Opinion: How I decided to give cash to kids this Halloween
Vince Shorb, head of the National Financial Educators Council, suggests that money usually spent on candy can instead be distributed to kids. And the group has handouts with talking points to go with those “cash treats.”
I love teaching financial lessons.
I hate cleaning raw eggs off my house and picking toilet paper out of my trees.
Somewhere between the two lies my dilemma in getting fully behind the “Cash for Candy” campaign being pushed this year by the National Financial Educators Council (NEFC).
There are way too many killjoys these days trying to “improve” upon great traditions — particularly around holidays — that so many of us hold dear. To that end, the idea that nearly 100 kids would walk through my neighborhood on Monday night and that I’d be the spoil-sport who stiffs them on candy is appalling.
I see the potential for money lessons, where candy that my daughter hated earned less money, but her treasured favorites were worth more, allowing her to make real economic decisions.
Being the weird guy who gives money for Halloween is no more appealing to me than being the strange person dishing out granola snacks. I’m all for letting kids be kids, and having a blast creating a lifetime of Halloween memories.
But Cash for Candy has its merits. I’m intrigued.
The NEFC laid out a few different scenarios, but also encouraged individuality and creativity, and I can certainly see that turning into some fun. In fact, if I hadn’t already bought Halloween candy for this year — candy I’ll likely eat if it’s left behind — I might be all-in.
Instead, I’m thinking “Cash or candy?” instead of “Cash for Candy.”
Even if you find the idea silly, the intentions and motivations are good.
There’s no denying the obesity problem in this country — sadly, I personify it myself — and no child needs to consume a mountain of candy. Encouraging moderation is good.
There’s also no denying the nation’s financial literacy problem, and that children aren’t taught basics about money. Any opportunity to teach lessons about financial decision-making is great.
Vince Shorb, executive director of the National Financial Educators Council, noted that Halloween really wasn’t a candy-only experience until the late 1940s and ’50s. Until then, finding something other than candy in the bag was commonplace.
In the late ’60s and ’70s, during my last years trick-or-treating, candy-makers became the dominant force of the holiday. I have no doubt in my mind that I could still point out the houses in my childhood neighborhood in New Jersey where parents gave out apples, grapes, cookies and anything but candy. Those homes might still be identifiable by their egg stains (though I never participated in such Halloween trickery).
The NEFC’s idea is two-pronged.
It wants treat-givers to substitute cash for candy. Shorb suggested that the money spent on candy can instead be distributed to the kids (and the group has handouts with talking points to go with those “cash treats.” Shorb, who has no children of his own, says he does this, and while he did not disclose how much he gives his Halloween visitors, the term “dollars” was used.
In my neighborhood, that’s a lot more pricey than a normal Halloween.
NEFC also suggests that parents “buy back” candy from their children, exchanging cash for some of the hoard a kid collects and infusing that with discussions about decision-making and more.
My eldest daughter, now 25, would have loved this setup, as she was very particular about the candy she liked, trading with her sister to maximize her haul of the good stuff; she would have sold the rest off in a heartbeat.
I would have wound up poorer — and with my own unhealthy stash of candy — for the experience.
But I also can see the potential for money lessons, where candy she hated earned less money, but her treasured favorites were worth more, allowing her to make real-but-rudimentary economic decisions.
We did our samples and [this] did get mixed reviews from children,” Shorb said on my show, “MoneyLife with Chuck Jaffe.” “Some are very money-focused and are really excited to hear the idea. Others are just like ‘Hey, give me the candy, that’s what I’m here for.’
The level of “excitement” is mostly tied to the amount of money involved, Shorb noted.
Obviously, kids get it.
We encourage parents to get creative in this process,” Shorb said. “Utilize this as a way to open up conversation, but get creative. Maybe it’s different dollar amounts per sizes of candy, or maybe their favorites are worth double, but you also can talk to them things they may want to save for, like a bike or something. Use this time … as a way to open up dialogue about money, finance, getting them focused on how with money … there’s a trade-off. You can’t have cash and candy both, you have to trade off, so what is more important to you.
That’s the part of Cash for Candy that I like best, but with my kids being older, it’s too late for me to have those discussions over a Halloween haul. Give change to kids and you’ll never know if it gets discussed at home.
Still, I’m willing to compromise.
My solution will go like this: Children in costumes — at least the older ones — get a choice: Take candy from one bowl or pull a small envelope that has change in it from a different bowl, some amount that could be equal to the cost of the candy up to a small jackpot of a few bucks.
It’s worth a try, just to see what happens.
It may still mark me as “the weird guy” in the neighborhood, but at least if they make the decision themselves, it might spare me the cleanup from the eggs and toilet paper.Read the full article here