When to Say “No”
Our kids have their hands out wanting us to buy things for them starting at a very early age. In grade school, I think candy and ice cream were the most popular requests. Now that my three kids are in high school, money for clothes seems to top the list. Next I imagine will be requests for spending money, or gas money when they go out with their friends. When is it time to say “no”? “It’s time to start paying for these things with your own money.” Most parents I know have spoiled the heck out of their kids by filling their closets with clothes, eating out all the time, and paying for travel sports and all the related costs.
Has all of our well-intended spoiling set them up for failure in the real world? “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”
I feel like a lot of us are giving our children a false sense of what it may be like for them when they leave the nest. I probably sound like an old fogy, but I think many of our kids will never enjoy as lavish a lifestyle as the one they grew up in. The senior citizens I know did well because they learned to be frugal from their parents due to living through the Great Depression. They tend to be good savers and only buy what they truly need. Compare that with today’s 40-55 year old parent that experienced an amazing economic boom in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Salaries, bonuses, and the stock, bond, and housing markets all boomed providing a very wealthy group of parents. Many people in this group have questionable spending and saving habits. They didn’t seem to inherit the frugal gene from their parent’s and saying “yes” most of the time to their kids is part of that. They will feel the pain when they have to borrow to pay for their child’s college tuition or do not have nearly enough money saved for retirement.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as my three high schoolers always seem to be asking me for money. I’ve probably trained them to do that by saying “yes” so many times in the past. I have helped created these little money gobbling monsters and I’m not sure if or when it will stop. I was golfing with a client this week and he was explaining to me that one of his daughters was asking him to buy a house for another daughter (about 40 years old) because she was struggling financially. Should he say no to this even if he could afford it? Should you buy an adult child a house (assuming you can afford it) or would that be enabling them? When to say “no” is not always an easy choice.
I cannot remember asking my dad for money when I grew up, not once. I never asked him for money to go shopping, or gas money, or for spending money when I was going out with my friends. I don’t think it even crossed my mind to ask him. I spent what I earned (or won from my friend’s during our weekly poker game) and that was all I could do. Nowadays kids ask for money all the time, for everything.
I think it’s harder than ever to say “no” when you have the resources to say “yes”. Many of us have much more disposable income than our parents did. It would be easier to say no if you simply didn’t have the money, right?
Should parent’s pay for all, some, or none of their kids college? I hear the gamut of answers on this question. This would be easy to answer if you simply did not have the money. Are you enabling them by paying for all their college, or should you make them have skin in the game to encourage to work harder and appreciate it more? In a memorable conversation with one of my neighbors, he shared that one night his oldest daughter was out with friends and the subject of college loans came up. She said all the kids were talking about how much they owed, while she owed nothing because her parents paid the entire college cost. She shared with her parents how incredibly fortunate she was. Dad was proud that he saved so well for her, and glad that he knew just how thankful his daughter was that she was not weighed down with debt. I wonder how many stories there are from parents that have paid the college costs and watch their child not finish or drop out.
Maybe it depends on the child. We all know every kid is different. We also know that many kids are lazy when it comes to getting a job. Is that because we gave them money growing up for whatever they wanted?
It all gets back to this: When I have the money, when do I say “no” to my kids because it’s what’s best for them?
Please share what you think.
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