Earning and Learning

By Hyman, Julie | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 22, 2000 | Go to article overview

Earning and Learning


Hyman, Julie, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Angie Ramos has about $3,000 in the bank and a summer stretching before her with the potential to make more.

Angie, 16, is pulling in $7.83 an hour as admissions manager at Cameron Run Regional Park in Alexandria. Like millions of other teen-agers, she will make the bulk of her yearly earnings in the summer. But unlike some teens, she plans to save most of that money.

Financial nonprofits - through Web sites, brochures and school curricula - are working to teach teens the value of saving the money they receive from jobs, gifts or allowances.

But the key to instilling good financial practices in teens, say financial counselors, is teaching parents how to teach their children. A Visa survey found 75 percent of teens rely on their parents for personal-finance information.

Angie, an Alexandria resident, said she picked up most of her saving and spending habits from her parents.

They have taught "how to maintain your money, like budgeting . . . not to exceed what you have," she said.

Teens spent $105 billion of the $124 billion they earned in 1999, according to Teenage Research Unlimited in Northbrook, Ill. Most of that spending was discretionary, on such items as entertainment and eating out. Adults, however, spend most of their income on mortgages and other bills, said Michael Wood, a vice president at the company.

Thirty percent of youths 12 to 19 earn income from part-time jobs, according to a Teenage Research study conducted in January and February.

Angie has a clear goal for saving most of the money she earns from organizing group sales and fielding complaints at the water park and miniature golf course.

"I want to get a car," she said.

Financial counselors say fixing on a goal for earnings is a good way to get teens to save. Another effective incentive is matching funds, said Jayne Pearl, author of "Kids and Money: Giving Them the Savvy to Succeed Financially."

Ms. Pearl gives her 12-year-old son an allowance, and he puts that money, with any received as gifts, into a savings account.

"I think of allowance as learning capital," she said.

Ms. Pearl then matches each of her son's deposits dollar for dollar. When he wants to withdraw money, she is allowed to make one comment on the purchase he makes.

But many parents do not have such a clear teaching system for saving. In fact, parents can feel more awkward discussing money than sex or drugs.

Both of those touchy subjects are part of the required curriculum at a majority of schools, but personal finance still is neglected at home and at school, said Clifford Brody, chief executive officer of Kids Own America, a D. …

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