Registry Reflections

Nathan and I were “KidsSaving” his recent transactions yesterday.  That’s when we reconcile his bank statement with his KidsSave Account.  But it’s also when we make sure that his recent charity contributions or other expenses, get recorded.

He looked at the balance of his bank statement with wide eyes and said, “That’s all I have in the bank?”

It was over $400 so I was a little surprised at his concern.

“Haven’t you been keeping track in your registry?”  I asked.  He got a checking account this past summer so he’s been making more transactions than appears in his KidsSave Account.  As someone who teaches personal finance to kids, you can be sure I went over the importance of keeping a running record in the registry. 

He wasn’t.  And I knew that, but after reminding him several times to keep track, I decided to wait for him to learn his lesson on his own. I was hoping it wouldn’t be an expensive one.

It wasn’t.   But the scare he got seeing his “low” balance (he had deposited over $300 recently and it wasn’t reflected in his statement) made him a believer in registry recordings.  At least, it did last night.  We’ll see if he follows through, otherwise, it still may end up being an expensive lesson.

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To Work or Not to Work

I was having coffee with some friends last week when we started talking about why having a job as a teenager may be a really good thing.  Of course, from a teens perspective, the extra cash is always nice.  But as a parent, there’s nothing like a “real” job to teach kids a few life lessons.

A week earlier, I had a phone interview with a freelance writer about teens and working.  She asked if I thought having teens work was a good idea.  As long as work doesn’t get in the way of school, I’m all for it.  I like how having a part-time job can help teach kids time management.  I also like the idea of teens having a “boss” that is not mom or dad.  There tends to be a little more accountability that way.

As I’m describing this to the writer, she throws in that she had recently talked with a child psychologist who said that teens who had jobs growing up don’t do any better or worse  in their “real job” as adults than teens who didn’t have the pleasure of working when they were younger.

Hmmm.  Without grilling her on the study the psychologist was referring to – what did he mean by didn’t do any better or worse – I had to disagree slightly.  It could very well be that time management and working hard comes readily to adults regardless of having a job as a teen.

But there is absolutely nothing like having to earn and then manage your own money as a teen.  Living within your means, setting priorities, learning how to save, budgeting, and my favorite…making money mistakes – all learned before leaving the comfort of home.  Priceless.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that.  Parents need to be involved in helping their teens take advantage of these lessons.  And part of that is not bailing out their teens when they make mistakes.  A difficult thing for a lot of parents.

But as I was chatting that morning with my girlfriends, it was apparent that there was one more really important lesson that I had forgotten about.  The lesson that minimum wage is not going to provide our kids with the lifestyle they expect to live as adults.  And that lesson is worth every newspaper they throw, every dish they wash, every burger they flip…as teenagers.

Saving Savvy at Christmas

Nathan had one of his friends over the other day.  They were chatting about Christmas shopping.  Apparently Valerie had most of her shopping done.  Nathan – none.  He’s not a big shopper.

It has been my experience that girls are more apt to buy their friends Christmas gifts than boys…and enjoy the process.  I see this in my nieces and in the daughters of  my friends.  Not so much with any of the boys.  And as much as I don’t like generalizing, it’s hard to ignore the fact that girls are usually the ones who plan the parties, organize the potlucks, and buy the gifts.

It’s not that Nathan doesn’t have any shopping to do.  He has to buy a gift for Ryan and for the “White Elephant” gift exchange we’re having this year.  A gift for mom and dad would be nice.  But gifts for friends?  There seems to be some unspoken agreement among the group not to subject each other to the burden of shopping.

But I like what Valerie had to say about her Christmas shopping this year.  She and her friends decided to do a Secret Santa.  The reason?  “To save money.”  She said it so matter-of-factly, it was like she was telling me the time.

And I had to smile to myself.  Maybe this next generation will be a little more saving-savvy than their parents.  Maybe saving will simply be what normal people do.  And a benefit of spending less?  No shopping.

Keeping Track

Nathan and Ryan received their second, and final, soccer reffing checks in the mail yesterday.

“How much are you expecting?” I asked.

“A lot,” was the answer I received from both.  And a lot it was!  Nathan’s check came to $210 and Ryan’s came in at $164. 

But as nice as those numbers are, if you are not keeping track of what it is you are owed, you run the risk of not getting paid for the time you worked. 

The only way the soccer ref coordinator knows that you have, indeed, reffed a game, is through the game cards.  These game cards are signed by each referee then turned in sometime after each game.  But things happen.  Maybe the card gets lost under the seat of your car.  In which case, it doesn’t get turned in and you don’t receive reffing money for that game.  Besides, if other kids reffed the same game and you are responsible for turning in the card, they lose out, too.  

So when I saw the blank stares looking at me after I asked if they were sure they were getting paid for all their games, I knew I had failed in teaching them how to keep track.  I should have had them keep a list of each game they reffed and the amount they received for each one.   That way it would be a quick once-over when the checks arrived.

I suppose they could go back over the season and try and figure it out.  They probably won’t.

Note to self:  August, 2010, review with boys how to keep track of money owed.

A Purpose

Nathan and his friend, Jayson, were making themselves a snack yesterday afternoon.   We started chatting about the math test that Nathan had studied for the night before.    He’s taking pre-calculus and has been having a little difficulty making connections between some of the concepts.  This was a big test for him and he was describing some of the problems.

That’s when Jayson made a comment about how he finally turned his grades around because he found a purpose.  Normally, I would have thought this was another one of Jayson’s  wise cracks.  He has a knack for making fun of just about anything.  But there was something slightly different about his tone.  And when I pressed him about it he said, “I figured out what I want to do in life.  I want to go into sports medicine.  And I can’t do that if I don’t get good grades.”

I think it was one of the few times I had ever seen Jayson be dead serious.  And it was weird, because he looked like a completely different kid for a moment.  That’s when I knew that, as a junior in high school, he had found his passion.

Not all kids will find their passion that young.  And others know it as soon as they’re born.   But part of our job as parents is to help our kids discover what interests them.  It begins by asking them what they like to do.

In Jayson’s case, he loves basketball.  He’s pretty sure he’s not going to be an NBA pick any time soon.  So Plan B is to work around that.  He can still be involved in sports, just on a different level.  And since his open heart surgery a couple of years ago, his mom helped him get involved in working with other kids who have had surgery.  Through this, he discovered his place in life, his purpose.

If we can help our kids look for their purpose through the things they love, the chances of them having careers and lives they enjoy is greatly increased.  And you can bet that if I ever need to see a sports medicine doctor, I want it to be someone like Jayson, someone who worked hard to follow his passion.

Enjoy the Ride

I had the pleasure of sitting in the passenger seat while Nathan drove me and Ryan into Sacramento.   We were headed for a tour of the Capitol as something to do while John’s parents were visiting.  Since we sold the Suburban last year, taking two cars has come up a number of times.

I noticed how smoothly Nathan accelerated each time the light turned green.  So smooth I had to look out the window to make sure we were actually moving.  I wondered if he was doing that because mom was sitting next to him.

“Notice how I don’t peel out when the light turns green?” he asked.  “That’s because the car uses less gas that way.” 

And there you have it.  It had nothing to do with impressing me with his new driving skills.  It had to do with saving money.  Money he is responsible for.

“Of course,” he admitted, “Sometimes it’s nice to take off a little faster.  Like if I’m at school.” 

I smiled to myself as I thought of him “peeling” out of the school parking lot in an attempt to impress whoever was around.  I’m pretty confident he doesn’t burn rubber.  Nathan is a safe driver.  Besides, Ryan is always with him and he would tell me.

It never ceases to amaze me that when kids are in charge of their spending, they often make the right choices.  And when it comes to one particular teenage boy and his car, as a mom, that’s a relief.