Today's generation seems to not be doing so well. We can blame it on the bad economy or Bush maybe, (isn't everything his fault?!), but the sad fact remains that more and more "kids" - otherwise known as people in their 20's and 30's - are coming home to live with Mom and Dad and live on their dime.
Why is this and what can we do now to ensure we aren't raising kids who are going to rebound and live in your basement 'til you die?
Call me crazy, but I think this is important! As much as I love my children, I don't want them crippled by my own inability to let them mature.
So, what's the trick? Here's a starter - don't give them an allowance.
What are you teaching your child when you give them money just for existing? You are teaching them that they can get free money, with no work! Why then, would they ever want to earn it for themselves? It's far easier and more convenient for Mom and Dad to pay them in perpetuity for everything from a car at 16 to a monthly phone bill to the down payment on their first home.... that they will then default on. And, because you were such a great parent you co-signed for it, leaving a financial mess for you to clean up.
I would assert that "great parenting" isn't giving your children an allowance and paying for everything. It's teaching your children that they can and should earn their own money - whether it's by doing chores around your home, mowing lawns in the summer, shoveling walkways in the winter, or by getting a paper route.
Warren Buffet's first job was a paper route at age 13. Michael Dell got his first job at age 12, wiping down tables. Charles Schwab picked and sold Walnuts, then started growing chickens and selling eggs at age 12.
These men are all millionaires. They got there by learning to work hard for what they wanted.
My goal for my children is not necessarily to have them become millionaires. If they can learn to work hard for themselves, then they'll become independent adults. They'll be able to support themselves and have the self-confidence that maturity brings.
My son started his paper route a little over a year ago at age 9. Every Wednesday after school, he readies his papers, piling them in his red wagon and walks to over 100 houses, delivering a paper to each one. It takes him about an hour and a half, and he has to remember to put papers in newspaper boxes, or in storm doors. He has to remember which houses have animals he should leave alone, and what to do if a house appears vacant. For this work, he receives anywhere from $6 - $9 per week.
This requires commitment on my part, because I go with him. To get to his route, he has to cross two busy streets. Here's the thing, though: Even though I am with him, I don't do it for him.
He knows that if he wants to get paid, he has to do the work.
When he gets home, we separate his money. 25% goes to the bank, the rest goes into his pocket to do what he wants with it. If he wants to blow it all on candy, so be it. If he wants to save up and buy a new Lego set, that's his choice.
When he gets to spend this money that he has earned, you can see the pride radiating off of him. He is constantly changing his mind about what he is saving up for next, and is excited about doing so.
He isn't begging for toys or money, instead taking pride in himself and his own ability to provide those things for himself.
Now, before anyone gets their shorts in a twist - yes, of course I provide my children with clothes and food, and everything else they need for life. They don't have to earn those things, but my children see me working hard to provide them. They get toys and books for birthdays and Christmases and sometimes "just because."
An added benefit for everyone is that when Junior earns his own items, he takes very special care of them. I don't find them lying about the house, or left in pockets and thrown in the laundry.
Teaching your kids to work hard for what they want now will carry over to when they are adults. Teaching them to set aside some of their earnings from each paycheck will teach them to create a safety net for themselves, so that when hard times come, they have something to fall back on.
Of course, life still happens. I'm not telling you to abandon your kids as soon as they hit 18.
Sometimes adult children need a hand up after being knocked down. In which case, give them the hand up, but don't clean up their mess for them. Don't commit to consistently paying for them to live outside of their means. If they need to come and live in your basement for a while, that's fine, as long as there is a plan and movement in the right direction.
What do you think about giving kids allowance?