How to know if your kid is an adult

From time to time I’m asked to speak to high school students about money and budgets with a bit of common sense thrown in as well. The kids are generally old enough to legally leave school and start work.

Most people tell me that kids need to learn how to budget their pocket money, but many of the ones that I speak with, are already working part time jobs and earning substantially more than ‘pocket money’. They’re preparing for the time when they leave school, move out of home and become responsible for themselves.

So what would you talk to these high school kids about? Well, once they leave school and start work, regardless of their age, they’ve become young adults.

At a recent session, I asked the obvious question – “what does being an adult mean?”

I was pleasantly surprised. Most of these kids have definitely got a handle on what it’s all about. In lots of ways, they seemed to have more idea than some older people that I know.

They cited the major attribute of an adult as being responsible. I thought it would take a while to get this answer, but these kids certainly realised this is a major part of being grown-up. Chalk one up for the youth of today!

So then we discussed ‘responsibility’ and they listed all the areas where they would need to be responsible; for themselves, their actions, their money and then ultimately a family of their own.

In the money section, they all agreed that too much debt was not good and that paying your bills on time was important. But they didn’t have much idea of how to make their money last till the next pay day.

I wasn’t surprised; as many parents possibly have no idea either. They’d all heard the word budget, but didn’t really know what it was. They tended to regard the topic like a visit to the dentist – we’ll do what’s necessary and then worry when it hurts.

Using an example of moving out of home, we created a fictitious budget. They all had a fair idea of what rent would cost and what bills they might have to pay. Yet, they’d never before thought to add up the costs.

We included the running expenses of the car they decided that they had to have, added a couple of their ‘usual’ night out costs and suddenly they found that they need to earn an income of $50,000.

It was all looking a little grim, till they decided how to reduce some costs: Walking or riding a bike could cut the transport problems, entertain at home; cooking rather than buying take-away. These kids were starting to think very responsibly.

They decided that living at home was an alternative option and they agreed that ‘paying their way’ was a responsible adult thing to do.

And then it all got too much for one young chap. He threw his arms into the air and declared – “I don’t care what you say! It’s got nothing to do with money! If you’ve left school and you feel like an adult, then you are an adult”

I had no choice. In light of what we’d just spent the past two hours discussing, I had to say –

“Honey, if you’re over 21 with a full time job and you’re living with your parents, that’s ok. You can feel whichever way you want to feel. But if you’re not paying your way and your mother is still buying your deodorant and your underpants – then you are not an adult!

And with that – the class disintegrated!

(c) Carmel McCartin – Budget Bitch

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