I love my kids. I really do. Like any parent, you get excited when they get good grades, their sports teams do well, or they achieve something special that helps you feel like you are the parent of the year. We all know that sports aren't cheap. It costs time and money between the gear you have to buy, the fees to joint different leagues, and potentially extra costs for additional coaching on the side. With good grades, their also may be time and money for extra tutor's, computers (which seem to be a necessity today for school), and overall school supplies.
But how do you let your kid down easily when they have won something and you think it's just a gimmick for an organization to make money? For those of you who have kids who are ten to fifteen years old, you have all run across this scenario at one time or another. You child comes home from school excited beyond belief. The reason is that they have 'won' or been 'hand picked' by the teachers for winning a special award. Better yet, the letter and award come in the mail postmarked to your child. The awards are something like 'National Leadership Award' or 'Outstanding Student In Spanish Advancement Award' or 'Young Rising Star Of The Future Award'. These awards come in all shapes and sizes, but when you open the package they all look the same.
What your child has won is the right to be able to go to some destination in another part of the country for three to four days completely paid for on your dime. Typically it's a location like Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. Some large city where your child (along with every other kid that pays) is going to spend time at a 'leadership' conference to pick up their award and get a fabulous experience all for the mere cost of $3,295. There goes the family vacation this year!
I'm a cynic by nature. The first thought that generally runs through my head is, "I wonder how many kids 'won' this award?" Was it just my child that was really this special, or was this another law of large numbers that if the organization and school sent this out to 1,000 kids, they would find 30 to 50 parents who would foot the bill. If my child really did win this award, then why doesn't the school foot the bill for the outstanding achievement that my child made during the course of the year? I think every year now for the past four to five years I've seen some sort of award come to my house always attached with a bill for attendance to pick up the award.
When it comes to smart money moves, these situations can be incredibly challenging. On one hand, if your child really did achieve something fantastic and the award and event are going to be potentially life changing than maybe the $3,000 is worth it in the long run. On the other hand, perhaps the only real winners for these awards are the ones who are willing and able to foot the $3,000 bill and what kind of lesson would that be teaching your children?
With all the money we spend as parents on our children between summer camps, school programs, and gifts during the year, what should you do the next time your kid comes home with a grin a mile wide that they have won something big? Do your homework and learn more to see if it is a legitimate organization. Call the school and the teachers to see what they think of the organization. Try to find a parent in the community who has sent their child to this type of three or four day program before and what type of material did they cover. Like any other good financial decision, it's important you don't just sign on the bottom line because it says your kid is a winner. Check the facts and check with the school so you make a $3,000 smart money move and don't send $3,000 down the drain!
Visit to www.oxygenfinancial.net to request a free consultation with the leading financial experts for people in their 20's, 30's, and 40's in the country.
Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®
Co-CEO and Founder of oXYGen Financial, Inc - The Leaders in Gen X & Y Financial Advice
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