Thursday, August 30, 2012

She's a Prince$$

The television network CNBC has a show called PRINCE$$.  I am a total sucker for this kind of program because I like to see reality TV that at least tries to change people's lives for the better. Each episode features a young woman who lives far beyond her means. She is nominated by people who have enabled her bad spending habits but who no longer want to support them. She is challenged to face reality and change her ways by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. In the first scene Gail requires that families, friends, and romantic partners commit to cutting off  all handouts and bailouts to the Prince$$. Then she issues a series of challenges to the Prince$$ to help her change her ways. If the Prince$$ rises to meet the challenges and change her habits and her attitudes Gail gives her $5000 toward paying off her debt. No changes, no money. It's intriguing.

On one recent episode I saw something new: a Prince$$ who admitted with no apparent shame that her plan was to spend her way to $100,000 in debt and then file for bankruptcy. She was 27 years old. I was appalled!  So was Gail. Now Gail almost always finds the soft spot she can poke to help a Prince$$ change her ways. This time she let the Prince$$ Tonya in on the secret that Grandma, one of Tonya's frequent bailout targets, is living on three-fourths of what the Prince$$ makes each month, yet still bails her granddaughter out when asked. Grandma says: "I would go without anything if it helped her." That was when Prince$$ Tonya began her transformation.

I was struck by the power of love to create change. Once Grandma understood that saying no to Tonya was the more loving choice, she buckled right down. And once Tonya understood that she was hurting her Grandma it was easy for her to stop asking.

It is much easier to say yes than to say no. We have to love our kids enough to say no. We are living in precarious times. We have to love them enough to make sure they know how and when to use this tool we call money - because they, and we, may have to face significant money challenges before this is all over. They may, or may not, learn about handling money from watching you; it is better if you teach them with intention.

My parents were frugal and wise and conservative with their money. I didn't follow their example until long after I became a parent. I'm still not totally there. We didn't talk about it; they assumed it was obvious. And in fairness to them, it probably was but they were up against a culture that completely undermined their example. Easy credit was rampant as I came of age, and  I learned other lessons from Madison Avenue that encouraged me to spend because "I was worth it." Guess which voice sounded more appealing?

You love your kids. That's why you read this blog. Love them enough to teach them about money. Not to love money, or to accumulate money, but to handle money. It will be like swimming upstream at times, but will benefit them greatly in the long run.

Prince$$ got me thinking a lot about how we teach our kids about money, so this is the first entry in a series about kids and parents and money. I hope you'll add your comments so we can learn from each other.

1 comment:

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