Santa Maria Sun / Humor
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 27
Teen-enomicsKrider makes an allowance for his son's actions
BY ROB KRIDER
As a father, I have tried to provide good advice to my children. Over the years I have kept them safe by teaching them not to touch hot stoves, not to talk to strangers, and not to wear Ed Hardy T-shirts. As my kids have gotten older, I’ve also tried to teach them financial responsibility. This hasn’t always gone very well. For safety, “Stranger Danger” is an easy concept—stay away from kidnapper vans—and the little saying even rhymes. For financial advice, “Daily compound interest accrual is … cruel” just doesn’t have the same effect. Plus, there are numbers and math involved, so that makes things tough. If congress can’t figure it out, how can I expect my kids to understand?
In most cases, financial advice at my house is one of those “do as I say, not as I do” object lessons. I tell my children they need to learn how to save money while my own bank account is nearly empty. I don’t bother to tell them that my savings account died of boredom and I just paid off an old credit card with a new credit card. In my defense, the new credit card is “platinum,” so as I irresponsibly lose thousands of dollars in interest every year, I get to feel distinguished about it.
In trying to teach my son about the value of a dollar and hard work I decided to put him on a weekly allowance in trade for doing some chores. I set it up so he could earn $10 a week to wash our two cars. He is 16 years old, so using a sponge and some soap and then hosing down a car is not exactly indentured servitude. However, I did also ask that he clean out the interior of the cars. And since my wife, whom I love, thinks the floorboard of a car is a recycling center, I could see how some could say I wasn’t paying my son enough money to dig through my wife’s car trash.
I saw the carwash/allowance deal with my son as a win-win: The cars got cleaned (sort of) and he got to earn a few dollars, and also learn about hard work and money. Plus when he asked me for the 10th time in a week for money to go to Starbucks, I could say, “You have your own money; that’s what your allowance is for.” Kids hate it when parents say things like that. I hated it when I was a kid, and I see the disdain in my son’s eyes every time I remind him, “You can pay for that; you have your own money now.”
After a couple of weekends, a matter came up with the chores. I found out my son didn’t have an issue about spending money, he had an aversion to the process of earning money. It turns out that hard work isn’t really his thing. It was a little discouraging to learn he’s not much for the love of labor, but in the end I’m OK with that. Who really does love labor? It’s called labor for a reason. If labor didn’t suck, then it would have a different name like “weekend,” “vacation,” or “waterslide.” Because my son hated hands-on work, I used it as an opportunity to push my “you need to go to college” agenda. If he doesn’t like washing cars, good, he needs to remember that every night when he is doing his homework.
I found out, too late, that my son’s homework he was doing every night was actually economics. The result of his schooling in combination of my little life lesson on hard work and finances sort of backfired on me. It turned out my son wasn’t really earning his allowance the way I originally intended. It was determined that my son had been outsourcing his own household chores. He found a place that would wash a car for $4. We have two cars, and he earns $10 a week for cleaning both of them. He realized it would be less work to just drive the cars over to the carwash and spend $8 of his $10 allowance to avoid having to do the hard work himself. Is he the laziest kid you have ever heard of? Or is he a teenage genius?
On his way home from the carwash he would take his $2 profit and swing by 7-11 for a Slurpee. Then he would walk through the front door of our house with a smile on his face, spinning car keys on his finger while sucking through a straw some ice cold drink. “Hey, Dad, chores are done.” When I realized what happened, my first reaction was, “Why didn’t you get me a Slurpee, too?” Of course, the response from my son was, “You have your own money.”
Once I realized how the cars were getting washed so quickly (my son didn’t seem to be tired, wet, or cranky from the chore), my reaction was a bit of anger. But then I thought about it for a second and wondered: Could I really blame him for paying someone else to do the job he dislikes, if he actually makes a profit on the deal? At first I was getting mad at him for ditching his responsibilities, but really his responsibility was to get the cars washed and that had been done (actually better than when he did it himself). What could I really say? My son was showing me he already mastered the concepts of complex globalized economics. At 16 years old, he knows as much as any CEO of a major corporation: outsource, outsource, outsource, and then drink Slurpees. ∆
Rob is trying to find a way to outsource listening to his wife talk about her day.