Dear Grandparenting: Before I can ever hope to die in peace, it is painfully obvious that I need to teach my grandchildren something about the value of money.
With everybody counting pennies and tightening their belts, it’s only natural for me to worry how they will make out in this hyper-competitive global economy. But if they don‘t have their heads screwed on straight right from the start, it’s become awfully easy for kids to dig themselves into a big financial hole before they’ve even begun to make something of themselves.
Two of the biggest monsters are easy credit and student debt. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t read about some young person who owes $150,000 they borrowed for college or $20,000 on credit cards. If you can’t manage money, how can you expect to manage your life? It’s just that simple. This is one time I could use your advice. Toby, Reading, Pennsylvania
Dear Toby: Some psychologists would tell you that a person’s attitude toward money is a reflection of what they see in the mirror — a sensible, responsible individual or someone self-centered and entitled.
But in our experience, that doesn’t always follow. More fundamentally, it boils down to wants versus needs. Learning the concept of saving up to buy what you want can be difficult at any age, but it’s an essential lesson for grandchildren around age 3 or 4. As your grandchild waits in line to take a turn at something, talk about how life requires lots of waiting.
Sometime around age 7 or 8, talk about the importance of making good choices when spending money. Once you’ve spent what you have to spend, there’s nothing left. Zero. What then? Deficit spending? Take your grandchild shopping and point out how buying cheaper, generic fruit juice enables you to buy other items you need.
The pre-teen years are the right time for grandchildren to start formulating a plan. Anyone can spend, but smart people manage to save and use credit judiciously. Compounded interest can do great things. Save $100 a year starting at age 14 and you’ll have $23,000 at age 65. Start at age 37 and it’s $7,000.
The world is awash with over-educated and under-employed young men and women. Higher education isn’t for everyone. Is your grandchild chasing some dream job he wants at the moment, or acquiring skills leading to the job he will soon need? Sooner rather than later, they better understand this world doesn’t owe them a living.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Will Rodriguez, of The Villages, Florida, reports that his grandkids “clearly seem more focused on money” than he was at their age.
He most recently overheard granddaughter Emma “dreaming out loud about Mr. Perfect with her girlfriends. He will be handsome, smart and make her laugh.
“Then Emma said something to the effect how she ‘definitely’ needs to learn how to write a check and make ATM machines work, because even when there’s a ton of love, there’s a ton of bills too.” Will says Emma is 8.
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.