This week, I am blogging about the virtue of patience—waiting for what we want. And, helping kids wait for what they want. It’s a sure sign of maturation. In my new book, Artificial Maturity—Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, I introduce readers to the next generation following Generation Y. Some social scientists call them: “The Homelanders” since their life began post 9-11 and the Department of Homeland Security. Terrorism, portable technology and a sour economy are all they remember. They’ve grown up in a different world than their older brothers and sisters who remember the affluence of the 1990s.
One of their primary concerns is money. Or the lack of it. Last week, USA Today ran an article containing research conducted on younger kids (children through young teens) and discovered they are VERY aware of:
- The unpromising job market
- The huge expense of college
- The poor financial state of their parents
Both children and their parents listed jobs and unemployment first when asked to identify their biggest concerns. When asked about specifics, about 4 in 10 of these kids reported they’re concerned about affording college and having student loans. (They realize this represents the number two debt in America). Mom and dad just don’t have the money to pay for higher education, yet college is what is needed to support the lifestyle they want to live as adults. It’s a “Catch 22.”
Unlike their older counterparts, these kids are psyching themselves up for hard times. Of those surveyed some encouraging news surfaced:
- 56% have a savings account
- 40% have a checking account
- 41% carefully follow a budget
- The average kid has saved $300.
Unfortunately, their credit card habits don’t reflect this foresight. While these kids seem to be good savers, (76% say it’s important to save money at this stage of their life), a little more than 25% said they have a credit card and more than half of those carry a balance on the card of at least six months. Hmmm. Where did they get this habit from? I have a guess. They have watched parents, siblings and TV commercials model spending money they don’t have.
Here are a handful of suggestions adults can practice to help kids in this area:
- Model delayed gratification. Put material purchases on hold until you have the money to buy them. Show them how to wait for what they want.
- Talk about the future. Don’t be worrisome, but discuss preparing for the future and what steps they can take to be ready, like squirrels hiding nuts.
- Enter a fun contest together to pay off credit card debts. Why not set goals and compete on clearing debts. Have a prize ready for the winner.
When my kids were younger, we got a special bank to put in their rooms where they could deposit money they’d earned into four different categories:
- Money they could spend that week
- Money they would save that week
- Money they would use to pay for debts
- Money they would give to others (charities or church)
They certainly aren’t perfect, but this was a picture of getting ready for life. We invest money, time, talent and energy into different categories every day. We must help them think through how they make these investments.