The School of Hard Knocks

By: David Smyth, August 15, 2019

My oldest son, Gates, has really been working on his grades lately as he gets money for each A he earns. When it comes to school, I don't beat around the bush with my boys. I tell them that their job is to focus on studying and getting good grades, and I pay $20 for As, nothing for Bs, -$10 for Cs, -$20 for Ds, and Fs, well, hopefully we won't have to go there.

Luckily with Gates he's getting mostly As with the occasional B in his more advanced classes. He's been saving up all his money from grades, dog-walking, allowance, etc., and finally had the $500 to buy the virtual reality game he'd been wanting. Keep in mind that's just for the unit - games to play on it are sold separately.

So, Gates managed to convince Ridley, my middle son, to give him $80 of his money to help buy games for the virtual reality unit under the arrangement that Ridley would also have access to those games. (How many of you oldest children out there pulled off something like this?)

A few weeks back I had my two younger kids, Ridley and Michael, at the beach house in Florida (Gates stayed home in Kentucky to start band rehearsals now that he's in high school). Ridley came into the kitchen one evening and I could see that he was really ticked off. "What's up?" I asked him, but he didn't want to talk. I told him I'd check on him again in 5 minutes, at which point he told me, "Dad, I just realized I've been shanghaied." (He has an impressive vocabulary for being 11!)

I asked him what he meant, and he explained to me that while Gates was back home in Kentucky playing his virtual reality games, Ridley was stuck in Florida with no games - and no money. "I think he got the best of me," he said, as he couldn't spend any money at NASA or the gator farm we visited with only $10 to his name. He continued on to tell me that I needed to tell Gates to give him his money back.

I reminded him that even though it turned out to be a bad deal, he had made a deal with his brother, and that it was up to him to talk to Gates about it. I told him that even though he made a choice he's now regretting, he can make better decisions going forward, and he can tell his brother he doesn't want to make anymore deals like this one in the future.

Ridley thought for a minute, and then said he'd been thinking about getting Gates to "invest" in a game that he wanted, and that way Gates could play his virtual reality games and Ridley could play his game. I had to laugh. I don't make this stuff up folks! But, whether it seems like it or not, they are learning life skills, and I don't get involved with their squabbles. They can figure it out and find resolutions.

If you are a parent, I always love to hear your kids-and-money stories. At 11 years old, Ridley is learning about sales tax and understanding that if something is priced at $10, he needs more than a ten dollar bill to buy it. Michael, at 6, still thinks he needs $499 to buy something priced at $4.99. It's all age appropriate. Next time you're in for a quarterly meeting, I'd love to hear about how you approach money with your kiddos. It's always entertaining!

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