want, you are telling them that you don’t think they can earn it. Confidence is built when we work toward a goal or desire and our hard work pays off.
6. Teach your children to price shop and also look for bargains. This can be taught by clipping coupons and checking prices from one store to another. It also helps your child re-evaluate how much they want something. Sometimes this alone will deter them from spending money on a frill they didn’t really want or need.
College debt is a huge problem in our country. Kids take out huge loans yet are never really prepared for what to expect in regards to their financial debt after college. Living within your means and teaching your children to do the same is part of parenting.
Lessons taught young correlate highly with adults who understand the importance of saving and budgeting. Your kids don’t need the “stuff” money can buy half as much as they need the time you give teaching them about how long it takes to save for that “stuff.”
- Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.