One of my all time favourite movies is “Walk The Line” based on the life of Johnny Cash with Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon taking the role of his second wife and great love and supporter, June Carter.
One scene has June coming upon Johnny and his mates in a drinking session just before they are about to perform, yelling (in her best southern drawl) “Y’all can’t walk the line”.
There’s so many “lines” we have to walk in this life but the one I’ve been thinking about lately is money and children.
Mainly, how can I pass on just the right lessons around money so my children develop a healthy sense of appreciation for the effort involved in earning money and looking after it (good money habits) but not overdo it so that they either become joyless penny pinchers or reject the whole thing and turn out to be flagrant spendthrifts?
Where is the instruction manual for parenting when you need it?
This has come upon me more so now that my eldest son is seventeen and in his last year of school. I’ve been on the case for a while with allowances. (Issue Number 1 – do you make them do chores for their allowance or keep chores as part of general contribution to family life?) but recently my ex and I bought him a car when he passed his driving test.
He is an exceptionally lucky young man to have had a car provided for him from day one of his driving career but I am not sure if endlessly repeating this to your child is that effective or fair either as we are the ones that made the decision to buy the car.
Issue Number 2 – should you do this (if you are able to afford it) or is it better to make them wait until they have saved for at least some of it on their own?
I have lingering unease that this may not be the best way to convey lessons on purchasing significant assets, but the convenience factor was hard to ignore. His independence means my freedom in a way.
I suspect I would be carless a fair bit if he didn’t have his own, with constant requests to borrow my car on his agenda.
Then there are the running costs to consider. I have bumped up his allowance a little to cover petrol and maintenance but when you take into account insurance, registration and CTP plus tolls you start to realise that bankrolling cars for your child on top of yourself is tres expensive.
Issue Number 3 – should you make your children get a job in their last year of school when the finishing line of the HSC is in sight?
At the moment I am shrilly telling him that as soon as exams and “schoolies” are out of the way that is the end of the penny section (my Dad’s favourite saying to indicate good things were coming to an end) and he will be on his own as far as running his car is concerned.
Again I carry a sense of unease about a missed opportunity for life lessons here that might explain why I keep reminding (nagging) him that the current situation won’t be going on for too much longer. It’s hardly effective parenting – I should either require him to contribute or keep quiet.
This is the frustrating thing about “walking the line” on this subject. The push and pull between wanting to give your children all that you can but also recognising this doesn’t always do them any favours as far as personal growth and development go.
My children have enjoyed comfortable homes and wonderful educations plus all the other trappings of modern life – travel and material possessions – but where and when should it end? How will they learn the lesson that striving and achieving financial goals through one’s own efforts is more satisfactory and confidence building than being handed it on a plate?
Perhaps the proof really is in the eating of the pudding. One day my seventeen year old will be forty-seven and I will get to see the outcome of my parenting – good and not so good. A sobering thought, but a good take away for me.
Some lines may have to be redrawn but that’s okay. Parenting is no exact science that’s for sure. Even June Carter would agree with that!
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*Jill is a qualified chartered accountant, starting her career at Arthur Andersen in Perth, Western Australia and then in London at a satellite communications company. After relocating to Sydney from Perth in 2000 and raising her children to school age, Jill worked in asset management and business development at Access Capital Advisers for three years. Jill left Access Capital Advisers in 2009 to start wisewomen, a business aimed at educating women on personal finance and investing. Jill has a Diploma in Financial Services (Financial Planning) from Kaplan Professional.