Kids and the Money Crunch

Times are hard. Seize the moment to school your kids on money!


A few days ago I was speaking to a group of parents and their children about managing money in a recession. I remembered speaking with this same group a few years ago, and I couldn’t help but notice how the young people’s attitudes have changed.

A teenage girl in the group remarked about the “totally fly jeans” she just purchased at a local consignment shop. Another bragged about being able to find a job in this bad economy and how she is going to help her parents pay for her “first choice” college.

When I spoke to this same group in 2007, one mother’s story stood out. Her 8-year-old daughter had just announced that she wanted a “flatter stomach and smoother hair!”

I always mention this story because this girl’s mother really “got it right” in her response to her daughter. She said, “This is about money. Someone is betting that they can convince you that you need those things. They are betting that they can talk you into giving them your money to get them. You are smarter than that.” Her mother says the now 10-year-old is constantly pointing out how ads try and “Trick us into giving them our money” and refuses to give in.

Just like those teenagers now shopping at consignment stores and thinking of savvy ways to help pay for college, most kids today are completely hip to the fact that the economy and the ways in which we handle money have changed. They see their parents and primary caregivers cutting back versus living beyond their means like they were before the recession. Everywhere they turn someone is talking about money, and not in the “spend this, get this, gotta have this” way they have been used to. Even advertisers are talking about saving and smart shopping versus excess and wild spending. As a result, the “I don’t have to worry about money, mom and dad will take care of it” perception is being replaced by “mom and dad have to cut back and need my help.”

Parents have a real opportunity right now to help their kids develop healthy money habits.

Getting a good start requires three things: example, experience, communication.

Research has shown that one of the biggest influences on how we handle money as adults is how we see it handled when we are growing up. It is imperative that you “walk the walk” when it comes to responsible financial behavior.

Parents and primary caregivers need to ask themselves: