Link copied to clipboard

A recent article by NBC News noted that two sorts of mothers are likely to stay-at-home. The first group are mothers whose husbands earn enough to put the family in the top 5% of wage-earners. These wealthy moms have the luxury of staying home with their kids.

The other group are mothers whose husbands earn just enough to put the family in the bottom 25% of household incomes. It might seem logical that mothers in these low income families would work outside the home to contribute to the household finances. But no. These moms stay-at-home because it costs too much to go to work.

It will come as no surprise to you that childcare is expensive. The families that are least well-off spend as much as 30% of their household income on childcare, according to the US Census report Who’s Minding the Kids. The report also explains that only 6% of families report that they receive assistance with childcare from the government, from an employer, or from the other parent.

Low-paying work available to mothers who opted for family first instead of a career cannot cover the cost of childcare, the cost of travel to and from a job, the cost of professional clothing and so on. It’s no wonder that mothers with the least family income see no point in getting a job.

If this is you, what do you do? There are two options: finding very affordable (but quality) childcare or finding work that requires no childcare at all.

Free or low-cost childcare. Your mother comes to mind. But if she were available, a non-smoker, and actually good with kids you’d have thought of her already. Trading shifts with your partner might be more workable. If your partner works the day shift and you work the evening shift, you can trade childcare and make things work. Trading childcare with a friend is also an option.

The bottom line in all these childcare options is quality. Your kids are better off with you, in a frugal household, than they are being cared for by someone who isn’t really paying attention, isn’t happy with the task, and really doesn’t much like filling in for you. No amount of money makes up for miserable or even dangerous caretaking.

But if you, your family, or your friends can work out a friendly and fun childcare community then your kids will thrive and you will too. Getting out of the house and making a little cash is a good thing. Most working moms say they wouldn’t go back to stay-at-home status.

Working from home. Just because you got a family instead of a college degree doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of living by your wits. And with business tools as close as your computer, the playing field is leveled. What matters is what you can do, not how long you went to school.

The simplest work-from-home ideas are ideas – sales, customer service, writing, advising, and so on. These are simple because they require no inventory and no shipping or accounting for sales taxes. But if you are handy, you can also make and sell crafts on sites like Etsy. I know a woman who buys cheap furniture from thrift shops, spiffs them up a bit, and sells them on Craigslist.

The key to making your own business work for you is to control your costs but also to deliver high value. You’ll be competing with the best, so you must be at the top of your game. Find something you like to do – something you want to do – and that works well in coordination with minding your kids and giving them all they need. It may take some creativity and daring, but the feeling of making your own way is tremendous.

Strong women set a great example for their children. When the deck seems stacked against you is the time to show your strength.

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. Dr. Anderson’s new book, Developmentally Appropriate Parenting, is available in bookstores now.

Goodness knows, raising children is costly. Every once in a while you might look for a quick source of cash more than what you might locate under the couch cushions. Every once in a while you might recall that your child has a nice nest egg, just waiting to be tapped.

It’s not unusual for parents to feel their child is richer than they are. Maybe the child has a bank account stuffed with an inheritance left by a favorite, dearly-departed aunt. Maybe the child has a stock portfolio started when the he was a baby and now worth a bit more than a new car. Maybe you started a college savings plan for your child and the money is there, calling to you. Maybe your child has her own bank account, filled with her earnings from a part-time job.

Because minors cannot enter into contracts on their own, you likely have access to all of these accounts. The accounts may be in your name but even if they aren’t, you, as the child’s parent, are likely to be the owner-of-record. When that money calls to you, you have the means to answer the call.

It’s very easy to imagine that this money is partly your own.  You need it now to tide the family over, the child is part of the family, so if you take his money you’re helping the child too. Your kid is a minor, so she really can’t have that money herself, so it really is yours, right? This is what you tell yourself anyway. And, of course, you’ll pay it back before he needs it. Sure you will.

Here’s the deal. You may have a legal right to access your child’s money. I am not an attorney and every state has slightly different laws, so I am in no position to tell you for sure, but it’s possible that if you stole money from your child’s account you’d get away with it, no problem.

But it would indeed be stealing. Morally, ethically, you know that taking money out of your child’s account – even just borrowing it for a while – is not right. Your child is an independent person, even if she’s underage. Her money is hers.

You know this. You have no intention of accessing your child’s money without her permission. But what if you ask her for it? What if she says, “yes,” you can have it?

Keep in mind that even in this case there are ethical problems. Your child is not free to make decisions on her own, from a legal point of view. And he may feel pressured to go along with your request because he is dependent on you and needs your goodwill. In an unequal social situation, the less powerful person must be protected. Just asking for the money puts your child in a funny position, where he might assume it is dangerous to refuse.

So the answer is no, no, no. Do not tap into your child’s money. Don’t do it. Put the possibility out of your mind. And now is the time to protect your child from predation by other relatives.

Make certain that your child’s accounts are held by two different adults, preferably one who is not a member of the family and who can be counted on to stand up to anyone who requests sign-off on release of the funds. If only you or only your child’s other parent is the co-signer or signatory on the account, then the account is vulnerable to raiding without anyone else knowing. The time to add another name to the account is now, before there is any hint of temptation to tap into it.

Finally, make certain your child knows the money is hers, not someone else’s, and she has responsibility to protect it until she reaches legal age. She should not tap into it herself but should hold it until she reaches 18. Restraint on all sides protects everyone from an ethical lapse.

One of the most damaging acts family members can commit is to steal from each other. Selfishness, double-dealing, and greed tear families apart. This is hard enough when the bad actors are one’s adult siblings or cousins. It’s even harder to accept when the bad actors are one’s own parents.

No child should look back on his childhood and realize he was robbed.

© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.

It’s no secret that many parents have an uncomfortable relationship with money. Whether there’s too little to go around, too much reliance on credit, or too many jobs required to make ends meet, money is the Number One issue young couples wrestle with. If we could, we would save our children from struggling with money in their own adult lives. How do we do that?

Well, naturally, we give them information we wish we’d had, things we’ve learned from hard experience. But studies show that parents don’t tell children everything. They leave some parts of the household economy out of their conversations with kids. And those missing pieces are the very ones children need to absorb if they’re going to have a sensible idea of how money works.

Researchers at North Carolina State University and University of Texas interviewed 136 children aged 8 to 17. The average age of the kids was 10½ . They found that, according to these children, parents were most likely to have talked with children about saving money, spending wisely, and ways to earn money. Think of this as conversations about doing chores for cash and putting some away in a kid-savers account, and arguments in Target over what the child should buy or not buy with the crumpled up bills in his pocket. Sounds pretty normal, right?

But some aspects of money management were missing. Children reported that while they had been taught how to manage their own allowances, parents had told them nothing about family finances, how much their parents earn, how their parents save or invest their money, or the sort of debt parents have. These larger issues expenditures and income were completely absent from children’s financial educations.

I understand why. Most parents might quail at the thought of sharing with their children how much income the household makes. They might shield children from realities of debt and credit issues. But by hiding this information from kids, parents set their children up. When these kids become young adults, with money of their own, they have no idea how to adhere to a budget, limit use of credit, avoid late fees, borrow money and make plans to pay it back, file taxes, and stay out of financial trouble.

In addition, the study found a difference in what parents tell boys compared to what they tell girls. Although few children reported much conversation about debt or investments, boys were significantly more likely to have been told about these areas of money management than were girls. Obviously, this difference makes no sense. Gone are the days when women can delegate all their financial business to a man.

So what to do? Lead researcher Lynsey Romo says, “even young kids are aware of financial issues, regardless of whether parents talk with them about money. And if parents aren’t talking with their kids about subjects like family finances or debt, the kids are drawing their own conclusions — which may not be accurate.” Just as in talking about sex or religion, one doesn’t sit a child down for a long lecture and think you’re done. In talking about how money works, little bits of information, delivered as things come up, is the way to go.

  1. Let your kids see you pay bills. Many children don’t realize that their parents are paying for the house, the car, heat, lights, cable TV and the Internet. The extent of a family’s fixed expenses – things that have to be paid for every month – is a black box for most children. By age 10 – the average age of children in the study – kids should understand that their comfort costs money.
  2. Let your kids in on your budget. You don’t have to disclose numbers, if you don’t want to. There’s no need to name the actual monthly income amount. Use a pie chart if you like: here’s a picture of all the money we have coming in this month and here’s the slice set aside for this and that fixed expense, and here’s the slice left over for fun.
  3. Make obvious the ways you set money aside. If money is taken out of your check before taxes for savings or investments, talk about that, especially with older kids. If you set money aside from your monthly budget, make that action explicit. Children are more likely to save their money if they know you do too.
  4. Budget money for charity and tell your children that you do. Have a family discussion about what charities to support and how much money can be shared. If there’s no money for charity this month, talk about ways to volunteer instead.
  5. Talk about taxes. Police and fire protection, libraries and schools, roads and Fourth of July parades are all funded by various tax contributions. These things, like groceries and gasoline, children may take for granted. Clue them in to the fact that money makes the community work too, just as it makes the family economy run smoothly.

It’s time to bring money out of hiding. Give your children the tools they need for the future. Talk about money now.


© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Join Dr. Anderson in an online conference for teachers and parents. Find out more at Quality Conference for Early Childhood Leaders.