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Money-Smart Kids/Employing a 5-year-old

Published 2:58 pm, Tuesday, January 29, 2013
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Go ahead and call the police on me. Yes, I did it. I brought my 5-year-old to work the other day and she worked. As long as there is heat in the Westport Police Department jail cell, I'm all set to go.

Over the Martin Luther King holiday, my wife proclaimed that she wanted to go skiing. One small problem was that I just broke my leg, which actually gives me an excuse as to why I can't ski this season. We both realized that it would be too hard for her to manage both a 9- and 5-year-old on the slopes by herself, so I offered to bring my daughter to work with me on Monday while she took my son skiing.

We had an amazing time together, and I want to tell you about it. I started out the night before asking her what she thought I did for a living. She responded, "You make money." While that is technically true, I forced her to expand on her answer, and here's how it went:

"Well, Daddy, you cut out little squares of paper, color it green, put little numbers on it and bring it home," she said, motioning with her hands the size of a dollar bill. Part of me fell out of my chair in laughter and the other part was extremely embarrassed that a financial literacy expert has his daughter thinking he's a counterfeiter.

Oh boy. I had some work to do.

I brought her to the office and tried to give her tasks to do. I know, some of them might seem a bit menial, but for a 5-year-old, I was very impressed. I would print things out from my computer that I needed to prepare for some meetings I had. She would shuttle back and forth to the printer down the hall -- which was a cool adventure for her to go on by herself, with me peeking around the corner without her knowing it -- and then bring those back to staple and file. At one point, she decided to put a number of these collated papers in a file which she thought needed decoration as she drew pictures on them with the client's name. I'm sure my clients will see the humor in it.

The bottom line is, while I don't know that I was able to get her to fully grasp what it means to be a financial planner, she now has a little bit more of a picture of what I do every day.

I'm not supporting child labor. Kids need to be kids. But they also need to have a clue about the real world too. Even in elementary school we can still teach them skills required to do entry-level jobs. Did you ever consider asking your children what skills are necessary to work at a restaurant when you're dining out? You could talk about the chef, the maitre d', waiter, etc. Some of these skills they could be practicing around the house -- busing tables, for example.

While I didn't teach my daughter all the skills that she'll need to be a financial adviser, if she so chooses 20 years down the line, I did give her valuable exposure to at least one career path. As I tucked her under the covers before she went to bed, she whispered in my ear, "Daddy, today was the best day ever."

I left the room thinking I hit the parenting jackpot.

And when I left, she snickered, realizing that she's already mastered office politics. Mission accomplished after all.

Tom Henske is a Westport resident and partner with Lenox Advisors, a wealth management firm with offices in New York and Stamford. His "Money-Smart Kids" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at thenske@lenoxadvisors.com..