My oldest daughter, Miss LukeTeen28 (MLT28), is quickly approaching a major milestone. To be honest I’m having difficulty believing my wife and I have reached this point. It seems like only yesterday we were meticulously buckling her into the car seat at the hospital (as only newbie parents can), readying her for the first car ride home.
Boy, did I take that trip carefully.
Now 12 ½ years later, we are about to cross that invisible yet unmistakable line that serves as a right of passage for kids as they grow towards young adulthood. Most parents dread this moment because it signals their child is becoming capable of deciding his or her own path. While I will admit to a certain level of anxiety, I’m really looking forward to it. I want to see how all these years of teaching, training and modeling will play out as she makes decisions.
The right of passage to which I refer has nothing to do with my daughter becoming a teenager though. It’s a much greater issue that will provide her with great lessons as she matures into adulthood. What could possibly be this big a deal for an almost 13 year old?
Making her first BIG purchase with her own money. Here is what she wants:
The iPod MLT28 currently totes around in her back pocket used to be mine. It’s old…real old as far as technology goes. The software will no longer even update.
To her credit MLT28 has never complained about owning a hand-me-down. She was so excited to get it. At least it brought her a bit closer to the same league as her friends who all sport the newest models. She had a piece of technology for gaming, for reading and for texting. That was quite enough for her.
She never even pressured us for a new one the day she cracked the screen. Instead she kept using it, despite it’s broken display.
About six months ago I had a conversation with her on how to use her savings to plan for special purchases. It’s a basic fundamental of personal finance that every person should understand and I thought she was ready for that lesson. She had begun to accumulate a good amount of money in her savings and it was sitting there, not really having a purpose.
The plan was to divide her savings into categories, giving each one a name so that she could know what the money was designated for. We even taught her how to make a simple pie chart in Excel showing the breakdown of each category. That process was an incredible teaching moment for her and bonding moment for us. She now had goals for her money.
The four categories she divided her money into that day: emergency fund (so proud of that), special trips, car fund (oh boy) and…you guessed it…new iPod.
So she diligently began to save and save and save.
The other day she pops her head into the kitchen as I’m making dinner and says, “Dad, my iPod is broken. It’s not responding when I touch the screen.”
Me: “Did you reset it?”
Me: “No, I mean did you completely turn it off and then back on.”
Me: “Let me see that thing.” I reboot it. “What is your pass code?”
MLT28: “ 9640.”
I type in the pass code. The number spaces are not registering my touch.
Me: “Why did you put a silly pass code on this thing? I can’t get into it now. There is nothing of value in here for anyone to see?”
MLT28: “I don’t know. Everyone does that.”
A few more minutes of playing with the iPod and I come to the inevitable conclusion…it’s finally dead. (If not dead, then beyond my ability – or desire – to fix.)
The moment I announced that conclusion, I heard these words emanate from MLT28’s mouth – “Can I get a new one Dad?”
Shock, Then Awe
Even though I knew she had been saving her money for such a purchase, I was not prepared for that question. How silly…I should have seen it coming a mile away.
“You are going to spend how much on a new one? I don’t think so! No preteen needs to be spending that much on a piece of technology. I sure didn’t at your age.”
As I stood before her in that moment I remembered the Excel pie charts we had created six months ago. The discussions we had about saving for a purpose came rushing back into my memory. I also recalled the multiple trips to the bank to make deposits, the extra jobs she took around the house, and the discipline she demonstrated by not tapping into her funds for other purchases.
To deny her the freedom to use her money in this way would invalidate the very financial management values I had set in motion. How confused would she be then?
“How much are they again honey?”
“Well at the Apple site the 32 GB is $300. But I can get a refurbished one for about $50 less.”
She understands more about this money thing than I realized.
You go girl. Buy your iPod. You’ve earned it and then some.
What was your child’s first big purchase they funded entirely on their own? Have you ever taught your child a money principle only to contradict it by your behavior? Do you set aside specific money for specific purposes or do you just lump it all together in savings?
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