Spouse and I have been attending semi-annual home shows downtown for over 20 years. She gets ideas, I get to see new products, and we both get to see most of the contractors side-by-side for comparison. Our kid also gets hours of free entertainment, and it's been fun watching her focus shift over the years from free balloons to free pencils to writing her own contest entries to buying her own snacks to cool home-improvement products to cool engineering.
When I came across an ad for the Personal Finance Expo (Personal Financial Expo 2009
) I realized that most of its content was aimed at teens & young adults. A high-school senior, she's at the age where she's as tired of listening to us as we are of
talking with her, and an outside authority is the perfect way for her to learn the same parental info from someone she's actually interested in listening to.
The car trip down really set the mood when spouse found several scattered receipts from McDs, Jamba Juice, & Starbucks. Apparently our kid is too busy in the mornings to make herself a lunch/snacks, and "nobody" eats the school lunch because it's just not
healthy. (Somehow McDs is considered healthier than the school lunch. Or maybe she just likes seeing cute guys in uniforms.) We have no idea how much cash she's been burning through because she has no idea either. She manages to put 80% of her earnings in her Roth IRA but she's slow to get around to it, and she's just not quite there on budgeting and tracking. These discussions make her grumpy, too, so it's not such a good environment for segues to LBYM, asset allocation, and SWRs.
But the PFE had an hour's talk on "Saving & Investing for Young Professionals", complete with a young professional (woman) CFA using PowerPoint slides and handouts with free pens. Our kid was immediately hooked, went into serious-business-grownup mode, and was even shushing us when we were commenting on the various slides. You've heard it all before (and so has she!) but this time it was being delivered by a woman of authority. Various asset classes, compounding, Rule of 72, historical returns, volatility, risk/reward curve, asset allocation, active vs passive, 401(k)s & Roth IRAs, mutual funds, index funds, brokerage accounts, and even advice about selecting advisors & brokers. At the end of it our teen said "I understand 401(k)s and Roth IRAs but I wish she'd talked about how to set up an investing account." Spouse said "You mean how you call T. Rowe Price and asking them to set up an investing account?" Our kid had no idea it was that easy. I never had to say a word.
Even on a Sunday afternoon there were probably 50-60 exhibitors, and it was easy for a teen to figure out what most of them were offering. Everything was a springboard for a financial discussion. We had a good chat while watching the big crowd at the consumer-counseling and debt-management exhibits. The college financial-aid displays were pretty busy too. She promptly lost interest in the "financial management for college students" talk when she realized it was about checking accounts and credit cards-- been there done that, and she got a great ego boost listening to the conversations & questions. She was even curious about just what the Tardus and StockTrak exhibits were able to do
for people. I think she's educated & immunized, but there'll probably be another PFE next spring for a booster shot.
Her buzz lasted the rest of the afternoon. Within an hour of returning home she'd chewed through her backlog of Quicken data entry and caught up on her Roth IRA deposits. We figured out a major flaw in her budget technique: she was tracking her checkbook and her credit card just fine but for some reason wasn't tracking her cash spending after it came out of the ATM. Now she is, and she talked through ways to limit her food impulse spending. Best of all, I didn't have to go into parental preacher mode but could just let her verbally process what she'd seen at the exhibits and help her draw the line between frugality & deprivation. Then she went into the kitchen and made a couple lunches for next week. Spouse noted that we'd talked for an hour with no screaming or crying, and our daughter was well-behaved too.
She did manage to find the only exhibit in the entire center even remotely related to engineering. For some reason (certainly not its effective financial planning) the city was publicizing the upcoming light-rail system and had a big display of the routes, the trains, and even the carriage seats. She was impressed with the civil engineering (and the idea of internships while they're building it) but she was properly outraged when she found out that the excise tax had been raised by 0.5% to pay for it.
I wish I'd realized the power of the PFE when she was a few years younger, but we're adding this one to our family routine. Or at least during the next 363 days before college…