Survey shows big money pressures for kids

The Associated Press
Wednesday May 16, 2001

WASHINGTON — Zach Landau, 13, gets a weekly allowance of $6.50. He spends some on crickets and fleas as food for his menagerie of lizards, salamanders, tree frogs and other creatures. Some of it he saves. 

His parents don’t plan to give him or his siblings credit cards despite peer pressure. 

Nationwide, too many parents don’t make that decision, according to a survey of American parents.  

Drowning in credit card debt themselves, they set bad examples and fail to teach their children how to manage and save money, the survey said. 

Zach came with his father from Oak Hill, Va., to appear at a news conference where the survey results were released. The boy said he likes the idea of putting aside some of his allowance but admitted his approval is not total. 

By saving the money, Zach said, “You don’t really get the immediate gratification you’d like.” 

The survey by the American Savings Education Council and the Employee Benefit Research Institute released showed that 51 percent of parents believe they understand financial matters very well. 

Yet 55 percent said they carry over credit card debt from month to month, which often inspires the same behavior in their children, said Dallas Salisbury, the savings council’s chairman. 

“You’re setting them up for a lifetime of distress,” he said. 

Young people are bombarded by tempting products and messages urging them to buy now and worry later. 

At the same time, the average savings rate of Americans has plunged to the lowest levels since the Depression, hitting minus 1.3 percent in February.  

The EBRI-ASEC “Choose to Save” coalition, the banking industry and other groups are trying to get through to children early about the importance of saving. 

An overwhelming number of young people say they turn to their parents for financial education and guidance. 

What are they receiving? According to the survey, 61 percent of parents include their children in discussions about family finances; 29 percent have provided educational materials to help teach their kids about financial responsibility; 52 percent have taught them how to make budgets; and 61 percent have shown them how to set financial goals. 

All those are recommended by the EBRI-ASEC coalition as ways parents can teach their children about good money management. 

The survey, conducted Jan. 4 through 30, covered 1,000 adults around the country with one or more children age 6-17. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. 

Also at Thursday’s news conference were Lucinia Mundy and her daughter, Opal, a 10-year-old from Brandywine, Md., whose weekly allowance is $5. About half of that goes in the bank, and the other half is spent on video games and other goodies, she said. 

Before spending, “I think long and hard about it,” Opal said.  

“I need to know what is more important to me.” 

Lucinia Mundy said she requires her daughter to save at least 20 percent of her allowance and cash gifts she receives from relatives. 

Besides the other EBRI-ASEC recommendations, the coalition also suggests that parents encourage their children to learn from mass media about saving and handling of money.  

They also should explain about employment and pension and saving plans, the coalition says. 

On the Net: Survey at American Savings Education Council Web site: http://www.asec.org