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Should we give our kids control over our money?

Should we give our kids control over our money?

By Sam Wilson Späth

‘Sushi take out for dinner, everyone!’ I proclaimed happy last Friday. ‘ It was a brutal week and we all deserve it. Now, who wants what?’

‘Great idea!’ said my husband, Andreas. ‘I’m really hungry. Let’s get a lot of those combination boxes. And some hand rolls? And how about some extra combination boxes?’

Son1 smiled a rather wry smile. ‘It wasn’t really a difficult week? Kinda par for the course, I thought. I mean, we all worked hard, but we usually work hard this time of year.’

‘I’m also really hungry,’ said Son2. ‘How about we just make a giant bowl of pesto pasta? We have the stuff in the house, and it wouldn’t take that long and…’

‘Way to suck the fun out of Friday Night Sushi,’ I sulked.

‘Sorry, I was just thinking about money,’ said Son2. ‘We’ve been splurging quite a lot lately, and I assume it’s bashed the budget a bit.’

‘Badgit?’ I feigned ignorance. ‘Bu-geet? I am sorry, I don’t know what you are talking about.’

‘It’s jokes like that which explain why we never go on holiday,’ said Son1 with a smile.

My husband and I are not good with money. Admittedly, we are also not good at consumerism, not really caring about clothes and décor and things in malls… so I’ve always thought those two things kinda even out. For the most part. Given an overdraft or credit card or two.

But as my sons get older (why, HELLO Varsity fees!) and life gets more expensive, this cavalier attitude is really not cutting it. Let’s be frank, it hasn’t been cutting it for a while now.

My husband and I have a horrid habit of not just living pay check to pay check, but unexpected bonus to bonus. A few times, we have had to go cap in hand to the bank and ask to consolidate our credit card and overdraft into a loan, so we can get some measure of control back. We owe pretty much the same on our house as we did 15 years ago. Let’s face it. We are fiscally embarrassing.

Which I think is why Son2, who is planning to go into business one day, took us aside with an interesting suggestion.

‘I’ve been thinking,’ he said thoughtfully. (What can I say? He’s a very thoughtful lad.) ‘You know how I think in a more “checks-and-balances” kinda way than you guys? And that we aren’t really a typical family? How about I take control of the family finances? You know, set budgets, and look for unnecessary expenses… that kind of thing. It would be good training for me too.’

Andreas and I were a bit gobsmacked and then immediately sheepish. The fact that this is not a bad idea does not reflect very well on us.

‘Well, he is sixteen…’ said Andreas, clearly mulling over this idea. ‘It’s not like he’s eight or something.’

‘Yes honey,’ I said tersely. (My husband and I have weaponised the word ‘honey’.) ‘It says wonders about us that he is not making this proposal at eight.’

And this is where we are now: considering what is possibly a very good idea. I am thinking about a middle ground, where he helps us rather than takes over all together. I mean, looking through the debit orders for something we don’t really need could be a good thing. Knowing how much Mom actually spends on wine is not.

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