Giving Kids Control of Money (So They Don’t Always Need Yours)

I wish I could say this is an area where I shine. It’s not. But I truly believe in the message of this article in today’s Wall Street Journal, Teaching Kids About Money the Hard Way:  Have your kids take care of their own money — getting, saving, spending, even misspending it — gradually, starting as young as possible.

The current case on campus (soon to be law for anyone under 21 who cannot show a source of income) is that credit card companies try to get parents to co-sign on credit cards. That means that if you child abuses the card, you, the parent, are faced with the dilemma: Pay for your child’s mistakes. Or don’t pay — and watch YOUR credit rating take a hit. Hard to teach them a lesson when you’re personally on a spit over the coals.

Along with the other Free-Range lessons we give our kids should come some on earning, saving and spending. Of course, the fact is: it  is harder than ever for kids to get a job (for my book I called eight newspapers in North Carolina — none would hire anyone under age 18). This almost forces kids to rely on family largesse, at least in their younger years. So we all have to be creative about chores, allowance and finding tasks we’d normally pay someone else to do that we can pay our kids to do instead. We just had our youngest do a big, on-your-knees floor washing the other day for $2 — money well spent (since I closed my door, put on my headset and could almost block out the groaning).

If anyone has any tips or suggestions for helping kids learn to earn, save and understand the meaning of a dollar, these  would be most appreciated — especially by me! Penny for your thoughts? Or at least a Tweet? — Lenore