Blogs by Brian S. Pratt
Teens and Cultivating Responsible Behavior
2/7/2008 10:29:40 AM
Being the father of a boy about to turn 12, this matter has been upon my mind of late. I face so much ahead, and looking back at my own youth, realize that perhaps I can instill habits in my own son that would have served me well during my late teens/early twenties.
Of paramount importance of course is instilling within my boy the understanding of money, credit, etc. There is nothing more detrimental to oneís life than an outstanding debt, or even poor foresight. So in anticipation of that, I have devised a plan.
The plan is simple. Once my boy turns fifteen, heís in charge of his financial situation. Mostly. We will get together and decide how much his basic needs will require. Clothes, eating out, the purchase of Ďstuffí, etc. Then we will call up an insurance agent and get a quote for car insurance for when he turns 16.
Hereís a rough estimate of his monthly expenses:
Eating out: 40.00
Fun Money: 50.00
Car Ins: 120.00
Car Misc: 60.00
Total: 320.00 (Wow. When the time comes may have to adjust a few of these figures lower.)
Now, together we go to the bank and set up a checking account that has a visa logo on the ATM card. He will understand that this money that I put into the account is his to do with as he sees fit. In order to get a car when he is 16, he needs to have saved enough to purchase it. This of course will force him to pick and choose what is really important to him.
I plan to pay the first 6 months of insurance for him(Not included in the estimate) and match him dollar for dollar in purchasing a car. After that, heís on his own.
Yes, I know heís going to make mistakes, misplan his spending and most likely, will wind up unable to pay for the insurance. Should that happen, the car will sit until he has accumulated enough to reinstate it. But thatís the whole point of this. He needs to understand the consequences of what he does. Better now than when heís off to college and in a world where material things are of paramount importance.
Loans that he may request will be deducted from the next monthís amount. This way, he will learn the lesson of credit. What you borrow now has to be paid back later. There will only be one monthís worth of debt before his credit runs out. Then he wonít get anything more until he has repaid it all and has received a full monthís amount. Hopefully, it wonít come to that.
I find that wisdom only comes from errors, and life interruptions. Teens of course know everything. According to them, we as adults are fairly out of touch with no idea of what is going on. When his car has to sit for months because his insurance lapsed, wisdom will come. When he has no money to take his girlfriend out because he spent his monthly allotment on a new stereo or a high priced pair of shoes, wisdom will come.
Kids need to make mistakes in order to learn. We did at their age. And in some things, no amount of argument from their parents will alter their perceptions, until they are faced with a bad situation.
Well, thatís my plan and Iím sure it will be revised over the course of the next three years. But you get the idea. Kids need to learn responsibility and the consequences of their actions. Kids with a wide and thick safety net will take more chances because they lack the consequences.
Oh, I almost forgot. If he gets a job, the amount I give him will not diminish. If it does, whatís the incentive for him to work? If he knows that for every $2 he makes I drop his monthly allotment by $1, that meanís heís only working at half wage. If he makes over twice what Iím giving him then Iíll cancel it, but not until then.
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