New York City’s campaign on teen pregnancy has received a mixed reception. (NYC Human Resources Administration/NYC Human Resources Administration)
Columnist

There have been countless campaigns to discourage teenagers from having babies. The efforts are needed because there’s a high price that such young parents pay.

But what’s the right way to warn teens before they become parents?

Some critics say that New York City’s latest effort goes about it the wrong way. Others believe the campaign is right on the money. The city has put up five different posters showing cute little kids having a candid conversation with their parents. Many bear the tagline “Think being a teen parent won’t cost you?”

One poster with a picture of a frowning, curly-haired boy reads: “Dad, you’ll be paying to support me for the next 20 years.”

Another one, showing a tearful little girl, reads: “Got a good job? I cost thousands of dollars each year.”

Are the words from the babes too blunt, too bruising?

“The latest NYC ad campaign creates stigma, hostility and negative public opinions about teen pregnancy and parenthood rather than offering alternative aspirations for young people,” Haydee Morales, vice president of education and training at Planned Parenthood’s New York office, said in a news release.

One of the teen pregnancy prevention posters reads: “If you finish high school, get a job and get married before having children, you have a 98 percent chance of not being in poverty.”

Commentator Melissa Harris-Perry lit into New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg about the campaign. In a direct message to Bloomberg on her MSNBC show, she said: “That is the kind of misleading statistic that might lead some people to, you know, blame young mothers for America’s deepening poverty crisis, rather than putting the blame where it belongs, on a financial system that concentrates wealth at the top and public policies that entrench it there.”

Watch Harris-Perry skewer Bloomberg.

The New York Times’ Michael Powell called the effort a “jarringly judgmental advertising campaign that aims to shame teenage parents and scare teenage girls who are not yet parents by warning that really bad consequences await should they get pregnant.”

But Keli Goff of The Root.com thinks the posters get it right.

“I’m much less concerned about the stigma teen parents may face than about the lifetime stigma their children face as they miss out on one opportunity after another because their parents weren’t ready to realize their full potential as parents while raising them,” Goff wrote.

The New York Daily News editorial board also offered its support, saying, “Cultural disapproval of personal choices is a good thing when those choices are likely to lead to destructive results.”

What’s my take? I agree with a friend who said: “If you remove the social stigma, you remove the fear, and that may contribute to more unwed mothers. The solution is to find a way to move forward. I sort of think the NYC ad campaign tries to do that by reminding young women about the financial consequences of their actions.”

The Color of Money Question of the Week: What do you think of New York City’s teen pregnancy prevention campaign? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state.

Let’s Talk Money

Join me today at noon ET for my live online discussion.

I’ll be there to help you with your money issue, or you can weigh in on this week’s Color of Money questions.

If you can’t participate live, send your questions in early or read the archives later.

I Love My Job; Just Hate the Stress and Pay

You may think there’s not much worse than a job that makes you want to scream from the stress.

Wait, there is.

It’s a job that’s not only stressful but that doesn’t pay enough money for the headaches.

PayScale, which provides salary data, took a look at high-stress, low-paying jobs. It may hit very close to home – or work – for you.

On the list are the folks who serve up your coffee in the morning.

The median yearly salary for a barista: $20,300. The percentage of baristas who say their job is stressful: 50.3 percent.

As Les Christie reported for CNN, which highlighted some of the high-stress, low-wage jobs in the survey: “Lines can swell as indecisive customers mull choices. Some come in with massive orders. Others complain about coffee being too cold, too hot, too sweet, not sweet enough... The sheer volume of sales insures that some customers will be unhappy -- and will let the barista know about it. And the tension can build since company policy at most coffee bars is that the customer is always right -- even when they’re wrong.”

And what about the person who assists your veterinarian?

The median for a veterinarian’s assistant is $25,500. The percentage who say their job is stressful: 72.6 percent.

“We see a lot of very ill animals, and many are here a long time,” Lori Asprea, a veterinary assistant at New York’s Animal Medical Center told CNN. “Emotionally, you get very attached.”

Another demanding job: loss prevention officer. Think of security guards who “monitor retail floors for shoplifters, watching video screens or walking the aisles,” writes Christie.

“The most stressful part of the job is to decide when to apprehend and when not to,” said Gene Smith, who has spent 35 years in the industry and is president of the Loss Prevention Foundation. “You have to be right 100 percent of the time.”

Accusing an innocent person can bring a lawsuit, and moving too slowly to catch a thief results in store losses.

The median pay for a loss prevention officer: $23,000. The percentage of workers who say that trying to nab a shoplifter is stressful: 54.3 percent.

What jobs would you add to the list? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “High-stress, low-wage jobs” in the subject line.

Goody Bags for Your Wedding Guests

The average cost to say “I do” last year came in at about $28,400, according to a survey by TheKnot.com and the WeddingChannel.com. The sites surveyed more than 17,500 U.S. brides married in 2012.

One expense that is bumping up the price is splurging on the wedding guests, reports Melanie Hicken of CNN Money.

In 2012, the trend was “the year of the guest,” said The Knot.com director Anja Winikka. Couples were coughing up more money to cater to friends and family.

The survey found that the average amount spent per guest was $204, up from the $196 in 2011. And people are also paying to entertain and feed their guests before the wedding ceremony and reception. Brides spent an average of $1,135 on their rehearsal dinners and $429 on their morning-after brunch. About 30 percent provided shuttles and buses for guests.

Here are some of the 2012 wedding statistics:

-- Average Wedding Budget: $28,427 (excludes honeymoon)

-- Most Expensive Place to Get Married: Manhattan, $76,678 average spent

-- Least Expensive Place to Get Married: Alaska, $15,504 average spent

-- Average Spent on a Wedding Dress: $1,211

Check out the survey for the top 20 most expensive places to get married.

What is the most outrageous wedding expense you’ve seen? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “Wedding Splurges” in the subject line.

2013 Tax Season

What’s likely to get you audited by the IRS?

It’s inconsistencies in your income, types of income and deductions can increase your chances of getting audited, reports Ray Martin of CBS Moneywatch.

When reviewing your taxes, the IRS assigns numerical weights to certain tax return characteristics, Martin says,

“These weights are added together to obtain a national composite score for all tax returns,” according to Martin. “When the total score of all selected items on your tax return exceeds the national average score set by the IRS, the agency will flag the return for a possible audit. The exact items the IRS zeroes in on and scoring method is a closely guarded secret.”

Here are some of the things the IRS pays close attention to, Martin points out:

- Large amounts of income not subject to tax withholding.

- A large number of dependent exemptions claimed that don’t match reported social security numbers.

- Large deductions for charitable contributions, casualty losses, home office expenses, and travel and entertainment expenses.

Family Financial Fights

I am still looking for your stories about money issues that are tearing your family apart. Let me help you figure out a solution.

Send your stories to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your full name, city and state. Be sure to put “Family Financial Fights” in the subject line. I only need your personal information if I have additional questions. Because of the sensitivity of the situation your personal details won’t be disclosed.

Paying to Pee

There was lots of interest in a story about a restaurant in Erin, Tenn., that sent a non-customer a bill in the mail for using the establishment’s bathroom. The restaurant has a policy of charging non-patrons $5 to use their facilities.

So, for last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “Have establishments gone too far in crazy charges to customers?”

“I live in New York, where the ‘customers only’ mantra is common,” said Dan Fletcher. “But, I agree with Bobby Flay that it’s a cost of doing business; more importantly, such a policy is indicative of degradation of our social fabric. It’s far from neighborly and shows a complete absence of compassion and humanity --- who hasn’t had to go really bad while wandering the streets or highways of a strange place? I venture to guess the answer is nobody. It’s disheartening and disgusting that we’ve become so antagonistic towards our fellow citizens.”

Fred McElhenie of Lawrence, Kan., agreed with the restaurant’s pay-to-pee policy. He wrote: “If an entrepreneur wishes to provide restroom facilities for the general public, that’s their business. Someone who prefers to restrict the facilities to their customers has that right, also.”

Sometimes exceptions to the rule are the humane thing to do, said Kathleen Bowen Simons of Falls Church, Va. She wrote: “I witnessed a situation a few years ago in New York City. A woman was begging a staff member of a small toy and bookshop to let her young daughter, maybe 3 years old, to use their restroom. The employee told her it isn’t available to the public because it’s off their storeroom. After the woman further explained her daughter felt ill and really needed to use the bathroom, the employee started to talk when the girl vomited and it got on the employee. If the employee would have let the little girl go when first asked they would not have had to deal with that clean-up.”

Upcoming Events

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To participate in the sweepstakes, fill out the official entry form. One of the 10 winners will also receive one free coaching session with me.

The sweepstakes ends at 12 p.m. CT on Sunday, March 17.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

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Tia Lewis contributed to this report.