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Is your kid a spoiled brat?
Instead of an iPod nano, give your kids the tools they need to be financially independent adults.
October 6, 2005: 11:33 AM EDT
By Jessica Seid, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Last year you caved and bought your kid an iPod, now they want a nano. Where does it end?

"Just say no," said Janet Bodnar, author of "Raising Money Smart Kids"

Many parents struggle with not buying their children what they desire when they can afford to do so. But "it has nothing to do with whether you can afford it," warned Neale Godfrey, author of "Money Still Doesn't Grow on Trees." "It has to do with the values you want to raise the kids with."

Let your child in on your spending decisions and convey the reasons behind the choices that you are making. Explain that "we are saving money for a vacation or something else," Bodnar said, who believes the biggest problem parents have is not talking to their kids about money.

Here are a few other suggestions to keep your kid from becoming a brat.

Give them an early start

Starting when your kids are young, give them a simple lesson in finances. "Explain to them that the bank is a big piggy bank for Mom and Dad," Bodnar said, make sure they realize that the money you have in the bank is not limitless, but only as much as you have put in.

Even as early as three years old, your children begin to understand that money is the medium of exchange, which means that's when their financial education should start, according to Godfrey.

"It's easier if you start them at three than at 18," she said. But if you are already faced with disillusioned teens, it's not too late to teach them money-smart lessons.

Give them boundaries

Adhere to limitations on how much money you will spend. If your child wants an iPod nano, then let them buy it with their own money. You aren't obligated to finance everything your kid wants to buy. "I always say kids will spend unlimited amounts of money as long as it is yours," Bodnar said.

Letting them spend their own money and make their own decisions as to how they want to parcel that out will help them grow into financially capable adults.

Give them responsibility

"Teach them as little ones the natural consequences of money," said Godfrey. "The only way to get it is to earn it."

Let them manage their own money at an early age so they can develop the tools they need to become financially independent adults. Godfrey suggests teaching your kids to set aside some of their own money, like 10 percent, for charity and then dividing up the rest between funds for instant gratification, interim spending and long-term savings.

"Get them involved in how money is spent in real life," Godfrey said.

Give them an allowance

Experts suggest starting with a base allowance that is the anywhere from half the child's age to equal to the child's age per week. You can always add more or supplement their allowance by paying them to do additional chores around the house.

But don't pay them make their beds. Kids need to recognize that cleaning their room and clearing the table are "citizen of the house" duties that don't come with a financial reward. Instead, let your child earn extra money by completing work-for-pay tasks, such as doing laundry or stacking newspapers for recycling.

Don't give in

As your kids get older, movies tickets, cell phones and Starbucks will be just some of the many additional expenses. Adhere to the allowance system and, if necessary, start them on a clothing allowance.

You can set the budget and then they can decide what they want and if they want to supplement their allowance with their own money. If your daughter is coveting a pair of Juicy jeans, let her earn extra money to buy them.

If you child has a cell phone, agree to pay for the basic plan but draw the line there. If they go over their minutes by calling and text messaging their friends, then they should pay the additional charges.

"Say: This is what you owe me this month," Bodnar advised.

And if they have reached -- gasp -- driving age and are using the car, then they should pay for their own gas, parking tickets and even for part of the added insurance cost.

"They need to understand the responsibility that goes along with having access to a car," Godfrey said.

The important thing to remember is that you are not depriving them, you are giving them a financial education that will be extremely valuable in the long run.


Have a good networking story to tell? For an upcoming feature in Money magazine, we are looking to speak with people who have landed a new job (or helped someone else find one) through creative networking. E-mail

For more tips on teaching your kids to be responsible about money, click here.

Concerned about paying for college? Click here.  Top of page

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