It’s Okay to Let Your Kids Experience Hardships

When our oldest reached driving age, we handed down our 2002 Buick Rendezvous for him to drive. It’s not his car. It’s Mom and Dad’s car that he gets to drive until he gets his own car. No, it’s not a kid’s dream car but beggars can’t be choosers. It’s big, safe, and perfect for a kid to learn on.

My wife and I agreed to pay half (our half is capped at $4,000) on our boys’ second vehicles. Our oldest son has been scrimping and saving for about a year now. His goal: the Jeep my Dad drove when he was alive. Our son passed his goal of $4,000 a couple of weeks ago. He was still saving in order to pay the taxes on the purchase. All was great until last week when he was in a line of cars slow moving cars and let off the brake and rolled into a minivan.

We’re already paying enough for insurance as it is so I told the other person that we would pay him cash. We settled on $700, which my son paid out of his Jeep savings account. He wasn’t happy about it but I felt it was his responsibility to pay for this mistake. There’s no doubt about it: zapping $700 from his account was quite a setback. After he calmed down, he did some math and figured out that he should still have his part of the money saved up by the time we go to Kansas to pick up the Jeep (if he doesn’t, we will put off the trip until he does).

I’m not posting this to brag about my parenting. I’m posting it because I think it’s good for kids to pay for their mistakes. If I were to file this on insurance, our rates surely would have increased. Yes, I probably would have made him pay the difference but this was seemed easier and it also stung more. I’m certain he will not forget the sting of this accident for a very long time.

It’s a good learning experience.

Spoiled Kids!

The Mansion section of today’s WSJ featured Luxury Kids’ Rooms.

A DJ mixing station in the sleepover room. Secret passageways inspired by “Harry Potter.” A fully tricked-out videogame arcade. You’ve entered the teen wing of the house.

As parents look for creative ways to keep older kids hanging out at home, some are turning to an unexpected source: architects and designers. The result is a new category of spaces now showing up in family homes: teen lounges, hangout areas, sleepover spaces and “offices” for doing homework.

Want to hear something funny about JLP Land? We have ONE TV in the entire house. ONE. It’s not so much that I’m against having more than one TV. It’s more due to the fact that we have one living area and I’m not a fan of kids having TVs in their rooms.

The article continues…

Chris Pollack recently finished renovating a Manhattan townhouse that includes a 1,000-square-foot teen suite with ping-pong and billiards tables, a recording studio, kitchen and a theater for movies and videogames. The estimated cost: roughly $750,000. “Our clients with kids going into the teenage years are thinking about this more and more,” he says. Mr. Pollack, of New York-based design-and-construction adviser Pollack + Partners, says he has also accommodated several requests for homework rooms equipped with security cameras, so parents can keep an eye on computer usage.


The article included several pictures of silliness. If you can access the article, you might check out the pictures. I’m sure they’ll make your day.

A Conversation Between My Sons

My boys were eating dinner one night and talking about some guy who sells snacks at the school. Brantley is in 11th grade and Peyton is in 10th.

Peyton: “He sells a lot of snacks.”

Brantley: “Yeah, but he can’t be making much on them. He sells them for about the same price as he buys them for.”

Peyton (exasperated): “Brantley! You don’t know about selling stuff. He buys them in bulk and sells them for more than he paid for them. No, you don’t sell it for $80 because no one will buy it. But, you buy something for $.30 and sell it for $.50, you make a nice profit.”

That was a paraphrase of what I heard. What I learned is my kids look at things differently. Brantley is my engineer and Peyton is a businessman. I love how they’re different but still very much alike.

Brantley works for a grocery chain (ironically, he works for the same store manager and another guy that I worked with before I left the business). Peyton and his friend have a mowing business. The boys are constantly bugging each other about how much more they’ll make during the summer. I love it. Much better than them sitting around playing video games all day.

Yeah, I’m a very proud dad. As big of an idiot as I can be, I look at my boys and think, “Maybe I’ve done something right!” Of course, it could be my wife has had all the positive influence. Okay, let’s call it a team effort and a whole lot of God’s grace.

Carl Icahn on Hiring Your Kids

Here’s some advice from Carl Icahn about bringing your kids into the family business that I read in the latest issue of Forbes (NOTE: there doesn’t appear to be an actual link to the Icahn piece so I copied it here):

Start early. Over the years Brett and I would take long walks every weekend. He was very responsive, always interested. He has a real good mind—and he learned by osmosis. Brett saw me working all the time. Some of my cynicism about the business and Wall Street—he inherited that. He’d listen and learn a lot; he has a good talent for it. He took courses in accounting so he’d understand balance sheets. People in the office taught him a lot, too. We’d look at different stuff and dig into it. He picked it up very well. He’s not one of those spoiled rich kids.

Treat them like normal employees. This isn’t nepotism. You say, “Hey, look, you’re working here like everybody else: You start at the bottom and you get no perks and you have to understand that.” You’ve got to be almost tougher with them than anybody else. You don’t want others to think he’s got an advantage. Brett was always sensitive to that. Sometimes I only had the top two guys in the firm at a meeting, and I’d say, “Hey, Brett, come in here, you might learn something.” And he’d say, “Look, Dad, unless you bring in the other three guys I work with, I shouldn’t go in.”

Test their mettle. When Brett and his partner, David Schechter, started the Sargon portfolio, they said, “Give us $300 million,” and I said, okay, I had the right to veto anything they did. They gave up their salaries to take a small percentage of the profits. There was a hurdle rate. This way it was their baby. The choices they made were a little bit different from what I would’ve done—they were more in growth areas, in technology—but they did great with it, basically doubling the money. And in the new $3 billion investment portfolio, they’re up $720 million since they started last August.

“He’s not one of those spoiled rich kids…” Maybe not but he’s definitely had opportunities that other kids won’t get. I guess that’s the point of being rich.

I definitely like the part about treating them like normal employees. If you don’t, company moral will suffer.

Times are Changing

My oldest son started working at a local grocery store chain last Spring. He’s actually working for the same store manager I worked with when I was worked in the grocery business in the mid 90s.

Anyway, with his first job, came his first income tax filing.

I have to say it was kind of fun teaching him how to file his taxes. Fortunately, they’re really easy to do. He was even able to file for free via the H&R Block website (I’m sure all tax preparers offer free filings). And, because he has a checking account, he was able to get electronic deposit.

A few days later, he told me that he told a classmate and fellow coworker to bring his W-2 and iPad to school and he helped him file his taxes in their physics class. I thought that was pretty cool (as long as they weren’t supposed to be doing something else). It also sounded like something I would have done in high school.

All of this got me to thinking about how different things are than they were back when I was a kid. We had to file paper returns and wait several weeks to get the refund if there was one. Now they can be filed online and the money deposited directly into a checking account.

I have always tried to be proactive in helping my teenage boys learn about finances. I took them to get debit cards before they were teenagers. Then, as soon as they became teenagers, I took them to get their own checking accounts. It’s kind of funny because most of their friends do not have debit cards so they will pay my boys to order stuff for them from

Over this past Summer, both boys worked to save up money for the new iPhone. As soon as they came out, both of them were able to order their phones and pay for them with their own money. Their friends at school were asking lots of questions about how they were able to do all that without their parents’ help.

Yeah, I’m bragging. It’s this part of parenting that I like.

I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to function financially once they’re out in the real world. They still don’t do everything the way I wish they would but that’s part of growing up.

Start Planning for Retirement as Soon as you Start Working

Good advice from the Wall Street Journal:

Your First Job? Think About Retirement.

I know a lot of younger people will say, “Yeah, right…” but time is a precious commodity and the one huge advantage young poeple have when it comes to saving for retirement is time.

Read: The Cost of Waiting One Year, which is a post I wrote several years ago but the findings are still important.

This Man’s Message to Graduates: You’re Not Special

Most excellent:

A snippet from his address (bold mine):

…if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another-which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality – we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point – and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans. It’s an epidemic – and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.” I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can be only one best. You‘re it or you’re not.

You can read Mr. McCoullough’s commencement address here.

If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. So true.

Honestly, kids need to learn that there are winners and losers in life. This is tough for a parent to allow their kids to learn, but it is necessary. It’s part of growing up.

Thanks for my friend, Todd, for finding this video.