Life Without TV

It's good for ya. A reader writes:

When I was 13, my parents made me a proposal. If I were to not watch TV for a full year, they would give me $1,000. My father was actually generous, and allowed me to watch one sports game a week so I wouldn't miss events like the Super Bowl. I passed the test, and I can say I never 'cheated.' Not once.

The money I earned was not free for me to blow on just anything. It was reserved in a savings account until I was 18.

Today, I am 26 and single. Although my parents paid for my under-graduate tuition and living fees, I'm financially independent, and have saved over $50k on my own for law school. It is quite normal for me to try and save one-third to a half of my paycheck each month.

If I were married with a 13-year-old today, I would make a very similar proposal. If my child did not watch TV for a year I would give my child $1,000 for the first year, $2,000 for the second year, $3,000 for the third year, and so on until he/she was 18.  Any time during which my child watched TV would reset the progression. I might also offer the same bonuses for not drinking any soft drinks/highly sugared drinks as well as not eating from fast food chains.  If the child were to break any laws during this time, the program would be suspsended.

At 13, I would also inform my child that I was not to be responsible for their tuition expenses during college. I would put all the money the child subsequently earned into an Coverdell educational IRA.  As my parents did, upon being granted admission, I would then provide a lump sum account for my child's living expenses during college, which they would have to manage wisely throughout their years in college to give them a sense for personal finance.

I think this is a great way to teach your child financial incentive and independence.  It also demonstrates that you trust them.  Lastly, it can develop self-discipline in your child and stem off the development of certain poor lifestyle or unhealthy habits. I would never offer incentives for good grades, however.

Maybe it's a trend.