Financially educating your child

6 September 2011, by Phillip Hodson
Teaching your kids how to cross the road, the theory of relativity and the chords to ‘Foxy Lady’ are just the start. You must also get the buggers to live within budget, says Phillip Hodson

Plastic not-so-fantastic? Photo by Dinkel

I don’t know about you but my biggest failing as a father has been financial. I think it’s partly my fault that the buggers can’t always live within their budgets. Yes, I know times are tough and we baby boomers had it good. I even managed to pay for the deposit on my first flat with my Barclaycard.

But when they were young I never quite managed to see things clearly on the money front, whereas I always knew what I wanted to say about love, sex, loyalty, telling lies, stealing, friendship, doing homework and not taking down your underpants in public.

I suppose it didn’t help that I always thought time was more important than cash (the opposite of my own dear dad, who would have walked to Birmingham for a quid). For example, I’ve never minded getting books and documents delivered to the house by courier instead of having to fetch them.

So when my son, who nowadays lives by the sea, left his house keys in London it was no huge surprise that he expected me to despatch them 90 miles down the M23 by taxi.  I should have said: “How can we solve this problem without me having to throw money or petrol at it?”

It was also no help that over a few briefly prosperous years, our family enjoyed some memorable six-star vacations where the children became over-familiar with 24-hour room service. I couldn’t quite bring myself to say: “While your mother and I will be staying at The Ritz you’ll be in that exciting youth hostel down the road.”

What would I do differently, given my time again?  First, I’d definitely establish an unshakeable connection between the cost of goods and the effort you must make to pay for them. So if any child asks for a handout, always make them work for it, even if it’s only hoovering the hall.  No work, no dosh.

Second, never easily pay their debts or you’ll be doing it for the rest of time. My own father was superb. During my finals at university, I had behaved like the Greek economy and dined rather a lot at an expensive French restaurant.  On returning home, I airily said: “There are some debts.”

Dad gave me a long, pained, disappointed look and finally and slowly replied: “It won’t be soon, and it won’t be again.”

How foolish I was not to follow his example.  You have been warned.

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