we are living in a different generation

Images-1 This is a conversation that comes up again and again.  Parents are talking about their kids, who are starting to be able to work, and the parents say, well when I was their age I worked to make money.  Yes, they are right, so did I, but we are living in a different generation.

When I grew up, I had no choice but to work and make money because if I didn't, my parents were not giving me any.  They were gracious enough to give me a car when I turned 16 but without money, I had no gas.  I held down 3 jobs in HS and continued to work in college.  At one point in college, I actually washed the dishes in the cafeteria with huge rubber gloves just to make some cash.  I had no problem with work and honestly, I don't think my kids do either. 

Growing up, there were an abundance of jobs and opportunities to make money.  There was also not as much school work.  It wasn't a big deal to have a job after school or on the weekends. Of course there are plenty of kids who have to work to support their family and pitch in with the cash but the kids these days who come from many middle class and upper middle class families have families who live a very different life than the one that they grew up in.  There is less freedom, thanks to my generation of parents.  There is a shit load more work in school and expectations to create the perfect resume by 18, and again there are few jobs.

Here is a scenario.  The kids grows up in a household where the family travels on vacation, parents goImages-2 out to dinner, kids get the clothes they want, they might even have a vacation home somewhere or a share, life is great.  The kid hits 16 starts to need money because they want to continue living the life that they have been living the past 16 years and the parents say, well, go work and by the way, make sure you still kick ass on those SAT's and build your resume.  Hmmm.  How many hours are there in the day?

I am not saying that kids shouldn't work, they should but realistically this generation is lucky to get an internship.  Those internships are helpful to create a work ethic, understand how businesses work and to get involved with something they might be passionate about.  It helps them grow.  There are companies now that the interns are first year college grads that if they are lucky they get picked up year 2 and are given a salary.

I believe that most parents want their kids to work so they understand the value of a dollar.  I get that.  So, how do parents teach their kids the value of the dollar when they have so many dollars themselves and have been happy to provide for years to the kid? 

I hope this has worked but here is what we did.  We tried to teach the kids how to budget and how to make money.  At one point, all our kids were bar/bat miztvahed.  With the money that they made, they did 3 things.  First, give to a non-profit of their choice that they really cared about.  Second, buy stocks and watch them.  Some of the kids were totally into it where others could care less.  That is ok because it was an education on the markets.  Three, put it away in a money market for college.  So far, that has worked.

Once HS hit, we have given the kids a debit card.  Money which is agreed upon is put into their account the first day of each month.  That is for food, going out, the movies or anything else they want to do.  It needs to last to the next month.  If it doesn't, tough luck, stay home.

When Jessica hit 18, we took it to another level.  I looked at how much I had spent on her over the past 2 years for clothes, etc. and came to a monthly number.  We gave her that number including the cash deposit number and in essence, it became her salary.  All clothes, all going out, all processing her film, filling up the car, etc.  At the beginning she came in over budget and had to pay us out of her savings which was her bat mitzvah money.  She was happy to pay us back.  She has made budget every month since.

Now, we will still pay for her vacations, her travel and special stuff like leasing a car because she grew up in a household where that was part of our norm.  We have given her an opportunity to intern by giving her this cash.  I know for a fact that she is interested in making money this summer so she has more to spend but if she can only intern, so be it.  I do believe she has learned the value of a dollar and has become an independent person at the same time.  She is responsible for her own, let's say, salary.

I didn't want to continue to have to ok every transaction and hand each kid some random cash every weekend.  I wanted them to be responsible. 

I worked through HS and college but I am not sure I really learned how money worked and how to budget until I was on my own for my clothes, my partying and my entertainment.  Rent hit me between the eyes once I graduated college and had a pittance of an income but my kids are growing up in a very different world than I am so I am trying to adjust based on the home that they grew up in not the home I grew up in or the life I grew up in so many years ago. 

Times have changed and so should we.

Comments (Archived):

  1. shelleypinkhouse

    I agree with your comments. We have also provided our college son with a debit card and put money in it every two weeks. However, some other parents have told us that they think it makes more sense to give them a credit card when they go to college (which they still have to stick to a budget). We haven’t done it, but just before Christmas he went to Whistler skiing with the ski club and literally ran out of money (and in the debit acct) while there. He had no cell phone service, no email, and no way to let us know. Everything was costing more (food) than we had planned and he had to have his bindings repaired as well which blew the budget. I felt really terrible when I found out after he got back to the states and could call. I actually think it was stressful on him which isn’t nice on a vacation trip. After that I thought he really SHOULD have a credit card just for situations like that, now that he’s traveling without us. What are your thoughts on the credit cards for older teens?

  2. randy_ayn

    you say that “realistically this generation is lucky to get an internship” Is that really true or is it just not an option for your kids to do manual labor at a fast food joint or wash dishes along side of the first generation immigrant? I think money has altered your perspective and reality. As it should.

    1. Gotham Gal

      there is no doubt that money has given and my children a different perspective. i am trying to find a way through that to raise kids who want to work and understand the value of a dollar. the money has certainly given them an opportunity to work in areas that might add value to what they want to do vs having to make money and work washing dishes as i did.

  3. Sharon Gitelle

    My son is a freshman at a college that requires a fieldwork term and he’s now living at home for the next two months. He has an amazing internship at a wonderful New York cultural institution. I told him I would provide an unlimited metro card, food in the refrigerator,(and clearly a roof over his head) but that he would have to work for his spending money. It has been interesting to see how he is figuring this out– trying to babysit, tutor or work in a restaurant. I am very happy that I created this boundary and I will let you know how it progresses.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Keep me posted. Boundaries are the key to happiness.

  4. Natacha

    Thank you for your insight into this and I certainly agree. I would almost prefer my son to spend time on his school work and community service before stressing about working at the local supermarket. He is still too young and I know how important it is to be successful in your grades (I am in a large company’s staffing dept). My son has just turned 13 and will bar mitzvah in April (yeah!), anyway, one thing he has asked me is for a bank account, and I am happy to oblige, only thing is, Bank of America (where I bank) would not open an account for him with my support. I think the earlier we start the better. Do you know who would do this?

    1. Gotham Gal

      Unfortunately banks will not let kids open those accounts. I opened all ofour kids accounts with me so we both have access to it. That they did.Crazy right?

  5. Steven Kane

    i’m not sure times have changed as much as you and i and our peers have changedbecause they had the means, and wanted to fast-track their kids, the well-to-do and connected have pretty much always offered their kids connected “internships” rather than simply seeking any job for money, no? in what sense is that a recent development? hell, historically, graduate and professional schools were by and large a luxury for the upper classesa historical technicolor example would be the kennedys – because of the vast family wealth and properties, almost no child or grandchild of Joseph Sr has ever done anything other than prepare for a life at the top, starting our thru internships in business, law and government and non-profits etcthere’s absolutely nothing wrong with that — in fact, with the kennedys its incredibly admirable, as so many of that family have applied themselves with vigor to more or less altruistic endeavors (versus the kids of so many wealthy families whose idea of altruism is attending some red carpet gala fundraiser and posing for society pictures.)for me the issue is, how do we make sure our kids understand that notion, that “to those whom much is given, much is expected”?

  6. Name

    I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree with your main thesis here. While what you’ve experienced regarding your progeny is fantastic and working, this practice is still not the norm. When I attended college the kids that were given money by their parents exemplified irresponsibility and were often shunned by their peers.I’m 24 and live in New York City, completely self-financed. I think I’m able to do this because of the lessons my parents instilled upon me by encouraging me to work. You state “I am not saying that kids shouldn’t work, they should but realistically this generation is lucky to get an internship. Those internships are helpful to create a work ethic, understand how businesses work and to get involved with something they might be passionate about.” I disagree with this assertion, but do agree that kids are not going to find jobs they are passionate about at 16. They will be menial, but they will instill lessons and develop work ethic. I started working in 8th grade as a swim instructor and kept going right through college. When I was fortunate enough to land an internship in Geneva, Switzerland, I worked 50 hours in an office during the day and washed dishes at night. Washing dishes was in no way glamorous, but I came away feeling like I earned my time in Europe and learned a valuable lesson about how hard service workers do work, and how much respect they deserve.Many people I know who were supported by their parents during college (I’m not talking about tuition, but spending money etc…) are still supported by them today. This raises the question, when does it end?Anecdotally, when I lived in Geneva, I traveled to Budapest with a couple of friends. One friend went to the ATM to get cash and was informed she did not have enough money in her account. She immediately called her mother and raised her voice asking her mother why she didn’t transfer money into the checking account when she saw it was running low. Everyone in the group’s mouth became agape, and we still talk about it to this day.

    1. Gotham Gal

      What your friend did in Budapest is so wrong on so many levels. You arelucky you got that job as a swim instructor.There is nothing wrong with hard work no matter what you are doing. Ibelieve my kids are learning that. What is wrong is that parents will sayto kids after handing them cash for 18 years and never teaching themanything about work or the value of dollar and then at 18 say, ok, you areon your own now. It doesn’t work. It also doesn’t work to continue in thevein of just giving them cash. There has to be something that works for allparties that helps the kids fly and make it on their own. You got to giveto get.

  7. bpmcclain

    I totally agree. I would rather pay my kids a “salary” and afford them to have more relevant life experiences i.e., volunteering at Habitat for Humanity or pursuing a relevant internship vs. slinging hash………

    1. Gotham Gal

      To me, that is a good place to put your money.

      1. bpmcclain

        Good morning!Quick question. We usually stay in apartments when we travel to Paris. You recommended two beautiful hotels to me awhile back and I wanted to forward them to a friend.Any suggestions? Can be any neighborhood but I think they are specifically looking in the 6th St Germain and I thought these may have been in that vicinity.Thanks,Bonny

        1. Gotham Gal

          They are in that vicinity if they are the hotels that I probablyrecommended.