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Having money means learning how to manage it, which is a lesson your parents can help teach.


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001

Everybody gets money as gifts, and some kids get allowances and have jobs that pay, and everybody knows of a million things they could spend their money on.

With needs and desires tugging at your cash, it can be a tough decision whether to spend it on the latest fashion or save for college. Some of the options are tempting and they're hard to avoid.

What are some kids doing with their money?

Meredith Crawford, 12, a student at Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa, says she gets money from babysitting, allowance and Christmas gifts. She saves some for college and she gives some to church. Her spending money goes to clothes, makeup and CDs.

Leslie Kelly, 12, a student at Wilson Middle School in Tampa, has many ways she earns money: She babysits, dogsits and housesits; she also gets money on birthdays and holidays.

"Whenever I get paid, my mom makes me put one-third of it into my bank account." Leslie is saving for a car, college and a cordless microphone headset for singing. She buys clothes with the money she has left.

Emily Roberts, 12, a student at St. Mary's Episcopal Day School in Tampa, says that her spending money comes from her allowance, babysitting and birthdays. It is used to buy Christmas presents, things for friends and clothes from Limited Too. She says her parents make her save some money. "I save more than they make me save." Right now she is saving for college.

Teenagers are a large consumer group in America, so the money they spend each year is a large percent of the total amount spent by all Americans. A survey done by Teen Research Unlimited showed that $153-billion was spent by kids ages 12 to 19 in 1999. In other words, kids in that age range are very important to American businesses; that is why there are so many commercials and ads aimed at kids and teens.

There are lots of choices to make about spending your money, and sometimes you can't make them on your own; then it's time to ask your parents or look for professional advice.

Janet Bodnar, a financial writer who is the executive editor for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and who writes a weekly financial advice column appearing in many newspapers, has written four books to help parents teach kids how to use and manage their money and expenses. On a recent visit to Tampa, she talked about her latest book, Dollars and Sense for Kids: What kids should know about money -- and how to tell them.

"We read about how kids don't know a lot about money and I think that is true, I think they have a good basic knowledge of things like credit cards and savings accounts and things like that, but they're missing some pieces," she said.

Concerned that kids have a good foundation in the smart use of money, in her fourth book Mrs. Bodnar clearly expresses the need for kids and teenagers to know about such things as how the stock market works, how to balance a checkbook, how to compare prices, how to use credit cards and how to pay bills.

Parents can set a good example, Mrs. Bodnar said, by showing their kids how they balance their own checkbooks and taking them shopping to compare prices. Parents can also explain things to their kids, such as telling them that money does not grow on trees, it comes from the bank, and you can only get money out of the bank if you put the money in the bank first.

Kids need to understand that using a credit card is like taking out a loan, and you do have to actually pay for the things you buy with it, Bodnar said. "You won't have a happy life if you're always looking for more money. On the other hand, don't be afraid of it," she said. "It's just a very useful thing that will get you through life."

The most important thing you can know about money, Mrs. Bodnar said, is that you shouldn't hoard it, and you shouldn't be afraid of it. It doesn't buy happiness, of course. "If you use it like a tool it can help you to lead a happy life. It can help you to buy the things that you like or save for the things that you want to buy in the future."

-- Laura Krantz, 13, is in the seventh grade in home school in Tampa.

Janet Bodnar’s top five tips for kids

1. Always save some money.

2. Think before you spend -- don't spend it all in one place or at one time.

3. Watch the way you handle your money. Use a wallet, not your pocket.

4. Be a good consumer; just because you're a kid doesn't mean you don't have rights; don't be afraid to take things back.

5. Talk to your parents about money.

Janet Bodnar’s top five tips for parents

1. Don't buy them everything they want.

2. Talk to your kids about money -- don't think they won't listen.

3. Give your kids an allowance; it will give them a first-hand experience in handling money.

4. Teach your kids how to save.

5. Teach your kids how to shop, compare prices, etc.

Having money means learning how to manage it, which is a lesson your parents can help teach.

"Let's go to the mall and get that pair of shoes we've both been dying to have."

"You need to save for college."

"I've got to have a new scooter!"

"Put your money in the bank and gain interest."

"That new movie's out, wanna go see it?"

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