Friday, May 02, 2008

The Root of All Evil

We're facing more growing pains 'round here. This time I'm really stuck. My son brought home his first paycheck and promptly opened a new checking account at the bank in the grocery store where he cashed it and left a mere nine dollars and change to keep the account open.

Yes, it's his money. He earned it and may do as he likes with it. However, I thought we had done a good job all these years of teaching him about budgeting and setting aside savings and charity. It would seem that once he became a teenager, none of it stuck. Frankly, I'm stumped. His father tried to explain about compound interest and the benefits of accumulating savings early on. All the boy heard was "blah blah blah a million dollars by the time you're forty blah blah". I think the Bear expects to be senile and doddering 'round a nursing home when he's forty, so the idea of saving for then made no sense.

I tried to think about what I was doing with my paychecks at his age. I remembered squirreling away every penny I could to save for a school trip to France. I never spent a dime of my own money until I did eventually get to see Paris for the first time. But here's the thing-I never had to. If I wanted anything; clothes, car, cash, I asked my parents and it was handed to me. Paris was the only thing they ever asked me to earn.

My son has never been raised that way. We tell him flat out that those athletic shoes are too expensive, you'll have to wait or I'm sorry, if you want money to go out with your friends you'll have to earn it weeding the garden. I can understand why instant gratification has so much appeal. Having me tell him that he needs to put money aside from his paycheck for the future is like having an annoying insect buzzing about his ear. Clearly I'm in over my head.

So tonight I went on a fact finding mission to Barnes and Noble seeking a good basic money management book for teens or even parents of teens. Instead I found a disgusting array of get-rich-quick books for kids. It was a veritable smorgasbord of "these kids became CEOs before their fifteenth birthday and you can too" and "your child can be a millionaire using our fast, easy formula for success" books. Next to all these entrepreneur kid books were titles like "New Graduate's Guide to Bankruptcy" and "Debt Reduction For Young People". Nowhere was there a sensible guide for teaching teenagers about beginning personal finances. It was very disheartening.

I put it to you all, do you have any tips on the best way to educate him about putting his money to work for him? I am up for any and all suggestions.