Parents can appreciate the importance of raising financially responsible children, as witness a new television commercial in which a young boy trades his bicycle for an ice cream cone, or James Spader’s entitled character in Pretty in Pink, who states at one point, “Money really means nothing to me. Do you think I’d treat my parents’ house this way if it did?”
Hard work, education and frugality are among the primary factors to which millionaires attribute their wealth, according to a 2011 wealth level study conducted by Millionaire Corner. A majority said that the financial situation of their children and grandchildren is a primary personal concern.
Some parents drop the ball somewhere. Michelle Singletary, writing in The Washington Post, offered jaw-dropping examples of grown children with a less than mature attitude about money. One of the most outrageous concerned a $50,000 lawsuit filed by two twenty-somethings against their mother. Her offense? According to her children, she sent birthday cards that did not include cash or a check, failed to take her daughter to a car show, and “haggled” over the cost of party dresses. The lawsuit, which made national news, was later dismissed.
Popular culture does not make a parent’s job any easier; not with reality TV series such as TLC’s “Outrageous Kids Party,” a toddler and pre-tween version of MTV’s “My Super Sweet Sixteen.” In one episode, parents lavish $32,000 on a party for their six year-old. Another focused on a mother who spent $30,000 for a Willy Wonka-type candy fantasy that included an original song composed to herald the birthday boy’s entrance to the party.
On the positive side, there looks to be a strengthened commitment to the teaching of economics and personal finance in the K-12 curriculum in our nation’s schools. Utah, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia require high school students to take a one-semester personal finance course, reports US News and World Report. Twenty other states require that personal finance be incorporated into other subjects such as home economics. In Michigan, a personal finance class counts as a math credit, the report continues.
A renewed commitment to personal finance education comes at a time when knowledge of money management seems to have declined among 16-18 year-olds, according to Charles Schwab’s 2011 Teens and Money Survey. Sixty percent said they know how to write a check, down from 67 percent since Schwab’s 2007 survey. Thirty-five percent know how to balance a checkbook, down from 51 percent.
To their credit, 55 percent said they are spending less, up from 41 percent four years ago, while 80 percent would like to learn more about money management, up from 53 percent.