Spending Money Wisely is Knowledge

The following article on spending money wisely was written by Cathy Zimmerman, Features Editor for The Daily News, Lower Colmbia, and appeared in her column there.

Approximate conversions of the Dollar rate into Pound Sterling have been inserted.


While you are teaching your children how to spend money, you need to teach them the value of money. Take a look at making money. Here you will find details of a small business for children to start their money making career.

Cathy writes:

The summer I turned 9, my mother told all of us that when my father got his next paycheck, we could each have 50 cents (35p)to spend at Woolworth's.

It was a blazing blue-sky day at Garfield Park in Chicago.

I remember flopping down on a small grassy slope — Illinois is as flat as a breadboard — and planning how I would spend that 50 cents (35p).

The final calculation boiled down to a folder of Lennon Sisters paper dolls, some new Jacks (a tiny red rubber ball and metallic star burst things), and one or two boxes of licorice Snaps.

I'm old enough to have vivid recall back to 1957, but that's not why the memory stuck. Windfalls like 50 cents were unheard of in our family.

What did we know from discretionary funds? My five siblings and I never had allowances. The only liquid assets in our house were milk bottle deposits, but it would have been a venial sin to cash them in — our mother needed that money.

By 14 I was baby-sitting every weekend. It ticked me off that guys who mowed lawns made more money than I did for spending my summer days with the five children of Dr. and Mrs. Maas.

As soon as I hit 16 I got a Social Security card and a summer job, which paid to fix my teeth. The year after that I saved for contact lenses.

I worked my way through college, and my paychecks from a teaching job in the inner city made my $32 (£22) payments for an Illinois State loan and a bed from Marshall Field, to establish a credit record.

Spending money wisely is knowledge.

That December, I went downtown to the Loop and bought every member of my family a Christmas present. A nice Christmas present. It was snowing, and I took a cab home. The entire day is hard-wired in my brain right next to the Woolworth's spree.

For most of us, attitudes about money get sown early and rooted deep.

Why is that one is a miser when she has money to burn, that one a senseless spender who never has a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of?

It's what we learned. It's what we felt.

Although deprivation taught me the value of every five and dime, it also buried enough shame in my psyche that I never wanted my own children to feel deprived.

They were not spoiled — we weren't well-off enough to do that — but they didn't learn the discipline they might have. (They won't be angry to read this; they've said as much to their father and me.)

Recently, when I attended a Parks and Rec class designed to teach children about money, it stirred up thoughts about financial intelligence.

Spending money wisely is knowledge.

Along with our IQ and the more newly discussed EI, for emotional intelligence, dealing with money is one of the most important skills we can give our sons and daughters.

Unfortunately, it's much tougher to teach than it was in the 1950s.

Children today live in a culture that suffocates them with sophisticated messages, and not just the ones on GAP billboards and television commercials.

Movies and TV shows penetrate their minds from the time they toddle with images of how they should look, what kinds of houses they should live in, the cars they should be ferried about in.

The lesson is clear: If you don't wear this and play with that and own these electronic gadgets, you're as good as shunned.

Spending money wisely is knowledge.

Throw in a bona fide recession and the stakes get pretty high.

Even now, with so much want and worry, there seems no quiet place to raise children — or exist ourselves — where we can feel that we have enough. Where we will not want more.

I can hardly preach parental restraint when I rarely practiced it. But I have friends who did.

First, parents have to say "No," especially when they have the money to say "Yes," and when no one else seems to hold the line.

Spending money wisely is knowledge.

Secondly, children have to connect work with money. At some point around 5 or 6, they should get an allowance that is tied to chores. Just as important, they should become part of family finances, sitting in on budget decisions and learning about savings, taxes and insurance.

Thirdly, they should have to save money from their own earnings for things that are not essential. Wise parents we know used to match their children's savings. This is especially important as pensions become an endangered species.

Finally, adults have to walk the talk. If shopping is recreation or we splurge every time we're on vacation, no class in money management is going to make our kids frugal.

Spending money wisely is knowledge.

Other issues can muddy the waters, like fighting about money, or grandparents who don't respect the boundaries, or the baggage we bring to the counting table. Like mine, the fact that I cared too much about protecting my kids from shame.

I look back and wish they could have had the feeling I had that day in the park, when 50 cents (35p) could be so thrilling, when it could be enough.

Spending money wisely is knowledge.


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