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The ABC’s of M-O-N-E-Y

Alex Miller

“May I please have some money?”Most parents are used to hearing pleas for cash, many not phrased quite so politely as this, which I heard from our 4-year-old recently. But when those first glimmers of cash-consciousness come, as it were, from the mouths of babes, it can be alarming like the first time you notice bad breath on the little angel in the morning.Money awareness can come as early as age 2, but usually by the time kids are 3 or 4, they’ve discovered the power of money as well as its effects on their lives. Our preschooler is still struggling with the concept of paper money (he’ll take five singles over a twenty any day), but he’s aware that, for the most part, coins tend to increase in value with size and he’s no longer appeased by a couple of pennies.As a family not unlike the Weasleys in Harry Potter full of love and fun but always struggling to make ends meet financial issues take center-stage on a daily basis. Can we go to the movies, have a cell phone, go visit our friends in L.A. or have a Starbucks? With four “no” answers ringing in their heads, it’s not surprising that our kids despite living in one of the world’s coolest places feel like they’re preparing for roles in a film about the Depression.It’s impossible to convince children especially teens that there’s a location benefit they’re perhaps unaware of. Sure, we could move to Indiana and live in a palace with new cars and the walls lined with plasma TVs. But we’d be in, y’know, Indiana. A perfectly nice place, I’m sure, but not exactly the Rocky Mountain West.The tough thing for mountain parents is that we live in a place where the have-lots (those people in the log mansions on the hill) are so visible to the children of us poor schlubs in the valley. It’s one thing to see the rich brats living it up in those WB shows on TV, but quite another to be in the real presence of Big Money and have to explain it Junior and Missy, dressed as they are in rags (i.e., “last year’s ski jacket”).It’s all relative. The kids up on the hill are probably giving their old man a hard time because he hasn’t yet replaced the ancient ’05 Lexus in the garage (even though they only use it two weeks a year). Things are tough all over, especially if you’re a kid wallowing in the wake of your parents’ often-inadequate income. I can’t help but think it’d be nice to have a second home (or mansion), because this would ostensibly mean that concerns about having enough to put food on the table are non-existent. Potential trips to the doctor – or, heaven forbid, the emergency room – wouldn’t seem more painful than the ailment itself, and taking a “real” vacation (one with airplanes) could be something one did on occasion rather than just read about in magazines.Still, one has to wonder what kids who grow up with “everything” make of the world. I know our kids have a built-in notion to make more than we do when they grow up, and they know what privation (however specious) feels like. Is it hard, then, for kids with silver spoon syndrome to work up the chutzpah to make their own stack?I wish it was a problem I had to worry about. Money may not buy you love or happiness, but I could really use a new pair of ski pants. I’d love to set up college funds for the kids, put up a giant play fort in the backyard, buy my wife a gold watch and take a family trip to New Zealand.Sigh. Maybe in another life. Have another corndog, kids.Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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