First Person: How the Recession Shaped My Teenage Sons

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It's fascinating to me to see the differences in the ways the different generations in my family view money. I'm particularly interested to see how this recession has affected my teenagers.

According to a "Teens and Money Survey" by Charles Schwab, 77 percent describe themselves as "super savers." Sixty-four percent of teens are grateful for what they have. Seventy-three percent say it's important to save for a rainy day. I'd say my teens are definitely more cautious about money compared to my parents. My teenagers have been influenced by the recession as well as their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

My grandmother, who grew up during the Great Depression and also lived through the Roaring '20s, will be celebrating her 99th birthday in 2012. She has a balanced view of money. She doesn't live beyond her means, but she also doesn't scrimp and isn't stingy.

My parents are just a couple years older than the Baby Boomer generation. They didn't have a problem using credit cards. In fact, my mom views her first experience with credit as a milestone as far as "coming of age." She was upset because she wanted to purchase furniture "on time," but the salesman insisted her father co-sign, even though she had a job.

My husband and I enjoy living a debt-free life, although we both had credit cards and ran up debt when we were younger. After going through this most recent recession, I'm keeping a close eye on how my teenagers handle money and their perspectives on finances.

So far, my older son is extremely skeptical of credit cards. In fact, a few years ago he said he would save money until he could buy everything with cash, including a house. Now that he is in college, he has a more realistic perspective. He got his first credit card at 18 but doesn't run up debt. He has a credit card so he can establish good credit.

My son is also more practical about his college studies. While I studied English, feminist theology and public relations, my son plans to follow a specific pharmacy program that will lead to a career as a pharmacist.

My sons have heard me tell stories of how many of my colleagues have been laid off of their jobs. They know first hand how difficult it is for a teenager to get a job. I hope my teenagers end up in the secure financial situation of their great grandmother. She lived through rough times, but worked hard as a nurse, invested wisely and lived a long life. Sure, my grandmother was shaped by the Great Depression, but she did not let it define her.


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