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ICFE eNEWS #16-02 - January 25th 2016

How To Avoid An Affluenza Epidemic

By Jim Garnett, a/k/a Ask Mr.G, a member of the ICFE's Board of Educational Advisors

"Affluenza" is a word brought to the forefront of today's vocabulary by the court case against teenager Ethan Couch. The drunken Mr. Couch was driving illegally on a restricted license and, while doing 70 mph in a 40 mph zone, lost control and plowed into a group of people killing four and injuring nine.

His high-powered defense attorneys explained his total lack of remorse by claiming he was the product of affluenza, meaning "the inability to understand the consequences of one's actions because of financial privilege." The Judge apparently acknowledged this defense and Couch was "sentenced" to ten years' probation, which required in-patient therapy at a posh rehab center "that includes horseback riding, mixed martial arts, massage and cookery, a swimming pool, and basketball." Sounds like a nice place to take the family for vacation.

Regardless of what we might think about the Judge's decision, this talk of "affluenza" makes one ask, "Can parents do too much for their children? Can they over-indulge them to the extent that the children are harmed instead of helped?"

Many of us believe the answer to this question is "Yes." Well-intentioned parents can do so much for their children that their children adopt an entitlement philosophy and think that the world owes them a living. This can adversely affect the child into adulthood.

So, let me share with you three ways to "inoculate" our kids against catching this affluenza "virus."

1. Be Sure There Is Participation In Our Giving. Not every time, but sometimes, we should require our kids to invest "sweat equity" in the process of getting things. I mean by this that occasionally our kids should contribute for part of the cost of the gift.

My parents followed this practice, which was portrayed in their oft-quoted phrase, "Money doesn't grow on trees around here." They wanted me to understand that getting things usually requires someone to exert effort, energy, and sacrifice.

So, sometimes I would have to earn a portion of the cost of the item. I think that was the common thinking of parents in the 50's and 60's when I grew up. I never resented it and actually think my "contribution" allowed me to better realize the value of what I received. I saw its worth because I had "skin in the game."

Children that are simply given things all the time have difficulty connecting the dots between the gift and someone working to get it. Requiring participation occasionally will give our kids a much clearer understanding of how the world really works.

2. Be Sure There Is Anticipation In Our Giving. We can cheat our children out of one of the greatest joys in life by not occasionally requiring a space of time between the wanting and the getting.

Think of how much different Christmas giving would be if our kids followed us down the store aisle and received their gifts as they pointed them out. It is much more of an adventure to have gifts under the tree that you can see but not open yet. The anticipation created in having to wait is a major part of the fun!

Maybe the old "lay-away plan" of yesterday was a better way to buy things than the "using our credit card and getting it right now" method we use today. The item was set aside (laid away) for us in the store while we made payments on it and when all the payments had been made, we took the item home with us. I dare say we appreciated the item more by anticipating having it.

Anticipation adds a dimension to giving that is often lacking today. It is a valuable tool and ought to be used occasionally in our giving to our kids.

3. Be Sure There Is Appreciation For Our Giving. Most of us are givers by nature and enjoy giving, especially to our kids. But our giving ought to be "dialed back" when we sense that our kids are not appreciating what we give them.

One of the products of our giving ought to be the cultivation of a grateful heart in our children. When that is absent, our giving becomes just an end itself and can well be harmful for our kids instead of helpful.

Sadly, there are subtle reasons we can give to our children that center all around "us" and not "them." 1) We can give out of jealousy so others will think our kids have as much as the Jones'; 2). we can give out of guilt using the gifts as a substitute for not giving as much of ourselves as we should; or 3). We can give out of convenience because our giving "shuts them up" and we don't have to listen to their whining!

It is good and natural for parents to want to give to their children, but our giving always ought to be in their best interests. Not just so the kids receive something outwardly; they ought to receive something inwardly too. Our giving to them ought to make them better.

Participation, Anticipation, and Appreciation are three things that will help insure that outcome.

Ask Mr. G
Jim Garnett, The Debt Doctor
AskMrG Consulting, LLC
2216 SW 35th Street
Ankeny, IA 50023

Paul S Richard PhotoICFE eNEWS is available FREE upon request by visiting our Web site and filling out the contact form, and selecting "Yes" for "Add to Mailing List. Please pass this eNEWS on to your peers and interested others and invite them to subscribe for free. Also, visit the ICFE's new Web site: StudentDebtHelp.org

Sent by:

Paul S. Richard
President - Executive Director
Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE)

About the ICFE:

The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation).  The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely. 
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.

The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (studentdebthelp.org).  CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed.  In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the (studentdebthelp.org) web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.

The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much.  ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.

Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: www.financial-education-icfe.org and studentdebthelp.org.  Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G,  a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.

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