Dads, Daughters, and Money

Money is a loaded topic for many of us.

Still, we Dads have to turn away from any fear and emotion money may generate, and not leave our daughters in the dark on this important part of life.

When our daughters were ten, we decided they were old enough to start learning simple lessons about managing money. Neither Nancy nor I had a very good handle on that skill until we were adults, so we figured if the girls started young, they’d be ahead of the game. 

We started with what we saw as the basics; I took them to our local bank to open their own checking accounts. I had no idea how strange some people thought this idea was -- including the woman at the bank.

“Of course,” she told me, “children under 18 can’t have a checking account unless a parent’s name is also on the account.”

Yes,” I replied, “I was planning to be the joint account holder.”

“OK, but I still don’t know; they’re only 10. We’ve never had someone that young with a checking account.”

“Is there some rule against a ten-year-old having one?”

“No, but I still don’t know if we can do it.”

We went round and round some more (and I got more feisty) until the banker finally went along, but not without many more doubting looks.

I was surprised by other people’s resistance to something as simple as opening a checking account for a ten-year-old girl. But basic money management is a skill too important to be derailed by someone else’s preconceptions that little girls shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about money. Plus, most girls are able to handle the responsibility well if we’re there to answer questions and explain the process.

From age ten on, my daughters handled their own income and expenses. Allowance, baby-sitting earnings, gift money, wages, quarters found on the sidewalk – it all went into the checking account. Nancy and I no longer paid for amusements or gifts for friends and family.

We gave them a clothing allowance by age 12, and put them in charge (making visits to Target more attractive than pricier stores). Even though they were young, the girls quickly adapted to the arrangement and we seldom heard them complain about it. They didn’t spend much on themselves. They preferred, for example, to wait for birthdays to get clothes from grandparents and other relatives – a smart strategy, I always thought.

Their only complaint was over the weird looks salesclerks gave when a 12-year-old pulled out her checkbook. But, because my daughter’s money added up in the till just the same as an adult’s, the clerks always found a way to take the check in the end.

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