Right now I’m on holidays with my family in Bali.
The last time Liz and I were here, we were newlyweds without a care in the world.
I’d romantically feed her strawberries and we’d laze by the pool, armed only with our bathers, towels and a frosty beer.
“Tapas?” Liz would ask.
“Sure”, I’d lazily reply.
Things are a little different this time around.
I’m spoonfeeding berry puree at Eddie and we’re getting it all over both of us.
We’re still by the pool, though we now have head-to-toe rash shirts, zinc cream, insect repellant, floaties, and there’s no lazing:
“Are you watching him?”
“I thought you were?”
“You have to watch him!”
Yes, kids are demanding, which can be exhausting on your holiday, but it’s damned good when they channel it into learning about money.
Here are some questions I’ve received from Barefoot kids.
Mister Barefoot, How Do I Make My Money Grow?
My name is Olivia and I am six years old. I put my pocket money in the bank on Thursdays at school. How do I make my money grow? Mum says to water it.
You are already growing your money by putting it in the bank on Thursdays at school!
However, I’d like you to ask your mum if you could stop putting your money in the bank from now on.
See, banking is very boring. The only people who really care about banking are the people at the bank. That’s why they give you all those comic books with silly characters like ‘Cred’. They’re trying to make it cool, but trust me it’s really boring.
But I pinky promise I’m going to teach you something very cool.
I want you to ask your mum to get three glass jam jars (without the jam!). Ask her to label them ‘Save’, ‘Give’ and ‘Spend’. Then keep them in your room, where you can see the money piling up inside them.
Next I want you to think about all the things you can do around the house (like watering the garden) that would help out Mum and Dad. Ask Mum if you can get paid in coins, but only if you do a good job.
When Mum gives you your pay, I want you to put one coin into each jar:
The ‘Save’ jar is for something big you want to buy but you can’t afford right now (preferably something like a Super Soaker that your brother wants). Each time you do a job and get paid, you’ll see the coins filling up in the jar. So long as you don’t take them out, you’ll be able to blast your brother with your Super Soaker!
The ‘Give’ jar is for helping other little girls who are not as lucky as you. At Christmas time you can buy these girls presents, wrap them, and put them under a tree at the shopping centre.
The ‘Spend’ jar is for lollies.
How Do I Earn More Interest?
My name is Kyla and I am 14 years old. I get $40 pocket money per month, of which I save $10 into my saving account. I have also started delivering fliers and earn $19 upward per week depending on the number of brochures for the week. I save $10 per week of that money also. I do not get a lot of interest on my savings account. Any ideas?
Unfortunately I can’t help you earn more interest — we’re all in the same boat at the moment — but I can help you earn more money.
Now, you sound like a very smart person, so I’m going to get you to put a proposal to your mum and dad.
See, your parents are very busy people, they work really hard, but sometimes that means they don’t have a lot of time to hunt around and get the best deals on the things they buy.
But you do.
So over the next year, whenever your mum or dad pays a bill, ask them to show it to you, and then you can do the research online and see if you can get them a better deal. It could be on their electricity, or their mobile phone, or even when they’re shopping at the supermarket.
And if you want to earn even more money, you could ask your parents if you can be in charge of monitoring the household power bill, and you could work out getting an extra payment if you can keep the bill under figure.
My Parents Are Losers
I saw your call-out for kids to ask you a question. Well, I am 16 and I have a question for you. What can I do about my parents? They are 46 (Dad) and 44 (Mum). They have always rented, and they have never had any money — but Dad has always driven good cars like his latest HSV Commodore (bought brand new). They also have credit card debts. They have taught me what not to do about money.
You’re one in a million, mate.
Kids model their parents’ behaviours — especially when it comes to money. That’s why some families never seem to be able to get ahead. It’s like each generation gets stuck in a prison of poverty.
Not you. You’re smart enough to have learned what not to do from your parents.
I talk to teenagers all the time about money, but most of them are cocooned from the consequences of bad choices. You’ve lived it, and that’s why you’ll make better decisions than your parents have.
See, money is one of the great levellers of life: you don’t need a high-paying job, you don’t even need to be particularly smart, you just have to start. And that’s your power. You have the miracle of compound interest on your side. By starting to save and invest now, you’ll earn more money over your lifetime than your parents did working their entire lives.
Don’t bother trying to change your parents. It’s too late for them.
Love them. Just don’t live like them.
Tread Your Own Path!