Recession Question: Tell the Kids?


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 week, the Fuchs talk about telling the kids that the economy's recovering. He says the kids deserve to know. She thinks it's better to keep mum. Who will win?

Mr. Fuchs: Time to gather the kids around and tell them happy days are here again.

Mrs. Fuchs: Uh, I’d ask what you’ve been smoking but we’re in public...

Mr. Fuchs: What’s got your goat? Last year, we talked about dipping salaries and how to tell the kids about difficult times that mean cutbacks around the house and more chores. Salaries certainly haven’t recovered yet, but they’ve come back a bit. How about letting them know?

Mrs. Fuchs: I missed the sudden big increase in our income.

Mr. Fuchs: Not big, just slightly better. I can already see you want to put the brakes on sharing my excitement that things might be on the upswing, especially because — as with so much when it comes to personal finance — there is an element of impression involved, which is a fancy-pants word for guesswork. I do have a friend who told their kids they could go to summer camp because he had gotten a new job, but before he reported for duty that shiny new job fell through. Ever try to tell a 14-year-old it's easy come, easy go on a summer’s worth of s’mores? Dad’s name was mud.

Mrs. Fuchs: You know how I usually preach communication? Well, I’m going to change course here. I’m thinking that if they never find out our income is back up — they’ll still do chores and shop at Target (Stock Quote: TGT) instead of Abercrombie (Stock Quote: ANF) without complaint. It just might work.

Mr. Fuchs: Brilliant! I knew good things would come if you became an uncommunicative man like me! We’ll have them working and sacrificing still, plus we’ll be covered in case these green shoots in our budget go brown and rot.

Mrs. Fuchs: I think we can use this experience to help them understand the difference between needs and wants and the importance of us all contributing to our household. While we may be able to afford take-out more often, those messages still hold.

Mr. Fuchs: But they’ll hold better if we keep the signs of recovery a secret. And we’ll be covered in case these signs don’t last and the economy double dips. Dastardly, yet totally effective. I love it.

Mrs. Fuchs: I was kind of joking when I said that we should keep it a big secret. I still think we have to communicate with them, you know.

Mr. Fuchs: Aw, you’re disappointing me. I liked you better as an uncommunicative man.

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