Can We Talk?

Talking to Kids About the Economy

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Our kids definitely know the difference between needs and wants.

This is not to say that they haven’t learned to fully appreciate what it means to want something and to need something, (they’re rather spoiled, yes, I said it), but they know the difference. And I hope, when that day comes when they have to choose between the newest gadget on the market or say, eating, they 1. can first determine which is more important and 2. end up with full tummies.

Short of sitting our boys down and going through our checkbook with them, they know our financial situation. They don’t know precise numbers (and it’s really none of their business, quite frankly), but they know when money is tight and when it’s not so tight.

Money is tight for us right now.

With Kevin out of work and me staying home to take care of him until he can get back on his feet (though he’s on his feet now and we’re fast approaching that day when he will no longer need me 24/7), neither one of us is working. We’re okay, we have some money in savings, our house is paid for, our cars are paid off, we don’t have a lot of debt, but still, we’re penny pinching.

Though our boys have never been the type of kids to nag, beg, or throw fits if they didn’t get what they wanted, they haven’t really wanted much. As long as they have their games, Internet connection, and Mountain Dew, they’re happy campers. And if a new game comes out and they’re dying for it, they can either A. pay for it themselves with birthday/Christmas money or B. wait until their birthdays and/or Christmas comes around.

We do not give our kids an allowance. If they want something, they can work for it (and by working for it they can either do something around the house that isn’t automatically expected of them, or they can continue to be good students so that if they want something, we’re more apt to say yes), or they can play the waiting game and wait for it.

So, our boys have a pretty good sense of how important money is and when they have it, to spend it wisely. Dude is especially good about this. In fact, I daresay he’s cheap (like his momma). But Jazz … is perhaps not so careful about his money. I can see him impulse buying. In fact, it amuses me whenever Jazz wants something and Dude is all like, “Why do you want that? Why don’t you wait a few more weeks when it’s bound to either go on sale or end up free online somewhere.”

In essence, he talks him off that spending ledge.

All of this to say, YES, I think it’s crucial that parents talk to their kids about the economy. About the importance of spending money wisely, of saving money and staying out of debt, of working hard and finding that balance between enjoying the fruits of their labor and managing their money wisely.

Especially now, in the age of instant gratification and this feeling that they are somehow ENTITLED to life’s little luxuries.

Um … NO.

It’s also important to teach them Economics 101. About how supply and demand work and what happens to prices when that gets out of whack. Or how government CAN be a good thing, as long as they don’t become TOO intrusive and want to take control over nearly every aspects of our lives.

Like now.

Oh yes. The time period we’re living in right now? IS THE PERFECT TIME TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN A THING OR TWO ABOUT OUR ECONOMY.

Just sayin’.

All of these lessons need to be age appropriate, of course, but they need to be taught. If we hope to raise the next generation of fiscally responsible adults, it’s OUR responsibility to teach our children NOW about how the world works and how it can, and will, affect them in the future.

But ACTIONS speak louder than WORDS. (*ahem* Are you listening, Mr. President?). We can talk to our kids until we’re blue in the face (or bankrupt), they won’t truly learn the lesson, they won’t take us seriously, until we LIVE what we preach. So, we teach being frugal? Then we spend wisely. We discuss WHY we can’t go out to eat every night. We talk about how we would rather spend the money on, say, swimming for the whole family instead of buying that new Barbie doll. (Not that our boys WANT a Barbie doll, I’m just using a girly example here because I don’t get the chance to use girly examples very often. Hush). We talk about options and test our children by asking them what they think we should do.

We help them manage their own money by “guiding” them to make the right decisions. We trim the fat and instead of paying for high speed Internet, we make due with the slower speeds because it’s cheaper. Or we buy a pay-as-you-go cell phone plan instead of going the iPhone route.

Life is all about making sacrifices and finding YOUR OWN personal balance.

I hope we’ve been successful in teaching our boys that lesson. I’d like to say, yes, we have, but we won’t truly know how we’ve done until they are in a situation where they are required to make their own decisions without us.

I’m rather looking forward to seeing how they do.

There’s no shame in talking to your kids about your financial situation. It’s reality. I wouldn’t scare them, and like I said, keep it age appropriate, but it’s (fiscally) irresponsible to NOT teach our children about the importance of maintaining a healthy economy.

A healthy economy doesn’t just happen. It’s not handed to us. It’s not created for us. WE all have to pitch in and work to make it happen – not just for our benefit, but for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.