The other day my son was researching the starting salary for his current dream career. This week, he wants to be a video game designer. Through his research, he discovered that entry level video game designers earn approximately $40,000 a year. I told him that as far as starting salaries go that was a pretty good one. He immediately began doing some figuring in his head and when he was done he asked me how much a month I paid on bills. Before I could answer him, my husband, who was also in the room, snarkily bellowed, “None of your business, boy!” But I sincerely disagree with my husband. In my opinion, it is very much my son’s business.
I think children, especially those in their adolescent years, should be made aware of what things cost. What’s more, I think they should play an integral part in the family budgeting. Kids are often accused of being spoiled and selfish, because they are always asking for things. Or worse, taking the things they already have for granted. I think many of these kids are getting a bad rap, because they merely have not been made aware of how much things cost.
You can preach to your kids until you’re blue in the face about how hard you had to work for things. But if you show them, it’s much more effective. Make them pay to replace something they broke or lost and I promise you its value will be etched into their memories forever.
Unfortunately, I think my husband’s attitude about discussing money matters with children is all too common. I know it’s the way I was raised. Like my son, as a child I was curious about the cost of things like the mortgage, insurance and electricity. After all, all I heard growing up was how expense maintaining a house was. In our household, it was such a frequent source of distress that I pretty much decided that owning a home was way more trouble than it was worth. Renting sounded like a much better option. Let the landlord worry about the mortgage and repair bills. Never did I hear about the tax benefits of owning a home and how it most often is a very lucrative and appreciable asset. And no one ever bothered to explain these things to me.
Not wanting to talk about money with our kids is one of the reasons I believe African-Americans acquire less wealth, in their lifetimes, than their white counterparts. Many of us are simply victims of poor financial planning. And what do you expect, when we’re always having to start at ground zero. Shockingly, some of us never even learned to make a basic budget, until we got out on our own and that first check bounced.
Just think about what a difference it would make if we all started out with a financial acumen equivalent to what our parents managed to obtain in their lifetime. Of course this wouldn’t absolve us of the responsibility to continually learn about money, but we could add our two cents worth on top of what they taught us. We, in turn, could pass that knowledge on to our kids. This would enable them to start off on an even higher level than us. Furthermore, I believe, openly discussing how to responsibly handle money with our kids could eventually help level the financial playing field where our people have struggled to compete.
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