Husband vs. Wife: Teaching Kids About Hard Times


Lori and Marek Fuchs have never fought in their 16 years of marriage — except over money. In this column, Mr. and Mrs. Fuchs, a real-life married couple with three kids (ages 12, 8 and 5), articulate their very different approaches to personal finance.

This round: He asks, “What do we want our children to have learned from this economic downturn?” She says, “Why do you use so many metaphors? It’s really annoying.”

Mr. Fuchs: During some of the worst of the financial mess, we argued over how much you should clue kids in to what is going on with the tapped out family budget. But assuming that things might be improving, what do you (as a mom of three, child psychologist and woman who often disagrees with me incessantly) think kids should take away from this whole economic mess? What should they have learned?

Mrs. Fuchs: That’s easy — resilience and the ability to stay a bit austere even after the economic smoke has cleared.

Mr. Fuchs: I know you don’t need affirmation from me, but that’s just what financial planners like William Driscoll of Driscoll Financial in Plymouth, Mass., say. Let’s take resilience first. The economy is cyclical. Obviously, this economic downturn was a burn, but hopefully kids can see that you can get through even a burn. This too shall pass, as they say, and it’ll pass without mom and dad completely losing their heads or sending little Johnnie and Jane to work in the coal mines. To stay with our biblical lingo for a moment: good times beget bad and bad good. If you have a lifetime ahead of you in this global economy, which is so prone to turbulence, it’s once of the most important lessons you can learn.

Mrs. Fuchs: OK, I’m going to overlook your many metaphors and assume that what you’re trying to say is that we can use this economic downturn to teach our kids concepts like hope and stick-to-itiveness. If they continue to work hard and look at situations in a flexible way, they will come through it and learn something in the process.

Mr. Fuchs: Yeah, well — that too. I guess I want them to learn the larger concept of hope, but also specifically about the economy: It goes in waves and while the undertow stinks, it doesn’t last forever. No need to jump out of windows.

Mrs. Fuchs: Windows, waves — how did I marry such a drama queen? So, what does Driscoll say about my other idea — maintaining that degree of austerity?

Mr. Fuchs: In this sense, Driscoll essentially thinks the downturn did the world a favor. “Parents weren’t as free to give money to their children as they were a couple of years ago,” he said, so they had to start thinking strategically and drawing distinctions. His own 17-year-old son, for example, works at Marshall’s and saves money for the many concerts he likes. But he also learned to take advantage of late-arrival tickets and student discounts. It sounds almost trite to say it, but Americans lost site of what was a want and what was a need (and what wants and needs they could afford, for that matter). If kids — and the entire family — made any progress toward a more strategic and austere life through the downturn, they should maintain it.

Mrs. Fuchs: This sounds like another lecture to the kids. Sorry to say that I’ll be busy when they come home from school ... ummm ...  entering items into my financial software.

Mr. Fuchs: That’s perfect! Just do it in the dark.

Mrs. Fuchs: Why am I doing it in the dark?

Mr. Fuchs: I’m getting to that. See, lectures, let alone about home finance, bore kids to tears and are counterproductive. As we emerge from this economic muck, Driscoll said kids should instead see in our actions that we’ve learned lasting lessons, which we are carrying on into better times. Said Driscoll: “You have to show them physical examples of continued austerity: running around turning off lights, getting rid of one of the premium cable stations, talking to them about how you have to wait three months until you have enough money for a new flatscreen TV.”  Even when times are good, he said, “they should see calm, dedicated persistence when it comes to staying on budget.”

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at

Show Comments

Back to Top