By LouAnn Schulfer, AWMA®, AIF®
Accredited Wealth Management AdvisorSM
Accredited Investment Fiduciary®
What does it take to raise financially responsible kids? The three words financially, responsible and kids each have significant importance when pondering the answer to that question. Financially: Money matters. Responsible: I believe that parents often do not give kids enough credit or opportunity for the responsibility they can and should handle to grow into mature young adults. Kids. To have financially responsible young adults, the habits, mindset and ongoing education has to begin when they are kids.
First and foremost, give your kids an opportunity to work. To earn money! How could we possibly expect anyone to respect something they did not earn as much as the same thing they are given? I remember when our oldest son Jacob turned 8. He received $50 for his birthday and chose to buy a pair of heeleys (the shoes with wheels in the heels). It turned out he was not a natural. I would often say to him ‘Jacob, keep trying, you just spent $50 on those shoes!’ ‘I know, Mom’ he would say, while the heeleys lay in his closet. A year and a half goes by. Jacob has been working at the Driving Range for an hourly wage. He has a few pictures on his “Reality Board”, a posterboard with pictures of his goals and items he wants to buy. His first personal purchase with his own earned money was a Ninentdo DS and game cartridges. I will always remember the moment he came to me with tears in his eyes, “Mom, I just paid $30 for this game and it is not working”. Contrast those two incidences with the same kid. Profound.
Early in their lives, we gave our sons the opportunity to work and earn money through an hourly wage. We implemented an 80/20 rule. 80% of what they earned went into ROTH IRAs and college funds. 20% could be spent as they chose. To keep focus, the boys (as well as Gene and myself) each made our own Reality Boards: the things we wanted to become a Reality in our lives. Zachary’s first purchase goal was a dirt bike, Jacob’s was the Nintendo DS. The boys researched the cost of those items and could easily calculate how many hours they had to work to achieve each purchase goal. Their work meant something. Each hour and each paycheck was a step closer to their goals. They had tremendous pride upon the purchases and took great care of what they had worked for. We had them handle their own paychecks. They had to endorse each check and personally take it to the teller counter at the bank to deposit it. They had to do the accounting in their savings account ledgers, seeing their paychecks add up with each deposit and the balance go down each time they took money out to buy an item. Something great happened as they got older: they matured in their financial thinking. They became uncomfortable seeing their savings go down. Their goals changed. They wanted their money to go toward more meaningful things and not spend it on instant gratification items like consumables.
When each boy turned 16, they got jobs with other employers; Jacob with Pointe Precision and Zac with Sentry. To further grow in their responsibilities, we felt it important that they go through the process of applying, interviewing and working for a non-family employer. Real world stuff. Their mature work ethics and business acumens were significant contributors to their success.
Jacob and Zachary are now 18 and 16. I am excited to share with you in future articles our efforts and experiences in raising our kids to be financially responsible. If there were only one piece of advice I could give parents in that regard, it would be to let your kids work and earn money. Yes, balance that with school, extracurriculars and free time. Don’t overdo the work, but don’t deny them the opportunity and the gratification to earn. Doing so builds dignity, self-esteem, personal responsibility, confidence, independence, self-worth and yes, provides the path to raising financially responsible kids.
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