蕙籣留香 / 父母教育 / 教您孩子精于理财的十二种方法

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教您孩子精于理财的十二种方法

2012-05-31  蕙籣留香

我想,在我离开这个世界十年后,只会有两个人常常想起我来。那就是亨利和汉娜。

他们是我的遗产,所以我希望他们茁壮成长 -- 当然也希望他们能深情地记起我。

当然了,亨利和汉娜是我的孩子。他们现在一个15岁,一个19岁。象所有父母一样,我花很多时间为他们考虑,包括考虑如何才能最好地在财务上帮助他们。

尽管所涉及的款项不菲,但也不是一味给钱的事。实际上,真正重要的是价值观的传承。

是的,我希望孩子们在经济上成功。但更主要的,我希望他们能够熟练地,满意地管理自己的财产。这样他们才不会一辈子受财务的罪,也不会一辈子困扰于愚蠢的错误。

我不认为我的做法适用于所有的家长。我们都有不同的价值观,不同的收入水平,以及各自的关于如何更好养育子女的固执想法。您很可能对我所做的一些事不屑一顾。尽管如此,以下是我的12个方法。它们被我用来在财务上帮助我的孩子们。

1. 来日方长

如果想让孩子成长为成功的储蓄者和投资者,他们需要掌握两个关键技能:如何推迟满足自己,以及如何审慎地冒险。而第一条是最重要的。

事实上,延后满足所需要的自我控制,不仅仅与良好的储蓄习惯相关。它也与其他事情相关,比如在学校取得成功,以及更好地应对挫折和压力。

然而,这不是一项容易传授的技能。亨利和汉娜在成长过程中用的是父母的钱,所以他们并没有太强的动机来克制他们的欲望。我的应对办法呢?让他们觉得是在花自己的钱。

我的一个早期技巧,是从读者那里学来的“汽水游戏”。在孩子们小时候,我们一起去餐馆时,我会给他们一个选择的机会:他们可以喝汽水,但不喝的话,就可以得到(省下来的)1美元。

结果亨利和汉娜喝了很多(免费的)矿泉水。

2. 扪心自问

受“汽水游戏”的成功所激励,我试图寻找其他方法来传递同样的观念。汉娜14岁,亨利10岁的时候我取得了突破。当时我为他们分别开设了一个附带ATM卡的储蓄帐户。

从那时起每三个月,我会在他们的帐户里存入他们的零花钱。在他们长大后,这笔存款里也包括了他们的服装津贴。这样一来,他们不得不学习制定为期三个月的预算。更重要的是,他们不再直接问我要钱。

相反,如果他们想要买东西,他们必须问问自己。这样做的效果是惊人的。亨利和汉娜的消费立即变得更谨慎了。

听着是不是象在操纵小孩子?你最好相信它的效果。不过我还把这看作是“财务自卫”。假设亨利和汉娜因为没有学到好的的理财技能,而成长为“老赖”,并最终因此陷入巨大的债务危机,我很难想象我会袖手旁观 -- 到那时,他们的财务问题最终会变成我的财务问题。

3. 痛说家史

除了经济刺激,我还用家庭故事来塑造亨利和汉娜。

通过讲故事,我们把价值观灌输给孩子们。我希望他们了解,现在他们也许算是生活在一个富裕小镇上的一户富裕家庭里,但我和他们的母亲曾经在经济上挣扎过。他们也很可能会经历他们自己的困苦挣扎。

所以,我跟他们讲,当年他们的妈妈攻读博士学位时,我们一起住在布鲁克林的一个蟑螂老鼠横行的公寓里,靠着我的初级记者薪水勉强度日。我还跟他们讲那辆破旧的76年雪佛兰Camaro,如何在在路口时因为红灯时间太长而熄火。我还追忆和蹒跚学步的他们一起去FAO Schwarz玩具店,我们的“玩具博物馆”的日子。在那儿我们玩洋娃娃和火车,但只玩不买。

不讲故事的话,我可以只是简单地和他们说教勤俭的美德。但是家庭故事有冲击力得多。

4. 嘲笑财富

我还鼓励孩子们对炫富保持怀疑,不管炫耀的是豪宅,名车,还是名牌服装。事实上,这种开支不但不会带来持久的幸福,反而会带来一大堆经济压力。

在贬低乱花钱方面,我可能说地过于刺耳了。但我这样做是有原因的。亨利和汉娜算是听着关于破旧的布鲁克林公寓的故事长大的,但伴随我长大的是一个更有冲击力的故事,一个关于我祖父和他的四兄弟的故事。他们在40年代分别继承了在今天价值数百万美元的财产。他的兄弟们迅速地把钱花在了跑车和奢侈的生活上。我祖父花得慢些,把钱消耗在了马匹和养牛上。不论哪种方式,大笔的家族财富都蒸发殆尽,元凶正是不计后果的消费。

5. 长年复利

当孩子们还很小的时候,我为他们各买了一份可变年金。这不算是一种我特别喜欢的金融产品,因为它们很多都有高得离谱的年费,而且可能对(短期内)比如说头七年里的赎回收取后端销售佣金。

尽管如此,市场上还是有一些低年费且无佣金的可变年金产品,特别是那些富达投资和先锋集团的产品。此外,不象个人退休帐户,可变年金账户并不需要靠固定收入来维持。所以你甚至可以给婴儿开设这样的账户。今天,我的孩子们的低成本可变年金分别价值大约37,000美元。

长久以来我一直着迷于这样的主意:让亨利和汉娜从一开始就在通往退休的道路上做准备。想想看:他们小时候我为他们投资的钱,可以享受六十年的延税复利。假设8%的年回报率的话,这足以把1美元变成100多美元。而且因为提前支取所会招致的税收惩罚,孩子们不会愿意在他们59岁之前动用这笔钱。

6. 免费增值

市场上还有比可变年金好的多的投资工具。我在几年前得到了机会。那时汉娜在本地的餐馆找到了一份工作,而这意味着她有了收入。所以我可以替她开设一个乐富(Roth)个人退休帐户。由此汉娜将获得免税的财富增值。

不然,我也可以开一个普通的个人退休账户(IRA)。从这种账户提取是要交税的,但你可以得到初始减税。不过考虑到汉娜的低税率,这样的减税并不很划得来。所以乐富账户看起来是个更好的选择。

我藏在孩子们的可变年金和汉娜的乐富IRA里的钱远不够保障他们的退休,特别是在考虑通货膨胀以后。但是,我的目标从来也不是完全保障他们的退休。相反,设立这些账户是想让它们成为有力的例证,以向孩子们展示:如果他们愿意安静地持有多种多样的低成本基金,财富将获得怎样的增长。

7. 回家的路

    我的父母为我第一次购房提供了资助,所以我也想为孩子们提供同样的帮助。为此,我为他们每人投资了15,000美元。

即使经过十年或更长时间的增值,这15000美元也很可能远远不够支付他们买房所需的20%头款。但是,这笔钱可以给他们提供一个经营的基础。

我把给汉娜的15,000美元投到了一个目标日期为2010年的目标日期共同基金,而亨利的钱则买了一个目标日期为2015年的基金。买这些基金是因为我认为,在它们的目标日期到来之后的5到10年内,孩子们大概都不会买房。

我的想法是:在目标日期到来时,目标期限基金账户通常会有一半左右的资金投在股市里。而在此之后,它的投资策略会变得日趋保守。这样等到孩子们需要首付款时,基金里的资金应该主要都被投资于(较为安全的)债券了。

8. 保留评分

当我的孩子买房时,他们不仅仅需要首付款。还需要拥有良好的信用评分。

考虑到这一点,今年早些时候我把汉娜列为我的Visa卡的一个联合账户持有人。这意味着她原本一片空白的信用报告里被加上了我这张卡的信用记录。

突然之间,她看起来象是一个财务上的模范公民了。这让她能够在几个月后申请到一张她自己的Discover信用卡。现在我为她制定了一个严格的(信用卡消费)制度。每个月她都用信用卡消费一小笔钱并按月付清欠款,从而慢慢地建立一个良好的信用评分。

当亨利到上大学的年纪时,我也会带他走一遍同样的荒谬流程。唉,虽然荒谬,但是必要。现实是,良好的信用评分能帮助孩子们在将来获得较低的房贷利率,较低的保险费,以及其他许多经济利益。

9. 宣誓帮忙

大揭底:我(其实)已经离婚了。但是,即使在我婚姻破裂以前,我就已经对许多家庭为一天的婚礼花费20,000到30,000美元而感到震惊。

考虑以下事实,能为这种支出提供一个对比背景:美国联邦储备委员会2004年的消费者财务状况调查显示,96%以上的年龄在65岁至74岁之间的家庭都拥有一定的储蓄 -- 但是,他们的这些金融资产的中间值,算上支票帐户,股票和共同基金,仅仅是36,100美元。

为一个派对花30000美元不符合我的价值观,而我也确保我的孩子们了解这一点。我告诉他们,在他们婚礼或者30岁生日时,不管那一天先到,我会给他们5000美元。要是他们想要一个花费30,000美元的婚礼怎么办?他们可以去找他们的妈妈。

10. 施以援手

尽管昂贵的婚礼在我的优先级名单上排位很低,良好的教育却几乎排在首位。我和我的前妻很早以前就对此达成共识:我们会全额支付孩子们本科教育的花费。这也是我的父母曾经为我做的,而父母的行为往往对我们造成深远的影响。

然而,我的慷慨也是有限度的。我告诉亨利和汉娜,如果他们想继续读研究生,就得靠贷款了。到时候我也许会仁慈一些。但是我认为他们应该为留在学校有所付出,所以我不会继续全额支援。

11. 设定期望

正如您看到的,我和孩子们就钱的事已经进行了大量的讨论。他们知道,大学毕业时他们将没有债务负担,购房首付时能得到一些经济帮助,而婚礼时能收到5000美元。他们也知道退休帐户的事。我还答应在大学毕业时给5000美元,作为他们闯世界的启动资金。

毫无疑问,有些人会认为我过于慷慨,而另一些人会认为我吝啬。很多人会质疑我的优先级。比如有些人说,他们会选择不为孩子开设退休账户,从而腾出更多的钱来投资给购房首付部分。

但是,坦率地说,确切的金额并不重要。相反,我所努力做的是设立期望值。通过对亨利和汉娜详细地说明这一切计划,我已经让他们清楚地了解到,我认为我(对他们)的财务责任在哪里终结,而他们(自己)的财务责任要从哪里开始。

12. 接受教育

一直以来,我也努力向孩子们传授如何明智地投资。这是一个缓慢的过程。

举例来说,数年前,我曾经尝试过家庭投资竞赛。我们每人选择一个共同基金,由我每月向选出的每支基金投资50美元,然后我们跟踪看谁的基金表现最好。我原以为竞争会引来他们的兴趣,但结果并不是(我所预期的)巨大成功。也许亨利和汉娜当时还太小。

实际上,我仍坚持给孩子们看他们基金的邮寄对账单,而随着年龄增长他们对此也越来越感兴趣。他们对金融市场也变得更好奇了:现在我已经可以在他们开始玩iPod之前,和他们就投资聊至少30秒钟。

我希望能有足够多的这些(好苗头)被保留下来,而他们也能最终成长为审慎的理财者。这样做的潜在收益是巨大的。一个财务顾问可能会每年收取价值(所管理)投资组合1%的佣金,而他推荐的共同基金又会花掉另一个1%。如果孩子们学会建立自己的指数基金投资组合,且成本仅为每年0.2%,那会怎么样?当他们的投资组合价值达到100万美元时,他们将只用支付每年2,000美元的投资成本,而不是雇用一个财务顾问所需的每年20,000美元。而且,运气好的话,他们还能记得(这一切)需要感谢谁。

 

- 克莱门茨,住在纽约,为华尔街日报撰写“Getting Going”专栏。联系方式为jonathan.clements@wsj.com

12 Ways to Make Your Kids Financially Savvy


Ten years after I am dead and gone, I suspect only two people will give much thought to me, and their names are Henry and Hannah.

They're my legacy, so I hope they thrive -- and I sure hope they remember me fondly.

Henry and Hannah are, of course, my children, now ages 15 and 19, respectively. Like any parent, I spend a lot of time thinking about my kids, including how I can best help them financially.

This isn't simply about coughing up dollars and cents, though the sums involved have been frighteningly large. Rather, what it's really about is passing along values.

Yes, I want my kids to be financially successful. But mostly, I want them to be competent, contented managers of their own money, so they don't spend their lives agonizing over their finances and dogged by foolish mistakes.

I am not claiming to have the road map for every parent. We all have different values, different incomes and strong ideas about how best to raise children -- and you will likely scoff at some of the things I've done. With that caveat, here are a dozen ways I have endeavored to help my kids financially.
1. WAITING UNTIL LATER

If children are to grow up to be successful savers and investors, they need to learn two key skills: How to delay gratification and how to take risks prudently. The first is easily the most important.

Indeed, the self-control needed to delay gratification is associated not only with good saving habits, but also with things like succeeding in school and coping better with frustration and stress.

Yet this isn't an easy skill to teach. Henry and Hannah grew up spending their parents' cash, so they didn't have much incentive to curb their desires. My response? Make them feel like they're spending their own money.

One of my early tricks was the soda game, which I learned about from a reader. When my children were young and we went to restaurants, I would give them a choice: They could have a soda or they could have $1.

Henry and Hannah ended up drinking a lot of water.



2. ASKING THEMSELVES

Emboldened by the soda game's success, I looked for other ways to apply the same notion. The breakthrough came when Hannah was 14 and Henry was 10. That was when I opened a savings account for each of them. The accounts came with a cash-machine card.

Every three months since then, I have deposited pocket money for them in their savings accounts and, as they have grown older, their clothing allowance as well. That way, they've had to learn to budget for a three-month period. More important, they no longer ask me for money.

Instead, if they want to buy something, they have to ask themselves. The effect has been startling. Henry and Hannah almost immediately became more careful spenders.

Sound manipulative? You'd better believe it. But I also think of it as financial self-defense. Suppose Henry and Hannah don't learn good money skills and grow up to be financial deadbeats. If they ended up deeply in debt, I can't imagine not helping -- at which point their financial problems would be mine.


3. TALKING THE TALK

I haven't just molded Henry and Hannah with financial incentives. I have also used family stories.

Values are passed down to our children in the stories we tell. My children may live in an affluent household in an affluent town. But I want them to know that their mother and I struggled financially, and that they will likely have their own struggles.

So I talk about the mouse- and cockroach-infested Brooklyn apartment where we all lived while their mother worked on her Ph.D. and we squeaked by on a junior reporter's salary. I tell them about the beaten-up '76 Camaro that used to stall if the traffic light stayed red too long. I recount taking them as toddlers to the "toy museum," otherwise known as FAO Schwarz, where we would play with the dolls and the trains but never buy.

Instead of regaling my children with these tales, I could simply lecture them about the virtues of thrift. But the stories pack far more punch.



4. SCOFFING AT WEALTH

I have also encouraged my kids to be suspicious of displays of opulence, whether it's the big house, the fancy car or the designer clothes. The fact is, this sort of spending doesn't lead to lasting happiness, but it can create a heap of financial stress.

In belittling conspicuous consumption, I may be a little too strident, but there's a reason. Henry and Hannah may have grown up hearing about the dilapidated Brooklyn apartment. But I grew up hearing a far more powerful story, about my maternal grandfather and his four siblings, who in the 1940s each inherited what today would be millions of dollars. My grandfather's siblings quickly blew the money on fast cars and high living. My grandfather blew his money more slowly, on horses and cattle farming. Either way, the great family fortune was gone, and reckless spending was largely to blame.



5. COMPOUNDING FOR DECADES

When my children were young, I opened a variable annuity for each of them. This isn't a product I particularly like, because many have outrageously high annual expenses and charge back-end sales commissions if you sell within, say, the first seven years.

Still, there are a few no-load variable annuities with low annual expenses, notably the offerings from Fidelity Investments and Vanguard Group. Moreover, unlike with an individual retirement account, you don't need earned income to fund a variable annuity, so you can open an account for a toddler. Today, my kids' low-cost variable annuities are each worth some $37,000.

I have long been captivated by the idea of starting Henry and Hannah on the road to retirement. Think about it: The dollars I invested when they were youngsters might enjoy six decades of tax-deferred compounding. That's enough to turn $1 into over $100, assuming an 8% annual return. And thanks to the tax penalty on early withdrawals, my children will be discouraged from touching the money before they are 59?.



6. GROWING FREE

There are far better investment vehicles than a variable annuity, and my chance came a few years ago. Hannah got a job at a local restaurant, which meant she had earned income. That allowed me to open a Roth individual retirement account for her, which will give Hannah tax-free growth.

Instead, I could have funded a regular IRA, where withdrawals are taxable but you get an initial tax deduction. That tax deduction, however, wouldn't have been worth much, given Hannah's low tax rate, so the Roth seemed like a better bet.

The money I've stashed in my kids' variable annuities and in Hannah's Roth IRA won't be nearly enough to pay for their retirement, especially once you figure in inflation. But fully funding their retirement was never my aim. Rather, the accounts are intended to be a powerful example, showing my children how money will grow if they are willing to sit quietly with a diverse collection of low-cost funds.



7. HEADING HOME

When I bought my first home, my parents helped me financially, and I want to do the same for my kids. To that end, I have invested $15,000 for each of them.

Even with a decade or more of growth, that $15,000 probably won't be nearly enough for a 20% down payment. But it will give them something to build on.

I stashed Hannah's $15,000 in a target-date mutual fund that's geared toward 2010, while Henry's money is in a 2015 fund. I bought those funds knowing my kids probably won't buy homes until five or 10 years after those dates.

My thinking: Target-date funds typically have around half their money in stocks as of their target date, and then they continue to become more conservative in the years that follow. By the time my kids need their down-payment money, their target-date funds should be largely invested in bonds.



8. KEEPING SCORE

When my kids buy a house, they won't just need a down payment. They will also want to have a good credit score.

With that in mind, I listed Hannah as a joint account holder on my Visa card earlier this year. That meant the card's credit history was added to her previously blank credit report.

Suddenly, she looked like a model financial citizen. That allowed her, a few months later, to apply for a Discover card on her own. I now have her on a strict regimen, where she charges a small sum each month and dutifully pays it off, thus slowly building up a good credit score.

When Henry reaches college age, I will go through the same nonsense with him. This, alas, is necessary nonsense. The reality is, a good credit score will help my kids get a lower mortgage rate, lower insurance premiums and a host of other financial benefits.



9. VOWING TO HELP

Full disclosure: I am divorced. But even before my marriage broke up, I was horrified by the way many families blow $20,000 or $30,000 on a single day of celebration for a wedding.

To put such spending in context, consider this: According to the Federal Reserve's 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances, more than 96% of households headed by someone 65 to 74 had some savings -- but the median value of these financial assets, including things like checking accounts, stocks and mutual funds, was just $36,100.

Spending $30,000 on a party is not one of my values, and I've made sure my kids know it. I have told them I will give them $5,000 toward a wedding or at age 30, whichever comes first. What if they want the $30,000 wedding? They can ask their mother.



10. LENDING A HAND

While an expensive wedding is low on my list of priorities, a good education ranks near the top. My ex-wife and I long ago agreed that we would pay the full cost of our children's undergraduate education. Again, this was something my parents did for me, and we all tend to be heavily influenced by our parents' behavior.

There is, however, a limit to my generosity. I have told Henry and Hannah that, if they want to go on to graduate school, they will have to take out loans. I may relent somewhat when the time comes. But I think that there should be some cost to staying in school, so I am not inclined to continue footing the full tab.



11. SETTING EXPECTATIONS

As you might gather, I have talked to my kids a fair amount about money. They know they will graduate college debt-free, they will get some help toward a house down payment and they will receive just $5,000 toward a wedding. They know about the retirement accounts. I have also promised them $5,000 upon graduating college, to get them started in the world.

No doubt some folks will think I'm overly generous, while others might consider me cheap. Many will question my priorities. For instance, folks have told me that they would have skipped the retirement accounts and allocated more toward a house down payment.

But, frankly, the precise sums aren't that important. Instead, what I am striving to do is set expectations. By detailing everything to Henry and Hannah, I have made it clear where I think my financial responsibility ends and where theirs will begin.



12. GETTING EDUCATED

Along the way, I have also endeavored to teach my kids about sensible investing. It's been a slow process.

For instance, earlier this decade, I tried a family investment contest. We all picked a mutual fund, I invested $50 a month in each and then we tracked who fared best. I thought the competition would grab their interest, but it wasn't a great success. Maybe Henry and Hannah were too young.

Indeed, I have continued to show them their mutual-fund statements as they arrive in the mail, and my kids have grown more interested as they have grown older. They have also become more curious about the financial markets, and I can now chat about investing for at least 30 seconds before they reach for their iPods.

I hope enough of this will stick, and they will grow up to be prudent managers of their own money. The potential savings are huge. A financial adviser might charge 1% of a portfolio's value each year, and then recommend mutual funds that cost another 1%. What if my children learn to build their own index-fund portfolios that cost a mere 0.2% a year? When their portfolios hit $1 million, they will pay just $2,000 a year in investment costs, instead of the $20,000 they would be paying if they used an adviser. And, with any luck, they will remember whom to thank.


—Mr. Clements, who is based in New York, writes the Getting Going column for The Wall Street Journal. He can be reached at jonathan.clements@wsj.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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