Money-Smart Kids/Are we almost there yet?
It's hard to believe it's February and my wife just reminded me that the kids' winter break starts Feb. 18. Tonight at dinner, we discussed going skiing for a few days as a family.
I must admit it became difficult to enjoy dinner when I mentally started tallying up all the expenses that goes into even the shortest of trips. Here was the list went through my mind as we did our planning:
Lost-opportunity costs of vacation days I need to take (yes, I am sure to get a nasty email from one of you on this one ... but it counts!)
I could go on and on but you get the general gist of what I'm talking about. Our family has decided to keep a list of all of these expenses during our trip this year. The goal isn't to try and spend less money and be more frugal than normal by keeping track of things. Rather, the objective is to teach our children to have a general feel all the expenses that go into taking a family trip. It also provides an open and safe environment for talking about money.
You might think that your children are too young for this exercise. That's probably your own head trash talking and you should quickly let it exit your mind. What would be the downside even if they don't get everything you're talking about? Correct, there is no downside. You can never be certain when that light bulb inside your offspring's head is about to turn on and make a major breakthrough that will pay dividends well beyond these years.
I am very excited as we have already bought a notebook to keep our log in. My son will be in charge of writing each line item, and adding it up as we go along. We plan on keeping a running tally to see what the cumulative total is at as we end each day. My younger daughter can't write yet but she is certainly capable of drawing pictures and even if she won't grasp the exact lesson we're working on she'll provide some comic relief along the way with the cute and innocent questions she'll have. Her big brother is usually a good sport and it's also a blast hearing him trying to simplify the complex to keep her involved.
My challenge to you is to keep a log over your winter break. I'm planning on collecting your feedback and writing a follow-up article about the unique experiences you had. Just email or call me with any experiences you shared with your kids. And for those of you who don't want to speak with me live, I'll even take a voicemail from you giving me the details (firstname.lastname@example.org and 212-536-6178). "Are we almost there yet?" I'll let you know in a few weeks.
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: email@example.com.