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A Lesson in Tough Love

I am ready to talk about money. Earning it and avoiding the pitfalls of ruin. You might think this topic is easy for me, but it’s not.

I have a complicated lifelong relationship with money. Even the thought of writing about it in this column makes me uncomfortable. Why is that?

My childhood years were blissful. I wanted for nothing. I was happy. Then I turned 10. My parents said the free ride was over. WHAT? I was getting an allowance. AN ALLOWANCE! All of the things that I fully expected would be provided to me were now subject to the accomplishment of duties … WORK.

I was a good kid. I did the work and I earned the allowance and I was allowed to spend it as I saw fit. And spend it I did. Books, candy, toys, jewelry. I indulged myself. I never saved a cent. I never budgeted or saved.

Then my brother, Dana, and I had to have new 10-speed bicycles. All of our friends had them. We had to have them too. Dana saved for a year and did extra chores to earn more money. Soon he had enough savings to purchase a fabulous bike. Me? I had a great time, but saved nothing. I begged, cried and tried to negotiate with my parents to buy me that bike. Ah, no. Dana rode in style and I walked.

I was devastated. My parents weren’t perfect when it came to teaching me about money, but this was a valuable lesson.

Financial stability is one of United Way of Pickens County’s impact areas. We have a program called “Money Smart” is an age-appropriate curriculum for adults and children. Every time I visit a class, my stomach churns because I recognize some deficiencies in my money management skills.

I’ll be honest with you, it’s not easy teaching the fundamentals of managing money to adults. Not everyone had parents like mine who practiced “tough love” with their spendthrift daughter. In America, most folks live paycheck to paycheck. Most accumulate more debt than assets.

Here’s the thing. If parents don’t understand about money, how can they teach their kids? When I was growing up, it was pretty easy. You worked, you earned, you paid your bills and you saved. I don’t remember either of my parents having a credit card.

Lack of financial literacy among youth is a concern in Pickens County. Last year, United Way of Pickens County decided to teach “Money Smart” to middle school students. They got “it” immediately. Word spread in the community and soon we were bombarded with requests to teach financial literacy to children.

I am so excited to announce our newest initiative “Dollars and Sense.” It includes our free tax preparation program and “Money Smart” for adults and children.

This is what I love about my job. Sometimes the community just tells you what they need from you. All you have to do is listen.

You might ask, “What can you teach a first-grader about money?” You teach them the basics — currency, wants versus needs, saving versus spending.

Just hopefully, they won’t be the one walking instead of riding in style — on their new 10 speed bike!

This article by Julie Capaldi was first published on October 14, 2016 by the Easley Progress.