What's no big deal to you oftentimes fascinates kids. All of these experiences can help to guide or perhaps inspire the next generation.
As parents and relatives, we say some pretty wacky things to our kids about personal finance and economics.
In many families, when it comes to kids and money, the dissembling starts early on. We say: Stash a tooth under your pillow and a fairy will leave you cash. Go ahead and pick up a penny found on heads, but shun one that’s on tails. Behave, and Mommy will come back to the store to buy you that eight-foot stuffed giraffe, but for now, stop whining.
If you’re guilty of similar untruths, you’re not alone. In fact, 84 percent of parents in the United States lie to their children, according to a study published in the International Journal of Psychology. The top three things parents lie to their kids about: food, misbehavior and, you guessed it, money.
When adults stretch the truth, we land in some funny situations. “I’m constantly telling crazy stories to my kids about money,” says Terry Oller, a mom of four and a nurse in Wayne, NJ. “They have no concept of what it is, how you get it or why I’m not wiling to spend it on every little thing that catches their eyes at the mall. So I’ve said you can’t pay for things like ice cream, candy, Legos or Pokemon cards with a credit card—only cash. And, darn, Mom has no cash.” Which worked just fine until Grandpa took everybody to Dairy Queen and took out his Visa to pay the bill for a round of Sundaes. “My oldest, who was five at the time, starting crying and said, ‘Oh no, Pop-pop, you can’t pay with that. What are we going to do?’,” says Oller. “I was totally busted—by both my kids and my dad.”
When talking to kids about personal finance, their nest eggs or other money matters gets tricky—or you simply get sick and tired of explaining the perpetual “Why?”—it might ease your mind to hear funny tales from others who haven’t exactly been upfront about money matters. So we asked staffers, family and friends to share.
Here’s a roundup of their confessions:
Airing the dirty laundry. Justin Lyons, founder of the blog Why Is Daddy Crying, has spent a fair amount of time instilling the value of saving in his son and daughter. “I guess like any good parent does,” says Lyons. But when he accidentally washed his son’s iPod Touch while doing the laundry, he used the you-should’ve-taken-better-care-of-it line. “You can imagine how this crushed the 10-year-old’s world,” he says. Regardless, Lyons told his son he wouldn’t buy him another. Fortunately, his son had money at the ready to replace it and he was savvy enough not to pay full-price; he bought a refurbished used iPod, saving more than half of what a new one costs. And Lyons is willing to own that fact. He takes full credit for his son’s impressive financial independence.
Piggy bank; what piggy bank? When the 4- and 7-year-old sons of Sara Eberle, host of the weekly radio show MommaJam and Ballooning Nest Eggs contributing writer, receive cash gifts (whether $1 or $20 bills), she confesses, “I stash the bills in my top desk drawer and recycle the money to pay for their chores or for things like the vending machine at their sports activities. I’ve even been known to tip the pizza delivery guy with it.” The busy mom feels like she’s getting twice as much out of the money this way. The kids don’t ask where the cash goes, so I don’t tell.” At least for now. “Shhh,” she says, “don’t give my secret away!”
It’s not on the list. Denise Davis, the mother of 4- and 1-year-old daughters, who blogs about living frugally at Go Cheap Or Go Home plans weekly menus for family meals by starting with what’s available in the pantry. Then she makes a grocery list and takes her kids to the store. She makes fast work of the shopping by whizzing through the shop with her prompting: “What’s next on our list?” Unlike other moms who spend more than planned on the extras that kids toss in the cart, Davis gets only what she set out to buy. Her secret? When the kids ask for whatever they crave, she just says to them “It’s not on our list, honey.” Now her eldest daugher doesn’t ask her to buy things; instead, she asks, “Mommy, can we put this on our list next time?” At least until they learn to write, her list is safe.
It’s illegal to buy Play-Doh on Tuesdays. “When my son was a toddler, he was obsessed with Play-Doh,” says Teresa Palagano, editor of Ballooning Nest Eggs. “Which was great creatively, but not so great when I started finding magenta-colored mounds of it smashed into the carpet, matted into the dog’s fur or dried clumps of it on cloths pulled from the dryer. So when we were at a store and he spied some, I explained that we couldn’t buy it because it was against the law to purchase Play-Doh on Tuesdays. And today was Tuesday—every time he asked for more.” Several years later, the phase had passed, but his memory of the law hadn’t. Palagano and her son were shopping for a cousin’s birthday present. “I had totally forgotten about my little white lie,” she says. “‘Hey Mom,’ he reminded me, ‘We can’t buy Erica Play-Doh. It’s Tuesday.’”
“Sure I could’ve come clean about the whole thing, but I just said, ‘Thanks for reminding me’ and bought a paint set instead.
Mommy needs a manicure. When Mary O’Rourke, a nurse based in Wyckoff, NY, was raising six teenagers, she did all she could to teach them to be respectful and responsible. Any time one of her teens broke a house rule, he or she had to take money from their allowance and pay a “fine” by placing money in a large vase O’Rourke kept on the dinning room table. Once the vase was filled to the brim with their fine fees, she told the kids she donated the funds to a worthy charity that helped the needy. The anonymous charity? A session at the nail salon for O’Rourke and her friends.
What are some your best money “confessions” when it comes to your kids? Don’t worry, we won’t tell! Join the conversation on our Facebook page