Thursday, April 30, 2015

About the Benjamins (or at least Washingtons and Lincolns)

Okay, folks, it's time to brace yourselves, because I'm about to discuss the "f-word". That's right, you heard me, today's post is about..."finances". (What did you think I meant? Shame on you! Ha!) For years now the Team WestEnders Parental Banking Board (yeah, that would mostly has been bestowing an allowance on her loyal, "sons". The amount is arrived at by employing a complicated, multi-step algorithm using several variables and numerous mathematical operations...oh, who am I trying to kid? It's completely arbitrary, based on what I felt was fair and reasonable at the time.

However, I also concluded that it would be silly to actually, you know, hand over the cold, hard cash...since most of the items they've wanted to purchase can be acquired on Amazon, and involve nothing more than Mom clicking the "Order" button and charging the credit card. So instead, I keep a running tally in a notebook, adding to it each month when their virtual payday arrives. This of course confers the added benefit of freeing them from having to actually keep track of the physical bills and whatnot. It's a tidy, organized system with few flaws...except for the glaring one that recently came to our attention.

You see, with their resources so tightly monitored and controlled by their Asset Manager (I'm coming up with so many awesome titles for myself today...I probably deserve a raise...I'll have to work that into the budget...) they never have the opportunity to be in charge of making decisions to allocate their investments. Now, this is preferable when they're impulsive, irresponsible youngsters, who--left to their own devices--would blow the wad on bubble gum and whatever goofy fad is currently sweeping the nation's toy stores. But now that they're a little older...and the development of the adolescent brain has enhanced those very same impulsive and irresponsible tendencies...I can see that it's high time they learned to deal with it.

So, what does this mean in practical terms? Letting go a little bit, (aargh! painful!) giving them some of their accumulated wealth, and providing enough rope with which to hang themselves. No, wait, that's not it...I mean "affording them the power to make choices about how to spend their own money." Do I expect them to make mistakes? Pfftttt, of course! But so far they've been operating in complete security atop the Parental Safety Net, and we adults all know that's not how the Real World works. I'd like them to figure some of this out while they're still under Husband's and my wing, so we can help them out along the perilous path to...Monetary Wisdom...or some such nonsense.

Thus I sprung this notion on my beloved children one day...and their reactions were...priceless. (Sorry!) Riley--my whimsical free-spender--was downright gleeful, practically rubbing his hands together at the thought of getting his grubby mitts on some moolah. Derek, on the other hand, surprised me by blurting out a vehement, "NO! MOOOMMMM...that's a terrible idea!" Somewhat taken aback, I asked him to elaborate. "If you give me my allowance...I"ll just spend it!" Um...that's kind of the idea, dear. He shook his head and clarified, "I can see it now--I'll be at the convenience store, and I'll be like 'Hey, I can have the 32-ounce drink instead of the 20, since I have money!'" Uh-huh, that's precisely what we're aiming for: making those tough selections without Mommy having the final say. And, oh yeah, living with the consequences of your actions! (Mwah hah hah! Oh yeah, with the loving support of your parents, of course!)

Then we were fortunate enough to experience an example of how this would work in the teenager's life, when he received some birthday money from his grandfather. (After which he jokingly noted, "Mom's just gonna take this when she needs some cash for coffee!" Hey, I resent that...okay, never mind, it's totally true...where did you stash it?) Next he was invited to go bowling with some of his buddies from school...and Husband took out $20 from the ATM to give him. (I'm sorry, but what part of the Operation Financial Education plan is escaping your understanding?) So I informed Derek that I'd be subtracting that amount from the ledger where I keep his current allowance totals, so that in effect he was utilizing his own funds. I swear, you would have thought I'd...decreed that he was heretofore banned from eating dinner...or something equally punitive and heinous. He gaped at me incredulously and huffed, "If I'd known THAT, I wouldn't have bought my friend an ice cream!"

First of all, yes he would have, being a generous person at heart. But more importantly, that's exactly what I'm talking about: somehow, money becomes soooo much more valuable all of a sudden when it's coming out of your own pocket, yeah? So, clearly I was right in that he's ready for this baby step in his maturity process--he understands the concept, realizes the stakes, and has just enough healthy misgiving to perhaps temper his choices. Welcome to the Big Boy Club, dude. The dues are high, but the rewards can be pretty cool...assuming you can save some of those presidents!

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