There’s been a resurgence recently in discussions on how to teach kids about money. We can, of course, point you to our version of, “The Allowance Post,” from a couple of years ago. DC mainly uses hir allowance to buy Christmas or Birthday gifts for DH (I am too lazy to nudge hir into crafts like DH does for my presents from DC), though ze did save up for a $15 lego game last fall.
Ze gets a pretty small allowance, 20 cents per year of age, which means $1/week. We have no restrictions on how that money is used. My allowance was 10 cents per year of age, again with no restrictions. For the most part, I spent my entire allowance on candy every single week.
Growing up we did not have a lot of money. We talked about money and trade-offs all the time and did not have a whole lot of things. (Instead of stuff, the priority was our education.) Very early on I learned that money is really important, that it can be a source of stress, that having it can make things a lot easier. I learned how to shop for the best priced item (like looking at price per unit at the grocery store) because we had to. DH’s childhood protected him more from monetary troubles, but when I was living in urban apartments, he was living in a rural trailer and his parents were working and going to school.
DH and I are firmly ensconced in upper-middle-classdom. I LOVE it. I never ever want to go back, and that’s probably why we’ve saved a bunch. I love my a/c and my dryer and my dishwasher and not having to make choices between fancy cheese and daycamp. Not having to completely freak out about the possibility of DH losing his job.
At the same time, there’s a worry that because we don’t have to make a whole lot of trade-offs, that DC may not be learning about money. What do you do when you’re born upper-middle-class and don’t face the same kind of monetary trade-offs as a child that might be needed later as an adult just starting out?
But really, I’m not worried. Ze seems to be picking up money lessons here and there anyway, and not just because, “Mommy studies money.”
For one thing, ze’s at a private school that has had money issues this past year. Additionally, the teachers only make 23K/year. So at school ze’s learning to be worried about money. Ze came home one day almost in tears because hir textbook had been lost and it was *very expensive*. I explained that that’s why I make the big bucks, so that we can replace things like textbooks without worrying about them. (They found the textbook the next day– someone else had put it up on a high shelf.)
At the same time, we have long conversations at the grocery store about value. Ze knows how to look for what’s the cheapest per unit, just like my father taught me, but ze gets an additional explanation when we don’t buy the cheapest item. Why do we like it better, how is it better quality? It’s important to know how to live frugally, because that gives options, but it’s also nice to be able to live an upper-middle-class lifestyle and to understand when trade-offs are worth it when you have enough money. That’s a good reason to make money, I think.
We’re also planning on paying our kids’ full college tuition and board at the school of their choice. More on that in our next deliberately controversial post, if I ever get around to writing it.
I think it’ll be ok. We emphasize learning and education and understanding and hard work. Ze seems to have picked up on those lessons. It’s nice that ze can focus on these more intrinsic kinds of things– what ze wants to do to make his mark in the world, rather than omg I never want to have to worry about money. That’s a luxury but it seems to be one that hasn’t hurt most of the folks I rub shoulders with who are second or third or more generation upper-middle-class. Sure, there are some folks who never learned money lessons and are complete disasters, especially if their parents stop bailing them out… but for the most part being brought up upper-middle-class doesn’t seem to directly mean that a kid is going to spend more than they earn. And it doesn’t seem to hurt in terms of getting opportunities that can lead to higher earning power later on. Things my parents made huge sacrifices for, but we can just give our children while still eating fancy cheese on a regular basis.
Side note: When a colleague of mine, after reading the Slaughter article, said she didn’t have it all because even though she doesn’t have a spouse and kids taking up her time, she felt like she didn’t have time for everything she wanted to do, my response was that I have SO much more than my parents did. I have to make so many fewer compromises than my mother did and so many fewer sacrifices than my parents, that I feel blessed and lucky and like I have more than I ever dreamed (not that I don’t think I should be getting a bigger salary!). My colleague grew up in a higher SES, still middle class, but on the other side of it. Will my children feel ennui more keenly because their childhoods (at least up to this point) are more charmed?
Did money lessons come through necessity when you were a child or did you have to learn them separately? If you have kids, are you worried about how to teach them about money?