What Is So Hard About Money?

I listen to WRR on my daily commute and Smith Barney currently has a commercial out with some woman apparently whining about how she and her husband don’t know how to talk to their kids about money. They can talk about sex, drugs, smoking but money? Not a clue. The ad tries to convince you that you need a Smith Barney rep to help you talk to your kids about money. The commercial is part of a bigger series on Working Wealth, whatever the hell that is.

I know it’s a commercial but it drives me insane. On one hand, it makes it disturbingly clear why so many people make horrible decisions when it comes to their money (ARMs, home equity loans, cars that cost as much as they make in 6 months, etc). But on the other hand, are we really a nation now that doesn’t know how to teach kids about money? Christ, it’s not that hard.

When I was growing up, I had a set of chores and if I did those chores, I got an allowance. Also, if I got straight A’s, I got a bonus. I saved money for things I wanted. Pay for performance. Objective results, objective rewards. Welcome to the real world. Instead, this woman says her speech basically goes “well if you get good grades and help out around the house, we’ll talk about it.” Subjectivity doesn’t cut it if you’re going to reward someone. Anyone who has ever had to give an employee review knows this.

I know it’s probably a stretch but to me, this is an extension of the progressive movement in America basically saying “You’re ok, I’m ok.” Relativism becomes mainstream. What are good grades? Good for me might be D’s but no sane person would think objectively that D’s are good. Some things just aren’t relative. How you make money and save money are things that aren’t relative.