Personal Finance

Money Lessons That Dads Teach Kids

Here's an interesting Father's Day tidbit: Online shoppers spent an average of $144 on Dad last Father's Day, reports Ebates, a Web site that offers cash back on purchases at participating stores. That compares with $82 spent on Mom for Mother's Day last month. Spending more doesn't necessarily mean we love Dad any better; it might just mean that Dad plays with more expensive toys. Ebates says that computers and tech gadgets topped gift ideas for Father's Day last year, and it expects this year's top gifts to be e-readers, tablets and smart phones.

Of course, Dad richly deserves it. Another report, from, calculates that his contributions to the family, such as helping with homework and yard work, are worth $20,415 this year. That's not as much as it would cost to replace Mom's contributions -- $61,436 -- but it's impressive nonetheless.

And I'd like to give Dad a special pat on the back. I think that fathers get short shrift when it comes time to pass out credit for teaching kids the financial facts of life. True, surveys show that young people learn more about money management from their mothers than their fathers. But Dad deserves appreciation for the often-unspoken lessons he provides in his traditional role as breadwinner.

Yes, I know that Mom kicks in to the household income in two-earner families, and nowadays she may earn more than Dad. And many single mothers are their kids' sole support. All the more reason to recognize responsible fathers, not just for their financial contributions but also for the examples they set for their children -- particularly their sons.

And let's face it: Where would we be without some of those classic "dad-isms"? "Money doesn't grow on trees, you know." "We're all going to end up in the poorhouse." "Close the door. Do you want to air-condition the whole neighborhood?"

Lessons from Dad. I'm often asked how my husband reacts to my persona as a kids-and-money coach. I'd have to say that he's bemused by it -- and very patient. We don't always agree. Sometimes he's the heavy (or softie), and sometimes we reverse roles. But we always discuss financial issues with the kids, and over the years he has taken the lead in teaching some very important lessons.

For example, John is a stickler for treating all three of our kids equally when it comes to such things as savings, college tuition and other expenses. They have different needs and requests, but overall he makes sure it evens out (and he started IRAs for each of them as soon as they earned income from a job).

At the same time, he's very specific about the responsibilities he expects them to assume in return. Peter, our youngest, is back at home after graduating from college while he works to earn money for grad school. He took it in stride that he'd have to pay nominal rent (at least enough to cover the cable bill), but he was a bit taken aback when Dad told him he'd also have to pay for upkeep on the family car he gets to use. John has been giving the kids great career advice ever since they looked for their first summer jobs in high school. They finally started to appreciate his words of wisdom when they hit their twenties and entered the job market for real.

He has also taught them some unexpected lessons about lending a helping hand (see Should You Pay Kids to Shovel Snow? ) and being generous. Both his mother and mine are deceased, but on Mother's Day he still sends flowers to elderly members of our family. When Peter found out, he told his father, "You're so nice." Yes, he is.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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