Friday, July 17, 2009

Sorry, kids

My byline has been left off the online version of this op-ed from today's Evening Herald, but rest assured it's my rant...

Friday July 17 2009
By Susan Daly
One of the most fascinating questions asked of famous people is how much cash they carry in their wallet.

It says a lot about their grip on financial reality.

Maeve Binchy once said she carries cash but likes to read her credit card bill to remind her of the lovely meals she's had and places she's visited.

Now there's a woman who knows the value of things.

The Queen of England, on the other hand, never carries cash: one has minions to deal with one's filthy lucre.

It's a test that applies to mere mortals too. I bet we all hold a tighter rein over the purse strings these days. Time was when you would withdraw a few notes from the drinklink ... sorry, banklink ... and not worry too much about how they had transformed into a handful of coppers two days on.

But if anyone's pockets are worth a sneak peek now for the 'before' and 'after' picture, it's the formerly cash-rich teenager.

When disposable income made the world go round, teens were at the front of the carousel.

It's not entirely fair to grump that they were a particularly spoiled generation.

Yes, they have the latest mobile phones and a high turnover of new clothes -- but often self-funded from lucrative part-time jobs that were in proliferation like never before in Ireland. We might have had smaller amounts of money burning a hole in our pockets way back when George Michael still looked on course to marry Pepsi but I doubt we were any wiser at budgeting.

When that occasional fiver (a fortune!) presented itself, it would be gone in a thrice on a Rimmel lipstick and the latest edition of Smash Hits.

Teenagers were always spendthrifts. It just didn't look like it when 100pc of nothing was zero.

But the landscape has shifted again for the teenager now that those ten-a-penny weekend jobs are in short supply. Remember that queue down Grafton Street for one shelf-stacking job in a grocery shop earlier this year? That's the casual jobs front for you.

All of this is bringing a time-honoured parent-teen conflict back on the horizon: the battle over pocket money. Does the cash-strapped head of the household try to keep their child in the manner to which they have grown accustomed? It is natural for parents to want to protect their offspring from the worry of shrinking pay packets. Plenty of time for that when they fly the nest and have to learn to pay for food, electricity and rent.

But who decides what the going rate for keeping the sulk off the face of a 16-year-old? Two years ago, a survey from Hibernian Life claimed that only 15pc of parents didn't give their kids any pocket money at all. The rest shelled out anything between €10 and €68 a week on their little darlings. In these cases, parents will most likely reap precisely the amount they have sown.

If your child was once being funded to the level that they might have reasonably expected an MTV-style Sweet Sixteen party with a guest appearance from Kanye West, they are hardly going to be impressed by your feeble excuses about house fore- closure and the like.

Perhaps we need a Bord Snip Nua nua to negotiate the terms of agreement between the warring sides. If mum and dad are down to just the two foreign holidays a year, then the teenager might have to make do with a 1-series BMW coupe rather than the 3-series convertible their fairy godmother promised them for their 17th birthday present.

In all seriousness though, it may be difficult for some parents to disappoint their children. All they can do is remember that they are teenagers -- they are obliged by the law of nature not to like you. Tough it out until they leave home and realise that you are the source of all love, hot meals and laundry facilities. They won't be feeling short-changed then.

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