Savings Account

"I would trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday," Janice Joplin suggested shortly before her death from a heroin overdose severely limited any and all of her tomorrows. "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today," intoned Whimpy, amusing generations who knew the truth: charming guy; but Tuesday would never come. "What can an eternity of damnation matter to someone who has felt, if only for a second, the infinity of delight?" was a meme before there were memes.
All quotes focus on the now at the expense of the subsequent. How, to the contrary, do we encourage our children to have as many reasonable tomorrows as possible? How do we help them avoid maxing out their pleasure credit cards? How much enjoyment today is purchased with pain later?
This posting is not a 17th century Puritan screed about temperance or the evils of earthly delights. To the contrary, this author is in favor of earthly delights and commends as many delights as possible to anyone who will listen. The issue is cost.  My concern is the payment plan. Drinking a glass of wine with dinner is likely healthy and doubtless enjoyable. Whereas consuming a bathtub full of wine before lunch may lead to issues with alcohol in much the same way that jumping off a 300-foot bridge could lead to an imperfect relationship with gravity. Can our beloved children afford to pay up when the bill arrives? Can delights be maximized over a lifetime rather than burnt up prematurely?
Imagine an adolescent male. "David"--for want of a better name--has imperfect social skills. He doesn't have much experience chatting with 15-year-olds of the female persuasion. He certainly would like to have some connection with one. Or at least take one to dinner and a movie. Consider also that the life expectancy of a male born in 1956 is  74.3 years. Imagine the following Faustian bargain: in exchange for years 50 to 74.3 of his life, he can kiss a willing girl in 1971. To be clear: sign here. He loses two dozen years of life; he gets to schmooch in real time.
I--er, of course I meant "David"--would have been dead ten years ago. He would have gladly kissed the girl and given up all those subsequent years. Whatever happiness might have ensued--marriage, children, career--would have been eclipsed. Present mirth hath present laughter indeed.
Delayed gratification may be a notion that has fallen out of fashion, but one which some parents may wish to impart. Numerical examples abound. If your kids are graduated from college with more debt than they will earn in a year, it will take them ten years on average to get out from under. If they walk across the stage and shake hands with the dean owing significantly MORE than they will earn in a year, they may never be able to afford to get married or own a home. That's a high price to pay for a designer college degree. Spending two years at an inexpensive community college might be worth a conversation.
How do we encourage our kids to only buy what they can afford? How do we inspire them to internalize the WWII adage "make it do or do without"? We could start by not giving them everything they want when they want it. We could follow up by allowing them to make a contribution to the family.
As soon as they're big enough to push a mower, kids should help with the lawn. Setting the table and bathing the dog can start even earlier. Not because "idle hands are the devil's plaything" but because there is no other way for kids to internalize the tradeoff between work and payoff. You know what young people learn from having lousy jobs? That they don't like having lousy jobs. Good to know. So sacrificing NOW so I don't have to continue to have a lousy job LATER might make some sense.
Another person has died from an opioid overdose in the time it has taken you to read this column. Let's do everything we can to help our children understand the value of saving today in favor of spending tomorrow.


2 thoughts on “Savings Account

  1. Grover Shaunty

    I appreciate your willingness to address this issue of families contributing to the immediate gratification issue with kids today. Out of 59 residents we now have only 30 are truly sick and they are our chronic clients who have lived here an average of 14.6 years. The other 29 are simply ENABLED YOUNG ADULTS who feel ENTITLED to immediate gratification of every nature. You talk about mowing yards and setting tables and these kids refuse to eat with their family and have debit cards to choose what they want to eat separate from the family. It is a different world. We just had a major storm (hope you do not get one) and I lost everything but simply started over FROM SAVINGS and the fruits of hard work. The agency suffered no damage- just my personal home. But, these kids could not even go and volunteer to help those who had lost everything. I am glad I am old and at the end. I don’t think I could work another 58 years with this kind of client. One kid told his therapist Monday that he has been faking his mental illness for the six months he has been here just because he is angry that his family will not give him the $100,000 he feels he is entitled to just for being the kid of rich parents. It is insane. Grover


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