with Jane Bryant Quinn
Q. Please tell us a little about your background?
A. I grew up in Niagara Falls, NY. From age 16, I wanted to be
a reporter. My roll model? Believe it or not, a comic strip, called
Brenda Starr. She was a gorgeous redhead, a reporter and led an exciting
life. I couldn't manage the redhead bit, but reporting has indeed
been a wonderful life. I started out in newsletters and was assigned
to Personal Finance as a beat. I didn't know much about it then, but
I learned the field and loved covering it. As a reporter, you can
talk to all the best people and they'll teach you things. I went from
newsletters to writing a nationally syndicated newspaper column, then
added a column in Newsweek magazine and one in Good Housekeeping,
then added pieces for the CBS Morning News and CBS Evening News. I've
written several books. The latest is Jane Bryant Quinn's Smart and
Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People--a guide to the very best
ways of managing your money well.
Q. What drew you to writing about kids and money?
A. Parents wonder how to introduce their kids to responsible
financial management. Today, it's more important than ever--because
of the credit cards given to teens, the banking and saving options,
and the consumerist world we live in.
Q. Who introduced you to saving and/or money and at what
A. I worked to help pay for my college education--so I was saving
from age 14 or so. I had a savings account, for earnings from babysitting
and birthday money I received from my grandmothers. When I started
working after school, I added my paycheck (or part of it!) to the
account. We had bankbooks, back then, and the bank would add the interest
to the book when you brought it in.
Q. Do you have a favorite place or container to save change?
If so, would you tell us a little about it?
A. I don't save change. I'm a saver, but I do it through automatic
deductions from my bank account. My kids started out with piggy banks
but switched to boxes on their bedroom shelves. They much preferred
dollar bills to dimes!
Q. What do you think the biggest challenge parents face when it comes
to teaching children about money?
A. Their own money habits. You can tell kids to save and spend
responsibly, but if you're a mess you're kids won't take you seriously.
Also, I think it's hard to deliberately "teach." You can
give kids information, but so often it just rolls off their back.
Mostly, you teach by living a responsible life yourself.
Q. What's your best tip for parents on teaching children about
A. Talk, in the family, about your own savings and spending habits.
You don't have to talk dollar amounts. But mention it, when you raise
your retirement savings, clean up credit card debt or choose,
say, a less expensive car so that you can save money for something
else. When you shop with kids, talk about finding things on sale or
why you chose an item that cost less than something you might have
wanted more. Let your kids see you paying bills. Be frank about what
you can and can't afford. The functioning of the family's money economy
is a mystery to most kids. Bring it out from the shadows.
Q. What's the biggest mistake you think parents make
when it comes to teaching children about money?
A. Not teaching them anything at all.
Q. Are you pro allowance? Briefly, why or why not?
A. I'm pro. An allowance helps kids learn to manage their money,
and make spending decisions. Once my kids passed the toy-and-candy
stage, we asked them to make up budgets, listing the cost of things
they wanted to handle themselves. We gave them an allowance to match
it and only rarely permitted them an advance. They always made
Q. At what age do you think credit card education should begin?
A. As soon as kids are old enough to have them. Certainly before
they go away to school, where they will be bombarded by "easy"
credit card sign-ups. Kids should know about credit reports, and that
every transaction they make will be recorded in a computer in the
sky--and will follow them for seven long years. Missed payments seem
like nothing, when you think you can catch up. Kids don't know that
those missed payments turn into long-running black marks on their
record. If you dare (!!), get a copy of your own credit record and
show it to your kids. That helps make it real.
Q. At what age do you think parents should allow children to
have a credit card?
A. I'd rather they started with debit cards, while they learn
to match plastic with a fixed amount of money. Debit cards should
be like an allowance--a monthly sum, intended to cover certain expenses.
Only then should they move to credit cards.
Q. If you could only give a child one piece of advice on money, what
would it be?
A. Keep your spending within your means. Don't count on parents or
a credit card to bail you out. "Within your means" does
NOT mean paying only the minimum on your credit card. If you can't
pay in full, you're spending too much.
Q. What's your favorite family activity?
A. Games. When the kids were small, we used to sit on the bed
and play board games of all kinds. We played word games and cars,
when we rented a beach house for summer vacation. No TV, no video
games. All family time.
Q. What's your favorite money quote or saying?
A. "Money often costs too much." Ralph Waldo Emerson.
He's saying that an extra dollar isn't the most important thing in
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