Monday, September 5, 2016

Prerequisite to Econ 101...

Okay, kiddies, you might want to brace yourselves, as today we're going to talk about a weighty subject, and one which is very important to your overall well-being and peace of mind: financial management. (Before you scream "Aaahhhh--please, not that!" I promise it will be painless. You've just gotta trust me...are you calm now? Let's continue...) I think I remember being given an allowance as a kid, but I couldn't tell you how much, or how often...or anything else about it, for that matter. And I certainly don't recall being formally taught how to handle my wealth--um "paltry pocket change", either during childhood or later, as a teenager. I'm not sure if it was a "back then" thing, or just in my own household, but money just wasn't ever an open topic for discussion.

In contrast, Husband and I are fortunately on the same page about this, and sort of tacitly agreed a long time ago that we'd address economic...stuff...with our boys. I mean within reason, of course; there's no need for them to know exactly what either of our salaries are, for example. But how much we budgeted for our house, or a new car....or (gulp) how much college costs? Yes, we talk about that in front of them. Comparison shopping, saving up for a big purchase, weighing the value of something based on its quality and/or long-term desirability, or deciding whether an item falls into the category of a "want" or "need"? Oh, HECK yeah, we go there.

And we started doling out a modest monthly stipend years ago, mostly in order to have these types of conversations, about how they chose to spend their moolah. The funny thing is, given that the best prices and selection are often found on Amazon, in the early days I never actually handed them cold, hard cash. Our transactions were almost always handled virtually, with me placing the order using my credit card, and subtracting the amount from the running total I kept for each of them in my (very Old School) ledger each time. This worked smoothly for quite a while...until Derek reached High School age and began cultivating a social life that often required paying for things like food, movies, (snacks AT the theater....I quickly noticed that most everything with him involved eating in one way or another--typical...) etc.

At that point we began the frequent cycle of "Mom, I need money for xyz." Me (sighing) "I'll have to go to the ATM; when are you leaving?" Because naturally, since I DO have plastic payment options at my disposal, I rarely carry around much in the way of our good friends Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, or Jackson. (Confession: I had to Google the last two--that's how seldom I entertain them in my wallet...or, apparently, pay attention to the photos...) Then Riley started going places with HIS buddies, and it all got even more complicated, in a hurry.

So, as the WestEnders Secretary of the Treasury (yes, I grant myself new titles all the time, so what?), I decided it was high time for an overhaul of the system. That's right, the paper-and-pencil era was coming to an end, and it was about to go all high-tech up in here...with bank accounts all around! Therefore I visited the local branch of the fine institution that tends to Husband's and my banking needs, to add accounts for Derek and Riley. This meant transferring all of the heretofore phantom funds from my notebook to actual savings accounts, for starters. And then it order for them to be able to access their accumulated allowance--which is the goal, after all--they would each have a checking account....and a debit card.

Okay, pause for a deep, slow breath--we've mentioned this to them as a possibility before; it should be fine. It almost goes without saying, however, that there will be a whole LOT more education in their near future about such topics as "protecting your card and PIN", "being mindful of your available balance", and especially "not going all crazy with your newfound independence and ending up broke in one regrettable weekend o'wild splurges".

And, oh boy, are they (understandably) excited. They can't wait to get their paws on those little rectangles of financial freedom and...I don't know...go purchase some Gatorade? I haven't asked if they've concocted some Grand Scheme for their maiden voyage to break in the cards (let's face it, the odds of it being an restaurant-related excursion are extremely high...) but at least this should put an end to the days of "Can I go bowling in a half-hour...and do you have any cash to give me?" My greatest hope is that this helps set their feet firmly on the right path to fiscal responsibility and maturity...or at the very least, that they don't blow their entire savings on an impulsive, extravagant trip to Dick's Sporting Goods...fingers crossed!

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