Ever run across someone that gives their children everything?
All the latest clothes, electronic gadgets, extracurricular activities, lavish weddings, education, you name it they have it. And then you find out the parents are struggling to keep their heads above water financially. Not “we’re just getting by.” No. I mean one month they don’t pay cable, another month they miss the electric bill; the rent gets paid late; always something and always “it’s for the kids!”
When you talk to these people they take great pride that they provide for their kids. They insist that their kids have the best even when it’s out of the parent’s means.
Here are some excuses/reasons I’ve heard regarding “it’s for the kids”:
- The kids deserve it. They’re great kids and they deserve to have everything they want.
- They want the children to have what they didn’t have. The parents didn’t grow up getting everything they wanted, maybe their folks had tight budgets, so they want their kids to live better then they did.
- The kids should fit in with other kids. The kids shouldn’t feel left out because their friends have things that they don’t have.
- I want the kids to have experiences. The children should have a life full of experiences and that’s why they need: dance class, soccer, baseball, martial arts, trip to Disney, etc…
-The kids shouldn’t have to suffer. The parents don’t want the kids to feel the burden of their debt and financial responsibilities. Despite financial problems, the kids should still live like the parents can easily afford the lifestyle.
-They shouldn’t have to pay for college. No matter the costs, some parents insist that they have to pay all of the college costs: tuition, books, car, apartment, spending money, etc… It’s ok if a retirement fund is sacrificed to help the kids pay for college.
And this isn’t just young kids either. I see this in occur with parents who have adult children too!
I don’t agree at all with this thinking. I think it puts the parents in a bad financial situation and it teaches their children bad habits.
Among the problems with the “it’s for the kids” mentality:
- You spoil the kids. When the kids think they are always going to get the best and newest they get spoiled. They stop appreciating the things they have; always moving on to the newest and best of what’s out there.
- Cluttered life. Where does all this stuff go? The people I’ve seen who live like this tend to have very cluttered homes as well as lives. You have to keep up with all of the stuff as well as keep up with how you are going to pay for it. Who can go on like that for long?
- You teach the kids that to consume is to be happy. Sorry, but this sets your kids up for problems later on in life. Do you want them to feel like they need to always have to keep up? Always keeping up means always keeping up with your credit card bills!
- You forgo bigger goals. When you are deep in debt, helping your kids with their high upkeep, you give up greater opportunities because you are alwasy broke. Saving for retirement is extremely difficult when you have no money. Having a house for you family is either tough to maintain or out of reach.
- You take away you children’s opportunity to learn to care for themselves. You can’t have everything and there won’t always be someone who can take care of your finances for you. Kids, at some point, need to learn this. Maybe not at 8 or 12, but they need to have the ability to pay their way and deal with their bills as adults. When Mommy and Daddy bail out the kids over and over they just reinforce bad habits.
Look, I know what it’s like to want to give your kids everything. I struggle to keep myself from buying stuff for the kids when we are out. I want to see them happy and it’s a super feeling seeing a kid’s face light up when they get something new. But I’m quickly seeing too how easy it is to set up expectations for the kids that they will get what they want. It’s hard to break those expectations. And the kids do get spoiled. They don’t appreciate the things they have when they are always getting new stuff.
There’s nothing wrong with sacrificing for the kids. Hey, my wife and I used to love going on Caribbean vacations and being able to eat out and such. But with three kids that doesn’t happen anymore. We give up a lot of our old luxuries for the kids. But we don’t do it to such an extent that the family finances are in jeopardy. It isn’t healthy to put yourself at financial risk to give the kids “things.”
“Honesty is the best policy” and “staying the middle ground” are more than cliches – they work! Let your kids know you can’t afford everything. It’s OK. They may not like it now, but by holding back you keep your finances in better shape and you help build character in your kids. Later on your kids will have to take care of themselves. How are they going to do it when they are taught that they should get what they want and everything is at their disposal?
Do all parents have the “it’s for the kids” mentality? No. I think we all spoil our kids a little bit from time to time and of course we want the best for our little ones. Is it always bad to buy stuff for the kids or pay for college or makes things a little easier for them? No. Sometimes though, we have to make the tough decision to hold back and make sure that, as parents, we can take care of ourselves now, and in the future, before we make that purchase for the kids.
So instead of saying the latest gadget/toy is “for the kids” let people know that things like building up your retirement plan is “for the kids” or paying off the house is “for the kids” or making sure you have insurance is “for the kids.” Take care of yourself and you are truly making sure you are providing “for the kids!”