It's impossible to avoid the marketing monster that threatens to transform children into lifelong debtors, says Nathan Dungan. Even if children never watch TV, surf the Internet or listen to the radio, they are surrounded by peers who are walking, talking billboards for overpriced brand names. Dungan's book offers suggestions for taming the monster:
• Remember how you learned about money. Your "money memories" — what your parents said, and did, about financial matters — can help you clarify your attitudes.
• Identify your financial values. What drives your money-related decisions? What is the difference between a want and a need?
• Have effective financial discussions. Because the marketing machine is targeting toddlers, it's never too early to start talking to children about the value of money — and to model healthy financial behavior for them.
• Set limits. This requires saying not only "no" but clarifying values: "We can't afford it"; "It exceeds your weekly spending limit"; or "This purchase is not in keeping with what we believe in as a family."
• Silence the nag factor. If a child begs for something, learn to say "no" from an early age. As children get older, put the onus of choice on them. For example, "I'll buy you a generic shirt. If you want the name-brand shirt, you may pay the difference from your allowance."
• Allow for financial missteps. Sometimes it's best to let children make mistakes and live with the consequences. When Dungan purchased a game that turned out to be disappointing, his father wouldn't let him return it for a refund.
Nathan Dungan is accustomed to speaking to rooms full of addicts. His October presentation to 1,500 youth and adults at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis was, to his sorrow, no exception.
Spending is the addiction that afflicts people age 25 and younger, Dungan said. At the "Celebration of Confirmation" event — sponsored by the St. Paul Area and Minneapolis Area synods — the sanctuary was dotted with shirts proclaiming "Abercrombie," "Aeropostale," "Disney" and "Polo." On the floor below the pews were feet clad in shoes with a prominent Nike swoosh.
And when Dungan asked a Tommy Hilfiger-wearing teen whether her name-brand shirt constituted a "want" or "need," she sputtered, "Hey, designer clothes are part of our culture."
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© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers