Raising Fiscally Fit Kids

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, June 4, 2006

Summertime often means summer jobs for teens.

But is that always a good thing for young people?

Not necessarily, says Janet Bodnar, who has spent many years fielding questions from parents on how to teach their children -- grown and underage -- to handle money.

"The trouble is, even though a paying job can help teenagers sharpen their skills in the workplace, it can also be a two-edged sword," writes Bodnar in "Raising Money Smart Kids."

Bodnar goes on to say: "By encouraging kids to work, it's easy to create a generation of teenage werewolves, obsessed with feeding their ravenous spending appetites for even more clothes, cosmetics, and concert tickets."

I've always liked the way Bodnar approaches the topic of kids and money. Of course, that could be because I agree with a lot of what she advises, such as banning credit cards for teens.

I like Bodnar's advice so much that for this month's Color of Money Book Club, I'm recommending "Raising Money Smart Kids: What They Need to Know About Money and How to Tell Them" (Kaplan Publishing, $17.95). Bodnar is a columnist and deputy editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine.

Whether you have a toddler or a teen, Bodnar, who is a mother of three, dispenses good personal-finance advice on battling advertising aimed at your children, dealing with allowance issues and how to handle a boomerang adult child.

I like Bodnar's balance, such as on the issue of whether teens should get jobs. As she reports in her book, nearly half of all teenagers go to work once they reach 16.

"I remember with gratitude that my own mother let me keep my summers free when I was in high school," Bodnar writes. "One of my aunts frowned on such 'coddling,' and was always bugging Mom to make me get a job. But she held her ground."

What was her mother's rationale?

Bodnar's mother knew that soon enough her daughter would have to start work -- and once she did, she would be working all her life.

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