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Deciding on Money Values

Now that you've examined your own attitudes and values toward money, you may want to think about the things you want your child to understand. Take a look at these old adages: Some have weathered the years because they continue to be true, and others may be tomorrow's classics.

  • Money can't buy happiness. Explain that having money doesn't solve a person's problems. You need only look at those well-paid athletes and movie stars who are in the headlines for taking drugs, getting divorced, parenting illegitimate children, and having trouble with the law to see that this adage holds true.
  • Self-worth isn't (or shouldn't be) measured in dollars and cents. Explain that money can bring security and creature comforts, but it doesn't mean that the person who has the money is valued in that way. Again, drug lords and Mafia dons have plenty of money but certainly aren't regarded as upstanding citizens by those who know what they do. A person is defined by what he does and how he acts, not by his wealth.
  • Keeping up with the Joneses is impossible. It's fruitless to compare your financial situation to your neighbor's. This kind of jealousy makes you continually dissatisfied with what you have. No matter how much money you acquire, there's always a wealthier Jones out there. The constant complaint of many children is that so-and-so has this toy or this item of clothing, and they want it, too. Is this any different from keeping up with the Joneses?
  • Money, like manure, only does good when you spread it around and encourage small things to grow. Spoken by Dolly Levi in The Matchmaker, this phrase should serve as a reminder that saving money in a mattress doesn't accomplish anything but feed a miser's soul. On the other hand, using money to pay for an education, to start a business, or to donate to charity are certainly worthwhile endeavors—and all good reasons for having money.
  • Piggybank on It

    You don't have to go it alone when it comes to fixing values. You can find help on what your values mean to your child in various books, such as Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care.

  • Getting a car from a parent at 16 isn't a constitutional right. Many people are under the impression that things are coming to them and that they're entitled. This notion has been nurtured by the proliferation of various government programs that hand out money for all sorts of things, such as cash for not growing corn. After the programs are in place, they seem to become a right—life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and Social Security benefits, for example. We tend to lose sight of the fact that benefits are provided as long as the law allows it, but there's no absolute requirement (other than perhaps political necessity) for doing so. This entitlement attitude applies to children who see friends getting all sorts of things and who then assume that everyone should have it, that they're entitled to it.
  • A fool and his money are soon parted. This wise old English proverb stresses the importance of smart money management. Acting impetuously can cost a person dearly. The earlier your child learns the value of making a budget, saving money, resisting impulse buying, and investing with care, the less likely he is to act the fool and lose his money.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Money-Smart Kids © 1999 by Barbara Weltman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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