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Teenagers today are a huge market. Manufacturers and advertisers are thrilled. Megabucks are involved.
I feel strongly that:
1) Teens should learn to manage money. By the teen years your children should have learned how to manage their allowance and should know that when money runs out it is gone until the next “pay period.” They should have their own savings account and should be given increasing autonomy over how they spend their discretionary money. I favor giving the mature teen a checking account so they can have a couple of years experience before going off to college or to live on their own. Credit card? Yes, if your teen is responsible and you start out with a very low limit. Our world runs on plastic and your teen should learn how to do the credit card thing under your supervision.
2) Parents should encourage wise spending and saving by their teenagers. What constitutes a major purchase that requires parental permission should be defined at a family meeting. Help your teen set up and keep to a budget. Make it a rule that part of every birthday check must go into the savings account. Talk about advertising and consumerism. Share with your teen how long you had to wait before you had your own car.
3) Although school is the most important “job” a teenager has, teens should know that if they want a luxury that their parents will not supply that they have to work for it. I have mixed feelings about teen jobs. The good news is that a job teaches teens responsibility, how to get along with a boss and co-workers, and some rudimentary job skills. The bad news is that often school grades go down and the teens buy more consumer goods than they need or than you want them to have.
4) Paradoxically, as your children get older, you should buy them less. Don’t get caught up in the “Everybody has a car!” or “All my friends have their own TV!” game. Don’t be afraid to tell your teen that he or she must earn the luxuries now, even though you may have supplied them earlier. Why? Because they are almost grownup and have to learn how to defer purchases. It’s OK to give your teen the opportunity to earn money at home by painting the house or taking full responsibility for the yard.
And it’s always OK to say “No!” A very wealthy family I know insisted that their children have a paper route and buy their clothes at discount stores even though all their peers were into designer jeans and shoes. The mother told me, “My children are going to be very rich someday. I want them to know what it’s like to want something and not be able to get it before that happens.” A smart mom.
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