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.

kidsmoneyMainly, 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.

moneycartoonAgain 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!



Arguing About Money?

Something Lost. Something Found

Happiness is not a Dirty Word

My Life Without a Credit Card


*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.


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  • Reply March 1, 2013


    I was lucky enough to have my first car purchased for me by my Dad. However I was also working casually at the local KMart whilst attending Uni full time. To help with some of the costs that were just too hard to pay whilst studying and only working casually, for my birthday each year my Dad paid for my rego until I had my degree. That way even though I wasn’t earning the money to pay for that aspect I paid all other costs, including insurance (3rd party, fire and theft) and was not just being handed the rego money on a platter, it was in lieu of a gift.

  • Reply March 5, 2013


    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too, although my 2 children are aged 3 & 18 months so its more about treats and gifts at this point. There is a huge difference ($ value and frequency) in what my children receive as gifts from the different sides of the family, and this reflects the different attitudes towards money that my husband & his family have, compared to me & my side of the family. I wonder how my children will see this as they get older.
    You don’t appreciate the value of anything when it is in easy reach, so I guess as parents we have to put little barriers (conditions, rules, choices) in the way for our children so they have to decide for themselves how much they are prepared to work for the special extra things they would otherwise take for granted.

  • Reply March 5, 2013


    We helped our 3 children buy their first car and paid the rego because they were doing tertiary study and needed some independence. They paid it back soon as they could because they understood from the first it was a loan and only a loan. We didn’t make a big deal out of it. It was just their parting ‘gift’ when they left the nest. We could have bought it for them – 2nd hand only – but as parents you have to teach them to be independent. And they are. All three sold the cars eventually to pay their fare overseas. Backpacked and worked their way round the world.

    Making it a loan meant it was their own money and could use it for their own visions and dreams.

  • Reply March 5, 2013


    I guess I had a totally different upbringing. I didn’t get pocket money, ever. I started off with a paper run before I was a teenager and I’ve never been unemployed since. I paid for my own schoolies trip. I paid for my own car. I wanted Doc Martens as a school shoe in year 11-12, so I paid for them myself. I was not, ever, allowed to borrow either parent’s car, unless they were sitting next to me with my shiny yellow L plates on teaching me to drive.

    I’m not sad about it at all. I’m proud of it. And I made more long-term friends out of school through work and other activities than I did in school.

    One outcome is that I am very financially responsible and highly independent and always have been. I have had excellent employment opportunities because I have been professional (turn up on time, be a team player, wear your uniform, be well groomed etc) from a young age and its second nature. I am highly employable and highly independent because of this upbringing.

    Another outcome was the shock and surprise of my parents when I could afford to leave home straight after year 12 when I was 17. I moved to another city, got a full time job, bought a car as soon as I was 18 (did public transport until then), got a lease, went to uni part-time and did it all without really discussing it with them, because I had thousands of my own dollars saved. They didn’t pay for anything and ergo didn’t have a say. It was right for me, and it was fine, but I don’t think my parents expected it to be that quick or smooth.

    I have had my own businesses, and a lot of younger people today are completely unemployable. They can’t show up on time, they are rude and obnoxious, they urinate with the door open in an office, they are constantly borrowing other people’s cars or driving mum’s because they smashed their own…… While this is by no means a single experience, or the overall experience, (and I’m certainly not saying it will be the experience you have with your children) a lack of employable skills, independence (yes that can include public transport) and financial know-how is not a great start to adult life.

    This isn’t a judgement on the author, just a differing of views. Yes, he should have a job in year 12. He should be paying the running costs of that car. If he can’t manage it now while his parents are bankrolling everything else, how on earth is he going to manage when he’s responsible for food shopping, rent, his own phone bills? While living at home, this is the easy time when he can start learning this while he’s got a buffer and a roof over his head. Better do it while his hand is still in his parent’s pockets than when he’s totally out on his own.

  • Reply March 5, 2013


    Our teenage children chose to work from the age of 15. They developed a good work ethic early on. Both have good jobs now that they are young adults and both paid for their first car. what we did as parents was pay for their second hand cheap cars to be safe enough to drive and safe enough to allow us to sleep well at night, this at times cost a considerable amount of money but it was money well spent. We also paid for their car insurance for the first couple of years. It’s good to support but not take over their independence.

  • Reply March 5, 2013


    We bought a smaller 2 nd hand car that remained ours and the children had the use of it as they reached 17. We gave lessons, and paid for a few private ones at the end. They shared the car. Some years later we bought a 2 nd hand car for our youngest because of work finishing late at night, and in a possibly unsafe area at that time. It was priced at a cost they could afford to repay us for over time,, and they chose the car, and repaid us for it, and paid all expenses.

  • Reply March 5, 2013


    I believe kids should buy their own first cars. I bought mine at 16 after saving my guts out for over a year. It taught me discipline, the value of hard work and perseverance to reach a goal. I thank my parents every day not molly-coddling me and for encouraging my independence. Parents aren’t doing their kids any favours in the long run by sheltering them from the hard facts of life.

  • Reply March 6, 2013


    Beginner drivers in cheap second-hand cars is a bad idea because older cars typically have far fewer safety features.

    Smaller cars are also less safe, all other things equal, merely on account of their lesser mass in a collision.

    Kids should be driving the safest car available which is the family car in most cases.

    Sorry, but these are the inconvenient facts.

  • Reply March 9, 2013


    If I look back twenty years I can see that buying our daughter a car turned out to be a terrible idea. We had to go out to a wrecked car that had gone into a lamppost after she crashed with uppers and downers and alcohol inside her. I know that many kids are very responsible but we also thought that.
    Alcohol definitely cooks brains and ecstasy to boot ensures that any judgement is very very faulty.
    She does not drink any more OR smoke and she has left the bloke who drained her of any cash or self respect I am glad to say.
    looking forward to grandkids.

  • […] Kids and Money: Walk the Line […]

  • Reply April 8, 2013


    I fear that by giving our kids so many presents they end up valuing nothing and keep pursuing the sugar high of the next present. We do them long term harm. This is something I struggle with all the time: my own daughter asked me once as we walked through the shops “why do I always say no?” But I’ve seen 3 year olds with rooms packed full of every imaginable toy and are such unpleasant children to be with – always demanding and wanting more. It is like they are impossible to satisfy, one sugar hit with a new toy is not enough. I so don’t want my daughter to be endlessly chasing ‘things’ trying to get another sugar hit. I try hard, without really knowing how to do it, to walk the line and teach that things don’t bring happiness.

  • […] Kids and Money: Walk the Line […]

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