By Dom Cioffi
My 11-year-old son has been displaying a remarkable lack of intellect lately when it comes to money.
It all started over the last year when several fateful events brought me great pause.
The first “situation” involved an overnight school trip where he was corralled into a card game in the back of the bus that apparently involved gambling (keep in mind, he’s 11 years old and was playing cards with several other kids of the same age).
He didn’t come right out and admit that he lost all of his money gambling. Instead, it slipped out piecemeal as my wife and I began grilling him on the whereabouts of the $40 we entrusted to him.
As the details emerged, a picture was slowly painted of one conniving student taking advantage of several other boys via a weighted card game. My wife insisted that I contact the school, but I was adamant that losing the money was no one’s fault but our son’s.
“Dad, it was so simple. I don’t know =why I kept losing,” he explained.
I then launched into a lecture about being taken advantage of and how the house always wins. He listened intently (mostly because I was borderline maniacal in my speech), so I was certain a lesson was learned.
A few months later, after my son had saved up his allowance money, he requested to buy a $45 Nerf gun.
“Are you sure that’s what you want to spend your money on?” I asked.
He assured me it was and so I sat him down at the computer, logged into Amazon, and had him search and then order the exact weapon he wanted. At the check-out, I had him punch in all the required information and choose his payment option.
When we finished, he looked at me and asked, “So, it’ll be here tomorrow, right?”
I explained that the costs associated with overnight shipping were extraordinarily high and that the free shipping option would have it here within a few days.
“A few days!” he groaned. “I can’t wait that long! How much is overnight shipping?”
I replied that it was upwards of $25, at which point he screamed, “I’ll pay for it!”
No matter how much I tried to help him understand the dangers of instant gratification, he insisted that the extra money was worth it. This lack of basic logic pained me greatly.
The third instance of money mismanagement involved a recent Christmas gift from my son’s grandmother.
The gift was a brand new, crisp $100 bill tucked into a holiday envelope that included an endearing message requesting that the enclosed money be spent on something “educational.”
No sooner did my son have the money in hand then he was making plans to blow it. And do you know what his idea of an “educational” gift involved? Pizza.
That’s right. Within an hour of receiving $100 in the mail, my son attempted to buy four pizzas with sodas for him and his buddies.
Once again, I tried explain the value of money, but it fell on deaf ears. And while I did embrace his sense of charity with his friends, I still found it hard to fathom why he was so eager to part with such a large sum of money for something so mundane. (Especially when his father always pays for food!)
I try not to worry about this stuff too much because I truly believe that life has a way of working things out. What I can’t teach my son about money, life will. And if my mother’s logic follows, he’s bound to end up a banker.
Normally, I would think of banking as a chivalrous occupation, but after seeing this week’s feature, “The Big Short,” I’m not so sure.
Based on the best-selling book that chronicled the build up and ultimate collapse of the housing market in the 2000s, “The Big Short” gives an inside glimpse of the ludicrous policies that lead to one of the greatest financial disasters of our time.
A great story is one thing (especially when it’s based on actual events), but when you add in stellar performances from the likes of Steve Carell and Christian Bale, then you’ve got a reason to pay attention.
This is one of those movies that will give you great pause when you realize just how sketchy our monetary systems can get when left unchecked. It’s also intriguing to learn about the people who saw it coming when everyone else was convinced it was impossible.
Check this one out if you’re involved in the financial sector or you spend any time trading stocks. If you’re outside that arena, you may face a slight learning curve, but the film does a fairly good job explaining all the elements that fueled this dilemma.
A bullish “A-” for “The Big Short.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected].