Money

Why parents shouldn't buy their kids everything they ask for

And how this makes us all better at managing our money.

By: Karyn Henger

Having kids is not cheap, and even the tools they need for school can be pricey.

Devices (tablets, laptops) are often compulsory from Year 7, and class field trips can now cost thousands of dollars with the recent surge in popularity of specialist travel outlets that arrange trips for schools to countries all over the world.

Kids are no longer travelling to Te Awamutu with their school band – they're jet-setting off to Hawaii. My own daughter is desperate to go on her high school commerce trip to the United States, planned for 2019 and estimated to cost $5500 (not including meal expenses). The 10-day educational adventure includes a day at Disneyland and a visit to Google headquarters.

Am I the only parent to be asking, how are we meant to afford this? And why should we buy into these extravagant offerings from schools?

Maybe parents shouldn't feel they have to, financial adviser Liz Koh suggests.

"In the case of the overseas school trips, they're usually optional," she says, "While I know there's huge pressure there with kids not wanting to miss out, but maybe the simple answer is to get your kids to do their own fundraising. It's really the perfect opportunity to learn about money."

"If your child really wants to go on that trip to New York, then sit down with them and ask 'how are we going to make this work?'" she suggests.

"Shift the problem on to them: 'Okay, here's your challenge - let's think of some ways we could get that money.'"

Koh can't help but think we've all gone a bit soft as parents, handing money over to our children too easily.

"If you want to raise children who can manage their money then they need to learn that you can't just ask somebody and they will pay for you," she points out.

"Kids can run car washes, sausage sizzles, set up mini businesses – they can sell toys on Trade Me or cakes at the local market. And for kids who are 15 or older they're quite able to get a part-time job. This can also set them up better for later in life; it gives them a bit of a CV for when they're at university and need part-time work."

You could offer to contribute 50 cents for every dollar they make as an added incentive, she suggests.

When kids are working towards financial goals they're learning how to budget and manage money; how to put together a business plan - they learn the value of money and that the harder you work, the more money you have, Koh says.

"The more you can teach them to be independent, the better things will turn out for them later in life," she says. "They learn to respect money and how to be accountable for their own spending."

Koh also has some pertinent advice about pocket money, saying the reason behind paying it should be to teach your child to live within a set income:

"Pocket money shouldn't be dependent on doing chores," she says. "Chores are something you do because you're a member of that household.
The amount of pocket money you receive should be age-appropriate and reflective of the things that you're responsible for paying for," she says.

Increase the amount with each birthday, as well as the range of expenses your child is expected to cover (including their own clothing and underwear).

"By the time they leave home they're managing everything they need to look after themselves," Koh states.

Koh on saving for your retirement:

The balance here is providing for your child without over-financing - you don't want to be destitute in your retirement.

There is no magic number to aim for when it comes to saving for your retirement, Koh says – however you do need to be in a position where you have more than just a debt-free home because NZ superannuation is only enough to get by on.

"It will get you from week to week," Koh warns. "But if you want to do some travel, go out for dinner on a regular basis, redecorate your home or put a new roof on the house, you need to have savings. Pay off your mortgage as quickly as you can and put the minimum into Kiwisaver - then after that start upping your Kiwisaver contributions and saving for retirement."

Koh on charging your kids board:

The average age at which kids leave home now is 26 – yes, 26! Tertiary students in cities like Auckland can't afford to go flatting so continue to live at home - which leaves parents begging the question, do I charge my adult child board?

Koh believes that if your child is earning money then yes, absolutely, charge them board. Have them contribute towards their living costs, she advises, "and then if you want to, set that money aside to give to them when they move out."

Similarly, if your 15-year-old has a part-time job, they sure can start paying their own monthly phone bill.

We appreciate that these messages won't be well-received by your children, but they'll be the richer for it in the end - pun intended.