Friday, October 03, 2008

Needs and Wants Redux

Needs and wants. It's incredibly important to distinguish between the two. I've talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Why? I heard a report on NPR this week about an Audi dealership owner saying that the current economic crisis was keeping people from their transportation "needs." Hmmm. An Audi is a beautiful car, but it could hardly be considered a need. Even in car-centric Los Angeles, there are a number of options that would fulfill a car need at a much lower price. All of us with kids should think about this lesson - pay particular attention to your use of the words "wants" and "needs," especially when they are within earshot. We all know that kids ape our behaviors, and using the words needs and wants appropriately might help them better understand the difference.



Ammi3 said...

No one really wants to talk about the role of personal responsibility in creating our current economic mess. Whatever the outcome for today's adults, there is a desperate need to set our kids on a better path. Our society has developed and fostered a dangerous disconnect between money decisions (needs vs wants) and being able to pay for these decisions. Parents can talk all they want but kids will not hear the message.

The problem is NOT lack of education–it is lack of experience. Schools can’t teach real money management because they can’t provide money, hence real experience. Only parents can do that. The key is to give kids true responsibility and control of real expenses, such as school supplies and clothes, as well as money for fun. This gives kids long-term, day-to-day control of real money.

The reality is this: If parents want their children to grow up to avoid making bad financial decisions they must allow them to make small (and harmless) mistakes using real money while they are young. Parents seem to think that telling their kids how to spend is enough. It's like telling a child how to ride a bicycle and being surprised when he or she falls down.

Kids can accept responsibility to manage money and can make good decisions but as long as parents refuse to give up control, today's kids may grow up to be even less fiscally responsible.

As the author of “The No-Cash Allowance,” an award-winning book on teaching children how to manage money, I am a strong proponent of giving kids “experience now” using a reliable, repeatable and realistic method to learn money management. Skill only comes from having control of money while learning how to use it.

Lynne Finch

John said...


Your book sounds great. It's great to have you in the movement to help improve financial literacy in our young people.

Experience is essential and many of my earlier posts address exactly that, even relating stories with my own kids. You've likely read it, but one of the books on my blog list is David Owen's terrific First National Bank of Dad which highlights the importance of money experience and making sure that kids get the opportunity to make mistakes while they are young so that they might avoid big mistakes when they are older.

Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.


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