Whenever we sit down for breakfast on Sundays, the first thing my kids pick up from the newspaper are the ads. They're always on the lookout for inserts with full-color images of toys, videogames and all the usual stuff that seem to draw children's attention. "Can you get me that?" asks my son, pointing to something huge in the Toys 'R Us catalog. "I want this dolly for Christmas," demands my daughter, even though she knows that it's barely springtime and the winter holidays are many months away.
Lately, I've been trying to impart to my kids that there's no such thing as free. And if something is free, then maybe there's a catch. All these things they want usually come at a price, I tell them. "We don't have the money," I sometimes say. "If we want to buy more things, I have to work more, and that means I have to be writing at my computer instead of spending time with you." I try to emphasize to my kids that time together as a family is a lot more meaningful that having money or stuff, but perhaps they are still too young to make that distinction.
In this weekend's Wall Street Journal, Jeff D. Opdyke offered parents some advice on how to help their kids become more financially savvy. The article, "The 15 Money Rules Kids Should Learn," is adapted from his latest book, "Piggybanking: Preparing Your Financial Life for Your Kids, and Your Kids for a Financial Life."
Opdyke shared an instance when his son and a friend noticed a fancy sports call on the freeway. His son's friend said, "Wow, that's guy's rich." Opdyke's son, however, replied: "It's not how much money you spend that makes you rich. You don't know; that guy might have spent all his money just to buy that car and he has nothing else. So he might not be rich at all."
Here are a few of the rules Opdyke outlined in the article:
- Spending money happens only after you earn it.
- When kids start asking parents to drive to the toystore to buy some plastic whatnot, it's time to consider an allowance.
- Good grades are expected and help around the house is simply the price of family life.
- Children should have the right to screw up financially so that they can learn from their mistakes.
One of his final pieces of advice in the story is this: "At some point, you have to tell the kids that the Bank of Mom & Dad is officially closed." Which leads me to wonder... Have any of you parents ever just cut your kids off and stopped paying for their expenses? How old were they when you did this? What lessons did you and your child learn?