Should I have “The Talk” With My Kids

The answer to that for every parent is YES! You should have “the talk” about money as soon as your kids understand what money is and start asking for it (or treating you like a never-ending golden stream of money). Making sure your child has a mature and caring understanding about money is a very important part of parenting.

My parents never had “the Talk” with me, and I had to learn a lot of what I initially knew from magazines and on the street, or worse from the school of hard knocks. If you think you are a Subject Expert then by all means have that conversation. If you know someone who is more skilled at the financial arts, bring them in and discuss things frankly and with an open mind with your kids.

Point out that there are many ways to save money, and there are even people who go with Alternate (financial) lifestyles, and even put their money in Dividend Paying stocks (on purpose), not that there is anything wrong with that. As I have always said, “To each his or her own”, who am I to dictate how people should save, as long as they are happy doing it, and aren’t harming anyone.

With no understanding of how money works, the real danger for your child is (naturally) debt.  Without “the talk” kids might think you could only get into debt from having the wrong purse, from begin victims of identity theft, from using public ATMs, or other uninformed ideas. Without a good understanding kids are much more likely to end up in debt, and once that happens, will they be able to get out of it?

Am I being facetious and mocking Sex Education? No, I am just pointing out that most parents worry a great deal about their kids learning about procreation, sex and such, but not many seem to spend much time teaching their kids about money (nor do they seem to care if the education system does either). Without any financial education your kids are almost as likely to bring home a bundle for you to help take care of, a large debt! 

Talk about Sex but Not Money?

Most parents will make sure their son has a condom when they go out on a date, but don’t seem to worry when they get a credit card and go out for the night? Think about it, it might keep them from moving into your basement, permanently.


Private School Fallacy

A classic from 2013 about sending your kids to Private Schools. My son attends one, but that is because he is on the spectrum. If a private school offers the best option for your child and you can afford it, why not send them?

On the weekend Garth Turner railed about a parent he met who was sending his child to a private school. This even though the parent could not afford it. Was this child gifted or learning disabled, was not clear. Garth went on about how Public Schools are perfectly good. Mr. Turner you were a fool if you send your child to a private school. His reasoning was if you are paying taxes for the Public school system, you are double paying for education.

Let me state my opinions on this (leaving Garth’s odd commentary aside for now). The public school system is set up for the middle 80% of

This is not very cheap
This is not very cheap

children, in terms of “intelligence” and such, that is a fiscal truth (unfortunately). Depending on the school and teachers, most kids will thrive in the public school system. If your child is in the upper 10% (i.e. gifted) or the bottom 10% (learning disabled, or other issues) there are few programs in the public school system in Ontario. Yes there are “gifted” programs and there are programs for kids who need more help. I can attest that these programs are woefully underfunded and very hard to find.

For those about to leap into the “you are generalizing, I know of a kid…”, I am not. I have been blessed with 4 wonderful kids, two which went through the “gifted” program in the public system. My son is on the Autism spectrum who is in a private school. The “gifted” programs are being cut, due to budget issues, and the “rules” ¬†for placement in a gifted program are getting tighter and tighter (so they really only serve the top 3% ).

As for the Public Board’s Autism program, it is set up for the kids much more disabled than my son. This means he ends up “between” the two programs, and why he is in a Private School program. This may change, as he matures.

Different people have different reasons for putting their kids into Private Schools, but if you cannot afford to put your kid into a Private School, and you are only doing it for “prestige” and not a specific educational reason, maybe you should review that. If your child does need a special program at a Private School, investigate if there is help you can get for in the public system.


I Don’t Have Time To Learn All This!

Many folks complain that they just do not have time for their financial education and to that I say, Mule Muffins! (apologies for the salty words).

financial education

If you want to expand your financial education in general there are so many ways to get good information you are kidding yourself if you say you don’t have time to learn (and you are doing yourself damage financially as well).

The good news is you already have started, because you are reading this blog (and hopefully many other Financial Blogs (look in the right column on this page if you are reading it in a browser). Good for you, you get a gold star for this, but there is so much more you can be doing to get your financial IQ up.

financial education

There are financial podcasts all over the place, our friend Preet has a great one, which you should listen to and there are countless other ones. Financial E-Books are everywhere so you can read or listen to so much information, that will enrich your understanding of the world of finances.

Financial Education While Driving ?

You don’t have time, you say? Horse Hockey! If you commute to work, there is your time right there.

  • If you drive, can you connect your listening device to your car’s radio system? Then, you are in, simply put all the audio financial info you can find on that device and listen away. That is where I listen to podcasts, and interesting financial books.
  • If you take the bus, you have many options: You can either read using an e-reader, or your tablet (or even a printed book (how old school is that)); or listen with your favorite audio device. When I was taking the bus downtown I listened to countless books during the commute. Reading the paper is fine for the commute, but you can do more

This all sounds expensive does it? Horse Fritters! Remember your library is your friend and in Ottawa we have a wonderful collection of all kinds of e-books, audio books and written books to fill your educational gap. If you are in Ottawa and you don’t use the library (and maybe donate some money if you are), you are not taking advantage of this valuable resource. You can download audio books and listen to them straight from there.

In the New Year, your resolutions about losing weight, working harder and not kicking the dog so much, while important, pale in comparison to expanding your financial education, go do that now (don’t wait for the new year).


The Cost of University Residence

One of the more interesting discussions I have had with folks about the cost of University, is the cost of a child to go away to University. In most cases, children (for some time) who live away from home to go to school will live in University Residence (or on campus housing of some kind). On campus housing when I was at school usually included the cost of food and such, but even that has changed.

How much can “Residence” cost? I can only draw on my own experiences and residence with food is now costing upwards of $4000 per term, or about $8000 a year.

Before I get a plethora of comments about how living off campus is cheaper, and getting your own apartment is cheaper, I realize that but let’s just stay on topic for now, and work with the $8000 per year cost of going to school away from home (note I have not included the costs of getting the child to and from this foreign place, which depending on the foreign location could be quite expensive as well (a child wanting to go to Memorial in Newfoundland whose parents live in Vancouver, this cost would be huge)).

This figure is $8000 without actually going to school, and this can mean that if the child stays in residence for a 4 year degree is could cost well over $30,000.00, which is a very large amount of money.

One of the interesting solutions I have heard from a few parents is that they have offered their own children (who are near post secondary age) access to a car (or outright buying a car), if their child chooses to stay in town and lives at home during their degree. Is this bribery? Maybe, but it does have some method to the madness as well:

  • The cost of a good used car is much less than $8000 a year (gas, insurance, and parking).
  • If you already have an extra car, it can cost a great deal less than this.

I have made this offer to my youngest child, but I am confident she will not take me up on the offer (unfortunately her two older siblings have gone away, and she does not want to stay at home, if it means she might have to watch her younger brother).

Strangely we have had folks have very strong negative reactions to this idea, and I am not sure I completely understand the concern. The reaction usually is, “Why are you wasting that money, you should save it!”, but is this solution really ‘wasting’ money? I don’t think so, but I am curious to hear my reader’s point of view on this interesting financial plan.


What is Your Degree Worth?

I have a degree from a traditional University, which has served me well throughout my working career. I was lucky enough to get the right degree at the right time (i.e. Computer Science in the early 80’s), and the school I got my degree from has a degree of cache with employers, so my degree was worth every penny (that my parents paid, I’d also like to point out).

These days, what are the degrees the new grads are getting worth? Having 3 children either about to start or about to finish University degrees I am keenly interested in this subject. My kids are at a University in Canada, but there are also Colleges which offer some interesting programs, and I work with folks with degrees from these establishments as well.

Then there are the on line “Universities” and “Colleges”, I don’t really understand the whole system with these “degrees’ that are received and their value, however, PBS did do a very interesting Frontline piece on this exact subject. If you are thinking about getting one of the “degrees” I would strongly suggest watching this video and figuring out whether it is all worth it.

While this is only a small portion of the video, but wander over to PBS and watch the entire show.


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