The Simple Dollar Morning Roundup: Talking to a Friend Edition

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A friend of mine told me a story about his decision whether or not to lend money to his brother. He didn’t really want any advice on the topic, so I chose to not say anything about it. However, if he’s reading this blog, he might want to read this article which basically matches his situation perfectly.

Treating Siblings Equitably: Financial Dilemmas If my children are all in adulthood and one of them comes asking for a loan, I won’t give it to him without offering those same terms to all of my children. If we decide to give some cash to one of the children, we’ll give the same to all of the children. My wife and I have discussed this, and we feel it’s the only fair way to do things. (@ all financial matters)

3 Great Money Lessons From My Old Man He sounds like an excellent fellow. (@ the digerati life)

The Tooth Fairy Made A Visit Last Night My wife and I have been very conflicted about the idea of a tooth fairy. If we operated in a social bubble, we would do away with it, but we’re also worried about our child coming home wondering why the “tooth fairy” never visits him or her. It’s a tough one. (@ blogging away debt)

The Simple Dollar Retro: The Ten Biggest Money Mistakes I’ve Made Since My Financial Meltdown I make giant mistakes all the time.

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30 thoughts on “The Simple Dollar Morning Roundup: Talking to a Friend Edition

  1. What about Santa? Probably the biggest lie in our culture. Not to mention one that teaches kids to have a perpetual want list. At the same time, it’s a difficult concept for a young kid to grasp as far as why they are different.

  2. I have the same conflict about Santa you have with the tooth fairy. I’m pretty sure there will be no “Santa” here. There hasn’t been so far. But as my kids get older it will be harder for me to explain I think.

  3. I’m 30, my brother 28. I chose a career in technology and have done fairly well at reaching middle class standards. My brother chose life with a non-profit organization, and he often has to rely on the charity of others for livelihood. I don’t/wouldn’t expect our parents to treat us equally with financial gifts. IMO, my brother has chosen the more noble of pursuits, and I pass along financial support as often as I can.

    With children, I’m totally on board with fairness and equality, but once those children have reached responsible adulthood, then there must be a recognition of needs and responsibility. My brother has not been irresponsible. He has almost completed a Graduate degree (more than my Bachelor’s) and lives with frugality (as opposed to my tendency to accumulate debt).

    I just don’t see that you can write a blanket post on how to treat adult children with respect to financial generosity.

  4. I tend to feel the same way about Santa and have ideals for my future children enjoying a simple holiday without any material wishes. But then I realize that I believed in Santa, wanted all the newest toys, etc. when I was younger, yet still grew up to be financially responsible, debt-free, and have no desire for the newest clothes or gadgets. Therefore, I think that these childhood joys aren’t all that bad. I think that a parent’s daily lessons are more important than special occasions.

  5. It’s tough when dealing with family and finances. My brother is a working college student and recently asked me to cosign for him on a car loan. I love him and he’s a good guy, but I genuinely felt I would be hurting him by cosigning. Iinstead showed him a budget that he could do and be able to get a car outright in 3 months. He was disappointed at first, but now he’s working towrds his goals. I showed him how mauch many he can save in the long run by buying it with cash (over $3,000 in 3 years). I hope he sticks with it.

  6. Family and money, oh the great topic. It is always hard when you have a family member that doesn’t understand how to be good with money. I don’t have children but it would break my heart if I had a child who decided to not manage money well. It is just a hotbed for conflict.

  7. What is with the theme against Santa and the Tooth Fairy? Part of childhood is imagination and innocence. Did you have the Tooth Fairy and Santa when you were a child? Do you feel you turned out to be a pretty good person? Let the kids imagine and have fun, and don’t make them the outcast at their school. Don’t take things so seriously.

  8. I don’t know that its so much an anti-imagination theme. It’s got more to do with the lying for me personally. But, to your point…most parents wouldn’t let their kids have an imaginary friend as they start 3rd grade. What’s the difference between that and Santa?

  9. First of all, it is my parents money. What they chose to do with it is their own concern, not mine.

    They flat out gave my irresponsible, identity stealing little brother well over $22,000 and they will never see it again.

    I asked for a $1,200 loan to help me move for a better job and repaid it in three months. They asked about repayment over and over. It kinda (kinda?) irritated me for a while until I thought, “It is their money to do with what they wish – loan or give.” The term “fairness” is for whiners and losers.

    After 42 years on this earth and after raising 3 kids, I believe that it is impossible to be absolutely 100% equitable in your dealings with anyone, much less your children. You know their individual needs better than anyone. If one child needs to “borrow” some money, let ‘em. Use the term “borrow” with them and let them keep some dignity. Don’t expect it back, but don’t embarrass them by offering the same deal to the others.

    You probably will have at least one child that will disappoint you in some way. I just pray it IS in a financial realm because financial discipline CAN be taught. Other means of getting disappointed by your kids can be much worse.

    Game plan: teach them now. Teach them while they’re young. Teach them to respect your property and the property of others. Teach them to respect the views and opinions of others, particularly those that are older (grandparents, teachers, etc). Teach them to handle money EARLY. Teach them that money is scarce and that choosing to buy something means they cannot buy something else later. Teach them to save. My kids are required to save half of everything. Teach them to be giving and to contribute to some sort of charity that supports your family’s belief system. Finally, teach them by example and practice what you preach.

    Try reading “Raising Money-Smart Kids: How to Teach Your Children the Secrets of Earning, Saving, Investing, and Spending Wisely” by Ron Blue. This was a great book by my standards. This author has written several good financial books.

  10. @ Chef,

    All I am saying is that I have not witnessed any negative consequences of a child believing in Santa, and if they enjoy it, why not?

    However, if you choose not to have Santa for your kids, that is fine too, but at least consider the social consequences like Trent is doing here.

    The biggest opponents to Santa, from what I have seen, are generally conservative Christians. They don’t want their children to believe in something that they cannot see that will bring them “gifts”, but then they go to church on Sunday and ask them to do the same……..??????

  11. I think the Tooth Fairy is just something little and fun. I don’t see the harm in it. And without it I wouldn’t have been able to hear my son’s story of how the tooth fairy comes into the houses (through the peep-hole in the door, btw).

    The Santa issue is completely different. I love Santa and wouldn’t take it away from my child, but it INFURIATES me when I tell him he can’t have something (or something’s too expensive) and he says “Well I’ll just ask Santa for it”. I was discussing this with a friend, who said she has taught her children that Santa can’t afford all the materials to “make” presents for every single child. So parents have to give Santa the money for the materials. I LOVED this. You get to keep the spirit of Santa alive, without the kids thinking everything just comes for free as if by magic (sort of).

    But I can remember not being able to sleep on Christmas night, thinking about Santa. And waiting for the reports on TV of where Santa was (we track him on-line at Norad now). And my family also throws out “reindeer food”. I can’t imagine taking that fun, magical part of Christmas away from my child just to try and teach a lesson on money. If you’re teaching those lessons the other 364 days a year what’s the harm in letting them believe?

  12. By the time your kids are in school, there will be some who know that it is all fake, so it is REALLY unlikely your kid will get to grade 3 without finding out. One year when I taught grade 1, we emailed Santa. There were three who looked pretty doubtful about it all, and I am sure at least one of them knew it was fake, but didn’t want to upset me by telling me that it wasn’t real.

    As far as parental support — I do think if you are GIVING away money, you should try to do it equally, unless there is some really good reason why one kid gets more (has special needs, has had major misfortune, particularly if it is not of his own making). BUT — I don’t actually think parents should be giving their kids money. Loans, sure, but that should be paid back. My mom has loaned all of us money at some point, she aways charges a low rate of interest, and we have all paid her or are currently paying her back.

    One thing I’ve read several times in estate planning material is that sometimes parents will leave more to the child who isn’t doing as well. This can be quite a slap in the face to the one or ones who did make something of themselves. The most important point seems to be that these kinds of issues be discussed in advance. Estate battles can really tear a family apart.

  13. Keri — as for asking Santa for everything — whenever my boys (well, really the 4 year old) want a toy at this time of year, I just say, oh, you should put that on the list for Santa. However, I also tell them that they can’t be greedy with Santa because he has to make toys for ALL the kids in the world, and he can’t afford and doesn’t have time to give one kid lots and lots of toys. Asking Sants for something is NOT a guarantee that Santa will bring it. Also, I tell them that I am a mom, so I am allowed to call Santa and tell him if there is something that I don’t want to have in our house.

  14. I wonder if in the best possible worlds, parents try to give equitably and children don’t expect that. My parents have given to us the same lump sum when we got married. But they also paid tuition for my brother’s law school. He feels super obligated to pay them back. I don’t think they expect it back; I think they were really happy to help him out in a way their parents couldn’t do for them. I was glad for it too because my brother has really turned his life around and this was one of his first good breaks (the next being finding his wife at law school.) So from the kid perspective, my brother got a lot more from my parents than I, but I don’t really care and I don’t think it is an issue for any of us–except maybe my brother.

  15. Margaret, I pretty much do the same things you do regarding Santa. My son’s 8 and he still believes – hasn’t even questioned it really other than to say some of his friends thought Santa wasn’t real and that “they were stupid”. But yeah, I’ve told him that I get to “approve” the list and that Santa can’t bring everything, or really expensive things (like the 4-wheeler he wants) because ALL the children need toys. He understands, but I’m not one of those parents who buys my kid a lot of toys throughout the year (he buys them himself with his $3/week allowance) so getting several things at Christmas is a big deal to him – no matter where it comes from.

  16. Chef – I don’t believe that having an imaginary friend is a bad thing. I wouldn’t “forbid” my 3rd grader to have one. In fact, I still sometimes choose to believe that I am, in fact, adopted and that my real family is normal (and has a summer home in the Bahamas). :)

    I never felt “lied to” by my parents about Santa. In fact, I can’t even remember being traumatized by finding out he wasn’t real. I can’t remember the finding out part at all. But I DO remember all the fun of thinking about him and planning for him. And I think I basically turned out normal.

  17. @ Mark

    Wow – you nailed me as the conservative Christian. I grew up with “Santa” while my wife did not. I have always been a huge fan, what kid is not? My wife has won me over with her constant arguments against Santa – although mostly because of lying to your kids. I really tried to justify it as just plain fun, and I have no problem with people who see it that way, but the truth is that you feed them a lie.

    Interesting logic regarding the gift giving. I haven’t personally heard that. Although I have heard the argument that you tell your kid about Santa and then they are unable to determine why Jesus is real and Santa isn’t. Since this is a PF blog, I will stop my comments here.

  18. @Mark – I agreed with your post until the last paragraph, which was completely uncalled for. First of all, it isn’t accurate to make a generalization about the type of people that oppose Santa. People have opinions about this issue for various reasons. I also think that your ideas about why Christians oppose the idea of Santa is inaccurate. Some people would rather focus on the meaning of the season and on generosity rather than on materialism and receiving.

    @Keri – My parents would do the opposite – when they would say no to something, they would tell me to ask Santa for it. I knew that Santa would only bring a few big gifts, so it taught me to think about which things were “worth” asking Santa for and that Christmas gifts are sometimes things that you can’t have everyday and that’s what makes it special.

    As far as spending on children, the original poster says it would be ideal for parents to have a “trust fund” for each child. In addition to this being unfeasible for most families, is it really fair for one child to use up all the money on equipment they need for their disability that wasn’t their fault and the other to use it however they want?

    But if a parent spends money on one child for a disability is it fair for the other children to do without things they could have otherwise had? It might sound harsh, but I say yes it is fair. If your family had something unfortunate happen to someone, it isn’t that persons fault anymore than yours, so everyone should have to make sacrifices. That way the spending might not be equal, but everyone gets the same amount of “extra” things.

  19. I don’t think it’s a good idea to offer the kids that don’t want a loan the same terms there and then, it sounds like a sure fire way to make that kid wanting the loan to feel really bad.

    Maybe let the others know that they can have a loan on the same terms if they need one. Or just state it at some other time when no one has any money conflicts.

  20. My husband teaches 5th and 6th gade. One of the teachers at his school has the 5th graders write an essay about whether or not there is a Santa and asks them to back up their arguement. The overwhelming majority write in favor of Santa. One chlid who wrote the opposite and said in effect, “my parents told me the truth, stupid parents” In my house Santa only brings one gift and he does it only for those who believe, so everyone, regardless of age ,adult or child , believes in Santa so they can get a present! : )

  21. @Chef – I am a Christian and I have heard both sides of the argument. I have no problem either way, they are your kids. The “lie” argument seems to be popular, but do you feel like you were lied to when you were a kid? It sounds like you enjoyed it, and finding out Santa isn’t real can be a “growing up” experience. I personally feel that believing in Santa helps kids believe in Jesus, before Jesus is interesting to them. Just teaching kids to “believe” in something they can’t see is enough for me.

    @LC – I did not generalize, it is just MY observation of the people that I know. There are plenty of Christians that enjoy the Santa routine, and there are plenty of atheists that avoid it. I personally think that Santa gets kids interested in Christmas, and when they are old enough to understand the meaning it will be more relevant to them.

  22. @Mark: My father is really into Christmas, and my mother indulged him, although she is not from this country and doesn’t care about Santa or Christmas. I remember being 7, wrapping my own presents with my mom, and writing “From Santa!” on the tag. It really disturbed me then that my father was either deluded or lying. My brother is developmentally delayed, and we didn’t try to tell him the truth until he was in middle school. When we broke the news to him, he cried and cried and cried- it was terrible. I think both of us would have been better off knowing the truth from the beginning. It’s really tough on a child to find out that your parents have been lying to you.

  23. @ Trent

    I think the tooth fairy will probably be a good idea. It’s unpleasant to lose a tooth–the blood, the pain, the techniques for removing one (apples, doors and strings, etc).

    The fact that there is a little reward counteracts all that unpleasantness for a child, IMO. Just make sure something like this doesn’t happen: http://pbfcomics.com/?cid=PBF187-Way_Too_Much.jpg#156

    As for Santa, when I was a kid, we got presents from the farm animals that lived on our ranch. Dinky the Donkey always gave sweaters, as I recall. Is that weirder than Santa? =P

  24. @wanda,

    I can see your point, and I am sure no parent intends to harm their child with the Santa routine. In fact, most parents probably think they are doing the right thing.

    I have such great memories of “Santa” and Christmas as a kid that I am compelled to do the same for my kids. However, I can see the downfalls. Thanks.

  25. I don’t ever remember feeling “lied to” – as if my parents were trying to maliciously deceive me. And I don’t think kids usually have to be told by their parents that there isn’t a Santa – they usually just figure it out on their own. Personally I think it’s sad – because when they start dis-believing is when they start becoming jaded. After all, why would anyone do that for a bunch of other people?

    Most parents I know lie to their kids at some point – for instance when a child asks why Daddy isn’t there anymore are you really going to say he’s a drunk or he cheated? In the grand scheme of things lying about Santa is not really something I consider “lying”.

    Personally I don’t see a downfall. But maybe I just don’t get it.

  26. My parents gave us a dollar per tooth, but they didn’t give the credit to a “tooth fairy.” They did however explain why *other* parents might lie to their kids about the existence of imaginary people like Tooth Fairy and Santa. They further explained that it would be mean to tell the believing kids that these things didn’t really exist. They could believe what they wanted to believe, and we were taught to tolerate that from a very young age. I think that lesson of tolerance was MUCH more valuable than any financial lessons a child might glean from a “tooth fairy.”

  27. Friends have always told their children that Santa didn’t exist, but that they would be giving their children presents from Santa. It turns out that the children don’t believe them and prefer to believe that he does exist.

  28. To be perfectly honest, I am still slightly traumatized from when the tooth fairy didn’t show up for 5 (FIVE!!!) nights in a row when I was seven.

    I’m pretty sure at that point I knew the tooth fairy didn’t exist and it was just my parents doing it, but when your parents forget something like that… well, the trauma runs a little deeper, now doesn’t it?

  29. This is an issue of values, I could write a ton about selfishness but instead I’ll just say that I am thankful that my family raised me to be happy for other people when they are doing well and to want to help when they are not – especially when it comes to family. If you have a kid who looks at you giving a sibling money (especially when they are in need) and thinks “hey, what about me?”, you screwed up raising that child and they are not a good person. period.

    Look at it this way, my husband and I watch “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” and early on, he used to say how he wished they would come do over our house. One day I said that I was glad we didn’t need them to come to our house and that I hoped we never would. He thought about it and after realizing that I was thankful that nothing so horrible had happened to us or to the people we love, he said he understood what I meant and he’s never said it again. I watch that show (ad placement and all) because I like to see people helping others and it reminds me that I need to be thankful for the good things in my life; one of which is my family teaching me what’s important in life.

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