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Looking Back


I had a quick call with my parents today in anticipation of our arrival at their home for our 1 1/2 weeks visit this coming Saturday (we leave tomorrow.) And I mentioned to my dad very briefly how it’s taken me nearly 40 years (not quite there yet) to realize just all that he and my mom did for me growing up. I know how blessed I was growing up, I realized that shortly after getting out on my own and having to pay my own bills. But I really did not know how blessed.

When I turned 16, I had shared access to a car, my insurance was paid and all my gas was paid.  I NEVER ONCE thought about what that cost my parents.  Not once. Until now. Now as my twins race towards the much anticipated day of driving license, I shiver at the thought of their car insurance bill, let alone gas.  My parents never brought up the extra burden that must have been for them financially.  (I was the oldest of five, so mine was probably the worst sticker shock with that new life milestone.) I am so grateful to them. Beyond measure grateful.

My dilemma and this is all in my head as I don’t really have many options with this.  But if you could, would you make the same financial decisions for your children as your parents did for you?  Would you follow their lead?

I go back and forth on this for two reasons:

  1. I have struggled with managing my money and making wise financial decisions my entire life.  I am in no way shape or form laying this at my parents feet, but I do wonder if I had had more visibility of these costs as I became a responsible young person, would I be different than I am today.  I am by my nature pretty forthright and do not beat around the bush, even with my kids and money, so I know I am already more open about the costs of living. But on the flip side, I don’t want my children to worry about money or give up any “child” ideals due to money.  Does that make sense?
  2. I already see my children with their “give me” and entitled attitudes and it irks me to no end.  I read that this is part generational but I also know it stems from how I raise them. When discussing the upcoming insurance and necessity of a job for this reason in particular, my son says…but will that leave me any money to spend?

I’m not writing this well, but I hope you are getting where I am going in my thought process.  If I had the funds, I would probably quickly fall in line with what my parents did for me, perhaps with a bit more visibility of the actual costs to my kids.  But the fact of the matter is that I do not, nor do I anticipate having the funds to cover the entirety of the additional costs for driving.

I want to use the blessings my parents gave me with absolutely no strings attached to guide me in making good decisions financial for my children. And I have to start thinking about it now as I budget for the imminent future.

I guess driving is just one example that just happened to come to mind as I was talking to my dad tonight, but in reality, I suppose I am doing a lot of soul searching as I approach some HUGE financial decisions and discussions.  I am trying to understand where my attitude towards money comes from and what my weaknesses in particular are so I can address them to help make permanent changes in my own life.


  • Reply Anonymous |

    When I was 16, my dad bought my twin sister and me new bicycles! (We are the oldest of six kids.) We were never allowed to drive the family car, and of course, insurance was a non-issue. I did not look at this as a negative, though. We lived in a very bike-friendly city and public transit was excellent. But this is the way my parents were. I got my first minimum wage job when I was just 12. Yes, I even had to get my Social Security number. From then on, I was pretty much taking care of all my personal needs from this age on–clothing, any spending money, gifts, school fees, and savings.

    With my own four kids, I tried to hit more of a balance. They all worked as teens and contributed a lot, but I felt that as a parent I had responsibilities to them. I wanted to dial it back a little from the “hard core” attitude my own parents had. I felt that I worked way too much in high school (Usually 25-30 hrs./week.) We allowed our kids to work on weekends but nixed school days. We let them drive the family cars and paid the insurance, although they paid for their own gas. I think my bottom-line attitude was been that these children are ours to raise to independence. I wanted to teach them to be self-reliant, and at the same time, making sure that I was doing all I could do as a parent. We did not want kids with entitled attitudes, but we didn’t want to make it too hard either to reach their life goals.

  • Reply scarr |

    The things parents do for us seems endless! I understand what you are saying, and I think it is okay to question how much you can help out your kids while Staying on top of your own financial plans. My parents paid for our car insurance during high school and part of college but we had to pay for our cars and gas and some maintenance. Our needs were covered while we lived with them but extras were our responsibility. And to be honest having a car is not a need it is a great luxury for a kid at any age.

    I think whatever you decide is appropriate to help your kids with is your choice and is a good choice – hope that made sense. You have so much love for your children and they will always know that. It seems parents want to give kids everything but also want to raise independent kids at the same time. That is a great struggle! You will find a way to balance it out. We have faith in you!

  • Reply TPol |

    In my country and when I was young, driving was more a luxury than a necessity so, I used public transportation. However, my folks never allowed me to work while I was a student with the exception of taking some translation work to do at home. Mom and dad made many sacrifices to put me and my sister through a private school so that, we could start learning English at an early age and we were fully aware of what that took. We never asked for things that could be considered luxuries and had to manage our small allowances. Things are different in your country this day and age so, I guess you need to provide what they need, within your means and they should work to finance what they want. I think you are already providing their biggest need: Love…

  • Reply Scooze |

    i wonder if you’re presenting this in the right light.. is your son getting the impression that if he doesn’t get a job and pay for the insurance, you will pay it for him? Does he understand that this is what it means to own a car: pay for the car, pay the mandatory insurance, pay for gas. If he does understand that, maybe he doesn’t really want a car. That’s okay, right? If he understands what it means to own a car and doesn’t want to pay his hard-earned money for it, then perhaps his own personal priority is something else.

  • Reply emmi |

    Cost-sharing might be a good arrangement. Sit down with the new driver kid and say, okay, here’s the old insurance bill and here’s the new one, the difference is to cover you. Here’s the cost of the car this year in upkeep, adding on the miles you will be driving will increase upkeep by so much %, plus gas costs.

    If you want to use the car for personal stuff you are going to have to contribute part of the additional cost. If you get a job for x hours making y dollars you’ll have Z in take home pay. So from that we can figure out how much they will have in mad money after helping with the car.

    Understanding money is mostly about transparency of costs and understanding that nothing is free, even if mom and dad are paying.

  • Reply Mary |

    Hope, I am sorry this is stressing you out so much. I feel like you need a hug:)

    I can’t really compare what I’d do for my kid for a few reasons….when I was 13 my father died and my Mom was left with 3 kids at home (older brother was married and older sister married soon thereafter so it was just Mom and me and my sister who was 10). Anyway, I never took driver’s ed because my Mom wouldn’t allow me to drive her car. I learned on my own at 21 on own and that’s when I got my license. Yes, it sucked not being able to drive when everyone had their license. As for my own son now, he’s totally disabled and requires 100% care so he can’t function on his own, let alone drive. I didn’t learn anything about personal finance from my Mom…my Dad was the provider and managed money very well…we took annual 6 week vacations that he saved for each week by dropping his change in a coffee can in the living room. He was in the army so our 6 week vacation every year was to go to Idaho where he built a home for us from scratch on his “vacation”. He did everything but the electrical if I recall-drew up the blueprints, had them approved by the city, etc. He died at 46 and the house was built and beautifully done. He never owned a charge card and paid cash for everything. My Mom didn’t have his financial sense or know how so she had debt as long as I can remember. I also paid for all of my personal care items from my babysitting money and I had to earn all of my spending money for college by working three jobs. I got some help via veteran’s benefits but I worked three jobs in the summer and later full time while going to school full time. If there was one thing I wouldn’t want my child to do, that I had to do, it would be to work full time while going to college. If I could, I wouldn’t have them work at all during the school year, instead focusing on their studies. That’s the only thing I would definitely change. Of course, I’d still like to make things easier for my child but like I said, my son is total care so these are non-issues.

    As for your situation, I can see how much you admire and appreciate your family. Since your number one goal is to get a mortgage in your name and pay your Dad back, I’d defer any and all financial decisions until that is done and until you have an emergency fund in place. That means I’d tell the kids that they aren’t getting a car at 16 and that you’ll re-evaluate at 17. Notice I didn’t say they’d get a car at 17. They need to get a job first and learn to be responsible with their money. Let them get estimates on how much auto insurance costs and tell them they need to save 6 months worth of premium before their 17th birthday and at that time, you’ll sit down with them and re-evaluate the decision on them driving. Notice I didn’t say on them getting a “car”. They will need to be responsible for insurance and gas. Hope, you are a single mother with 4 kids. You can’t compare yourself to what your mother and father did when there were two of them and only one of you.

    Anyway, what you might want to do is to talk about this with your Dad. Explain the situation with the twins and ask him what he would do. You obviously admire his financial decisions so I think that would be flattering to him and helpful to you.

    Good luck, Hope. Change is never easy. You will get there.

  • Reply John B. |

    I’m not sure if I would let my children drive in this traffic nowadays. But I’m happy to live in a developed country, where we still get good public education up to the university, and plenty of opportunities. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to live in some impoverished place, where people struggle to satisfy their everyday needs. This is why it is important for me to stress the importance of change in our thinking. Our society is still living a very good life, and there is not a reason to become stressed and competitive about what we can buy for our kids. We shall rather help those who truly need it.

  • Reply Jan |

    When I turned 16, my mother told me that if I wanted to drive the family car, I had to contribute money towards gas and insurance. If I wanted my own car, I needed to pay for it. Did it hurt turning over that money at the time? Yes. Would I have it any other way now that I look back on it? No. Out of all my friends, I was the most prepared for the financial shocks being an adult would bring. All of my friends who had their cars purchased for them, their gas and insurance paid, had a lot of trouble realizing what the true meaning of financial independence was. Me? As a senior in high school, I was asking for such practical things as tires for Christmas. My mother did me a HUGE favor.

So, what do you think ?