But her biggest lesson, she says, came after she begged for a four-week allowance advance to buy a special toy — and then left the toy on the bus. “Years later, my mom still reminded me, ‘You did NOT so much cry because you lost the toy, but more so, as you kept saying, that the worst thing was NOT to get any more spending money for the next 4 weeks.’ ”
Moms, it turns out, are still key players when it comes to financial literacy. According to a 2011 survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion for TD Bank, mothers are responsible for teaching children how to count money in 81 percent of the families surveyed. They also teach about money while shopping (70 percent) and saving money in a piggy bank (70 percent). They’re more likely to feel a need for budgeting than dads; dads are more likely to set allowances and savings goals for their children.
In money, as in all matters, not all parental lessons produce the desired results. A series of studies released around 2010 pegged Generation Y (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) as “narcissistic,” “entitled” and “the me generation.” Accustomed to being praised constantly, people born in this period, suggest the studies, often expect high salaries but don’t always understand the need for hard work.
Of course, you can’t paint an entire generation with a single swipe. And the economic downturn may have tempered such attitudes among those who perhaps previously held them. But a recent conversation with a group of boomer-generation parents of adult children sounded a refrain I’ve heard often in Miami. All were professional families who had given their children a solid footing: fully paid educations, cars, the occasional trip abroad.
Yet, said one dad, “I’m not sure we really did our children a favor by giving them so much.” The surprise was that this came not from the parent of the thirtysomething daughter who never has supported herself, or from the father of the late bloomer, but from the parent of two children who are quite successfully employed.
His concerns aren’t unique.
Whether it’s a matter of early financial learning or the recent economy, evidence suggests that the children of baby boomers will enjoy less financial security than their parents. That uncertainly persists even among affluent households with $100,000-plus investable assets, according to a study conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs in November and December of 2011 for Ameriprise Financial. Only 40 percent of those surveyed in generations X and Y were confident they could assure a financially secure life for themselves and their families. Only 20 percent were confident they would be able to continue their current lifestyle into retirement.
For myself, I can say that though some of the financial lessons from mom weren’t much fun, they have served me well.
My parents divorced when I was in my teens. By then I was working in the local drugstore after school each day. When it came time for college, I cobbled together scholarships, earnings from a work-study program and modest parental contributions. Campus lectures, frat parties and viciously contested basketball games provided free entertainment, and I graduated from Duke University without debt.
I don’t remember what my dad gave me to mark the occasion. My mom, true to form, presented me with 250 shares of stock.