4.6 min readPublished On: July 10, 2024

The Dad and Daughter Debate: Are We Raising a Financially Lazy Generation of Kids?

It’s official – I’m old. The number of times I had to edit, “When I was kid…” from this debate was overly disturbing. With that… When I was kid growing up in New Jersey, being a neighborhood entrepreneur was a form of survival and an accomplishment.

Few of my friends had parents who would just give them things unless there was a special occasion such as a birthday or gift-giving holiday. Needed quarters to go to the mall to play hours of Galaga, Dig Dug or Asteroids? We earned it. Record albums and baseball cards were my financial kryptonite, and I had to earn every dollar spent on “such nonsense.”

It was on us to create opportunities to make money – often through cutthroat efforts. If you didn’t lock up a neighbor’s commitment for a job, the kids from Beacon Hill Drive would! When it snowed, we shoveled driveways. In the fall we raked leaves. In the summer and spring, we mowed lawns, pulled weeds, washed cars or had family garage sales (the state activity of New Jersey). In addition, I had two paper routes, would occasionally babysit, and would also eventually wind up working in my father’s pharmacy on summer weekends and when I was old enough to drive to my own shift.

Try finding a neighborhood kid to do any of that these days! 

I recall when my daughter was around the age of 9, I encouraged her to offer mailbox wash and refresh services in our neighborhood. We fronted the cost of the supplies with the understanding she would pay back half. She loaded up her red wagon and waited for friends who committed to helping and splitting the revenue to join her. All were no-shows. So, she headed out into the heart of the hood by herself (none too happy) and made some serious coin! It was a proud moment for all of us, but more importantly, a parental lesson in identifying an opportunity, working hard and reaping the rewards.

Many of those early, sometimes painful or conflict-inducing experiences set a tone that she follows today. I believe we, as parents, naturally have certain responsibilities to cover core expenses associated with raising a child. But we also have the responsibility to teach them financial intelligence, independence and personal responsibility, even if we can afford it. Earning, saving, spending and budgeting wisely, understanding a bank account, managing credit and choosing between needs versus wants depending on the financial resources available are all critical and valuable. From what I’ve seen, both as a parent and employer, I’m not sure those lessons have the same level of priority today as they did when I was a kid. Now, you’ll pardon me while I go yell at some kids who are on my lawn!

Like any other kid, growing up, I got an allowance for doing chores. My first savings account was opened when I was 13. I got my first real job when I was 15 and became a lifeguard for the City of Leesburg. I spent seven summers guarding and went from lifeguard to water safety instructor to head guard during my tenure. 

I was one of the first of my friends to get jobs, and I will say I got really lucky with my first work experience (shoutout to Boss Man Brian).

 I made friends, my work was purposeful and I learned a lot, from water safety to working on a team to customer service to, yes, cleaning bathrooms. How many people can say they genuinely had fun at their first job while earning a respectable wage?

Once I started making my own money and started driving, that also meant that I started to pay for more. That being said, affording new luxuries like gas for drives to Orlando and eating out at Ramshackle with friends took some strategy. I would have to either stretch the money I made over the summer or start working during the school year. Oh yeah, and this was all while I was trying to put money into that savings account for college and for life after. 

I ended up working a few part-time jobs doing different things during high school, and most of my friends ended up doing the same. I took my freshman year of college off from work, but I continued to work at the pool every summer. Come fall my sophomore year, however, I was back to working. It was at this time that I started to see differences in the way I was raised versus the way some of my new friends were raised. Some of my friends never had jobs outside of babysitting and that was foreign to me. To this day, I still have some friends who have never had a job that wasn’t babysitting.

Flash forward to now. By the time you read this, I will have moved to start my first “Big Girl” job. My savings account is alive and well, and while I won’t be completely financially independent, I am proud of the contributions that I can make. Over the years, I have learned how to be smart with my money and every financial decision I made has led to this. It wasn’t always easy, and there was some FOMO—aka ‘Fear of Missing Out’—but because I wasn’t raised financially lazy, I feel much more confident about my future. Thanks, Mom and Dad! 

About the Author: Marc & Cadi

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