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Money-Smart Kids/ Using political elections to educate on the economy

Published 12:27 pm, Tuesday, September 25, 2012
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I was completely blown away this week by a conversation I had with my 9-year-old about our political elections this year. He asked me, "Who are you going to vote for?" Wow, why did he care? Who really cares why he cares? It was time for me to jump on this coaching opportunity.

I will admit I don't have a keen interest in politics, but I do realize the benefit of giving my children a strong foundation in civic values and teaching them the significance of their vote. The younger they learn, the more likely it is that they'll become involved in the democratic process.

This year, I've decided to use my vote as a family vote. That's right -- I've offered my children a say using my vote. As long as they take time to learn about the issues, and have an opinion, I will carry out our family's vote, using me as a proxy, on Nov. 6. I wonder if I'm going against the spirit of the law, which requires you to be 18 to vote.

As a family, we discussed why voting matters and how the process works. We then found several web pages that laid out where Obama and Romney stood on a number of the issues. Since I was trying to teach my children about money, I narrowed in on their views regarding the economy.

I was shocked when my son actually wanted me to print out the page which outlined the differences so he could mark it up with a pen with little pluses and minuses after we reviewed each point. Here's where it got interesting.

In talking about taxes, I told him that under the Obama plan, our family would pay more in taxes. That led to a conversation about what we would change in our spending if we had less money. Obviously, a 9-year-old would stop right there, not thinking of any of the other non-money issues, and say "Let's vote for Romney. We'll have more money and that means more stuff for me." Well, not necessarily.

I then asked him, "Remind me what I do for a living -- to bring money into the household?"

"You're a financial planner. You help people make smarter decisions with their money," he quickly responded.

I chimed in, "Well, if taxes are higher, guess what happens to my business?"

He looked at me, puzzled, so I helped him. "It actually gets better -- much better. You see, Spencer, when taxes go higher, people tend to seek out more advice and they ask their friends -- my clients -- who then direct them to me."

He then quickly chimed in, "OK, so we want Obama because if your business makes more money, then we'll have more money, even when we need to pay more taxes."

Well, not exactly, but I love that I've got him thinking about it in a more analytical way. He's excited about it and he feels like through my vote he's got a say. What a blast.

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.