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Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'll Tell You What Isn't Fair

A poster on the imamother chatboard is debating between paying of $10,000 of credit card debt (read interest charges alone likely vary between $800 to $3300 per year!) or sending her children to camp. Regarding camp, the pluses she list are sending her children to camp over paying down, and ultimately off, the debt she lists: giving them a wonderful, fun summer and saving her sanity. She wonders if "denying them a camp experience isn't fair to them."

Please don't take this in the wrong way, because it might sound a bit harsh, but the message needs to get out there. . . . . I'll tell you what isn't fair to the kids: jeopardizing your financial future and, for that matter their financial future, so you can having something you want NOW. I'll tell you what isn't fair:

  • Putting your shalom bayit in jeopardy. Money problems do exactly that. Money problems have hurt many a marriage. We pray daily to Hashem to not place us in challenging situations. The best way to shield yourself from financial challenges is to live on a budget and stay out of debt. Want real sanity? Pay off that credit card debt. I guarantee you that an exhausting summer will allow you to sleep at night. Fielding calls from creditors will cause plenty of sleepless nights.
  • Reaching retirement age with a mortgage in the hundreds of thousands or reaching the retirement years with debt, debt, debt, placing plenty of pressure on your adult children who fear what will be. One of my readers has commented on the heartache that he and his wife have over their parents' debt. While I have no particular issue with grandparents and parents living under a single roof and working cooperatively together, such is best done out of free choice, not out of lack of choice.
  • Not being mechanech children regarding healthy financial management including delayed gratification and living within our means (happily). I've noted that debt is often generational.
  • Spending money on the fleeting, while underfunding other opportunities, perhaps opportunities that will have a far more positive effect on a child's future than a summer in camp.

This is a no-brainer. Get out of consumer debt asap. Save for emergencies. And at that point you can consider a camp experience. There are many more summers and many more camp experiences to be had. Ultimately, you will "deny" your children far more if you continue to dig yourself into a hole. And while plenty of people will scream that camp is a necessity and that it is a vital chinuch experience, I will let you in on a secret: plenty of kids don't really enjoy camp. So use the opportunity to have a fun, wonderful experience in your own backyard.

38 comments:

Lion of Zion said...

SL:

"plenty of kids don't really enjoy camp"

do you think this applies equally across all ages? i think all little kids at least like it. no?

(and i'll avoid asking the obvious question)

Orthonomics said...

I know plenty of little kids who don't really care for camp. They sit out on activities and sulk around. I've had older kids tell me they wish they didn't have to go.

What is the obvious question?

Anonymous said...

One encouraging thing is that most of the comments on imamother gave this woman the right advice -- keep the kids home and pay off the debt.

tdr said...

I just checked over to that forum and was gratified to find the responses to mostly represent the responsible point of view.

There is hope! Hopefully the woman who wrote the original question will get her act together and learn something from the responses she got.

tesyaa said...

SL, the kids who don't like camp - what are the alternatives? If Mom is very into doing programming with her children, she's probably not sending them to camp anyway. If Mom works, or if Mom is not into doing activities - a decent camp is better, even if the kid doesn't love every minute. Not every mother can make herself into an activities director. People are different.

Re the financials, I agree 100%. But even though I kept my older kids home last summer to save money, and I don't regret it, I know they were bored, despite the fact they had a few babysitting jobs.

So some kids might tell you they don't like camp, but they might like the alternatives even less. Y

Lion of Zion said...

SL:

"They sit out on activities and sulk around."

what age?
i can see why older kids might not like camp, but i'm thinking of kids my son's age (5) and i can't imagine why they wouldn't like it.

"What is the obvious question?"

well if it's really not that obvious then perhaps i am being presumptuous--because i never do that--and i shouldn't ask it.

Ariella said...

SL- If the right answer is a no-brainer, yet the person posting the question doesn't get it, what does that indicate? OK, I could very insulting about certain people here, but I will try to restrain myself. I know people just like that who carry credit debt but would still send kids to camp. But they wouldn't assume the whole cost themselves, they would demand a scholarship. The fact that they are in debt actually helps their case. So they get to "save their sanity," give their child a good time, and keep up with the Jonses around for a much lower price than it cost those of us who believe we have to do without luxuries (and, yes, camp is a luxury) that we can't afford.

It is true that not all kids like camp. It doesn't make sense to shell out so much money to put them in something they don't enjoy -- except that the parents accomplish getting the kids off their own hands. There is no price too high for some parents who really don't want their kids around day-in-day-out with no teacher or counselor to bear the responsibility for keeping them occupied and entertained.

Yael said...

The camp to which we are sending our boys sent out their enrollment letter telling us that BECAUSE of the troubling financial situation, camp is a necessity this year rather than a luxury. ;)

It is a good thing we can afford to send them to camp (a necessity) since we homeschool and save those tuition costs...

Lion of Zion said...

well if ariella can say it (although she doesn't raise the larger implications for the rest of the year), then i don't feel so bad for being presumptuous

Anonymous said...

The question sounded like it was from a SAHM. If she really thinks her kids will be deprived by not going to camp and that she is not capable of keeping them reasonably occupied and content, perhaps one alternative is for her to send her kids to camp and get a job to pay for it. I realize that this isn't the best time to find a job and perhaps she doesn't have the skills or experience to make enough to pay for camp, but I can't help wondering if this woman wants it all -- staying at home and affording to splurge on her children.

I also thought it was interesting that the post did not mention what Dad's views are on camp v. bills.

Orthonomics said...

what age?
i can see why older kids might not like camp, but i'm thinking of kids my son's age (5) and i can't imagine why they wouldn't like it.


Yes, that age. I will email you offline.

JS said...

This really spoke to me. My in-laws are in significant debt due to lots of little bad decisions and a bunch of big bad decisions as well. It's something my wife and I worry about every now and then - will they be able to retire? what should happen if my father-in-law can't work anymore? etc. And yes, finances are a major source of shalom bayit issues for my in-laws; their marriage and health would both be much better without this stress.

Such short-sightededness. Debt really snowballs. A few small, seemingly insignificant decisions can lead to a lot of heartache and worry down the line.

Orthonomics said...

JS-I was thinking of you, but also others. Can you write up a guest post for me on this subject? It is so important.

Anonymous said...

JS: It sounds like you should make sure your FIL has disability insurance, even if you, and the other children and children-in-laws need to chip in to get if for them.

JS said...

SephardiLady,

Sure. I'll send you an email.

Selena said...

LOZ, My son does not really enjoy camp (he is 7 now). He likes some parts (the field trips and sports) and loathes other parts (arts and crafts, singing, any type of show.) I do work full time, so he needs to go to day camp. Perhaps sleep away camp would be better...

Anonymous said...

JS nailed it. Often with the immediate needs (and wants) of children and life, its easy to lose the long-term perspective. I don't know what got your in-laws into trouble as I know several people with only minimal savings through no fault of their own and circumstances they can control (i.e. illness, layoffs, etc.)which is why it is so important to control those things we can have some control over such as what type of car to buy, how big a house, camp, etc.

Anonymous said...

JS's comment strikes close to home. Thank God not in mine!

A friend recently had her mother and step-father move in with her our of necessity. The shocking thing is that I well remember the mother as a near millionaire. She had a very successful business which has suffered from general economic factors. As really intelligent as she is, she spent money but didn't plan much for the day when she wouldn't earn any more. They have a second home worth quite a bit, but can't sell it at this point without taking a large loss on it and eating the mortgage. So, they lived well for years but now have no liquid or redeemable assets. Moving in with their single daughter is clearly not what any of them would choose; but they have nowhere else to turn. And the daughter has to look for work because she worked for the family business.

How's that for a warning story?

Anonymous said...

Selena - sleep away camp has even more crafts, singing, shows, etc. because they need to keep the kids occupied after dinner as well as during the day. decades ago I went to a camp (not religious) where the campers could pick many of their activities sort of like college students picking which courses they take beyond a few compulsories. That meant if you hated archery, for example, you could skip it and take an extra unit of free swim or tennis. I don't know if there are still any camps like that. Outside of the jewish world there are lots of sports camps that forego many of the crafts and sing alongs.

Orthonomics said...

Selena-I have a friend with a daughter that begged her to go to one of the well known frum camps ("all" her friends were going). It didn't turn out so well. The kids made fun of her clothing (this camp is known for being down to earth) and she didn't have the time she expected to have. I think she was a bit older than your son and I don't know what goes on in boys camp, but I'd exercise caution at the very least. Obviously you need something because you work full time. Perhaps a morning in a Jewish camp for the davening and learning followed by an afternoon in a local sports camp? I'm sympathetic to not caring for arts and crafts. I've purchased some books for guidance this summer. My kids love arts and crafts.

Orthonomics said...

Wow Anon. And expect to see more of that. Diversification doesn't just apply to investments. It applies to employment situations and clientele for the self-employed.

tesyaa said...

Perhaps a morning in a Jewish camp for the davening and learning followed by an afternoon in a local sports camp?

SL: for a working mother, this presumes a caregiver who drives and has a car available. I am one of the few mothers I know who has a driving caregiver, but she only works for me 4 hours a day. I know many families might be better off financially if the mom decides to stay home and do all the kids' activities at no cost, but that doesn't apply to my family and it doesn't apply to many others.

One of the benefits of a good day camp, or a good sleepaway camp, is swimming lessons. My kids have received hundreds of dollars of lessons as part of their camp experiences, if not thousands, and they b"h swim well for their ages.

LeahGG said...

i'm always surprised by people who don't have a "lock-down" mode when financial times are tough.

A few months ago, we sat down and worked out our finances. I saw that we're not saving anything right now.

Instant lock-down. No more meals out. Much less meat. Much less buying EVERYTHING, even groceries. Has it helped? Only a little, since most of our costs are fixed, but we're actively calling our various service providers to see if they'll drop prices (changed cell-phone providers for me, husband's phone is free from work already)

If you have debt (though for this kind of thing, mortgage is in a diff category), you should be in lockdown mode.

Orthonomics said...

tesyaa-All I'm saying is that it is worth looking into. There are camps where I live that transport and run either full or half days. There are also public schools that run half day summer sessions which makes for an afternoon camp market. Sometimes there are groups of students who attend a special interest camp and one of the parents is willing and able to run carpool.

All I'm saying is that it might be something to look into.

Miami Al said...

We switched to tracking everything with Mint.com. Years ago, before kids, I had everything in Quicken, and knew my finances to the penny, but if you ever missed a month of entering things, things got out of whack pretty fast.

Mint.com is more fluid... it's not a real accounting system, it's a computer system with "reports."

As a result, it totals up your net work constantly, as well as your "net income," but those may not always "match" because of uncategorized expenses. This is nice because you don't have to track down everything, just monitor.

The budgeting is great too. We used to just go into lock-down to get out of trouble, and while a lot of our expenses are fixed, by retiring the debts and eliminating interest charges, we're freeing up cash flow. I really credit Mint.com with letting us actually get OUT of lock down and still save money. Before that, we spent without consideration when things were good (after saving via direct deposit), then went into lock down... and with a house, kids, cars, etc., in life, lock down is much less effective of an approach than it was when it was two of us in a rented apartment.

We've eased up, and as long as debt is being serviced and retired at a good rate, putting cash in reserves, etc., we don't have to be in lock down mode. It's hard to actually run in lock-down for 2 years to pay everything off, much easier to run on a reasonable budget with a "5 year" repayment plan, and putting all the money from the side gig into making that a 2-3 year plan.

Tamiri said...

I was wondering whether you had seen that posting, SL :-)

Orthonomics said...

I did and was also glad to see everyone saying "get out of debt." But to combat these issues, we need to promote an attitude of "you are NOT denying your children if you don't do x, y, and z."

Anonymous said...

Outside of the OJ world, camp is not considered necessary. While millions of kids do go to camp, many more millions don't and do just fine. I know several families that could easily afford camp, but they prefer to have their children at home or their children prefer not to go. Some do a special soccer or drama or other theme camp for a week or two, and often they are not sleep away. With all the programmed time during the school year, I don't understand why so much programmed time is needed in the summer too.

Shoshana Z. said...

No camp for us either, but we are making good use of the city rec centers. Plus we homeschool and still maintain a learning schedule during the summer that takes up about half the day.

Anonymous said...

A GOOD THING TO KNOW:

New Law: If a patrol car is pulled over to the side of the road, you must change to the next lane (away from the stopped vehicle) or slow down by 20 mph. Every state except NY, Hawaii, Maryland and [D.C.] has adopted this law now. Including for Tow trucks, Road maintenance, police, etc

In New Jersey , the "Move-over" law became operative in 2009, fine up to $500. http://www.moveoveramerica.com/

A friend's son got a ticket for this recently. A police car (turned out it was 2 police cars) was on the side of the road giving a ticket to someone else. He slowed down to pass but did not move into the other lane. The second police car immediately pulled him over and gave him a ticket. He had never heard of the law.

It is a fairly new law that states if any emergency vehicle is on the side of the road, if you are able, you are to move into the far lane. The cost of the ticket was $754, with 3 points on your license and a mandatory court appearance.

Please tell everyone you know about this new law. Thanks to Shubert appraisers for this one.
Posted by Yudel Shain at 2:23 PM 0 comments Links to this post

gavra@work said...

On the other side of the coin...

My son has a friend in his class who he joins quite often in the local park. When we asked his mother what he was doing for the summer, she said he will stay at home and go to mommy camp (park, walks etc.). She told us that she is not paying full tuition, and feels it would be stealing to send her child to camp.

It makes me feel much better to be paying full, when others don't take advantage of it.

Tamiri said...

A CPA attacked my position, SL. I am too tired to respond more logically than I did. Since when did $10k in debt turn into no big deal?

LeahGG said...

I got swimming lessons at the town pool, 5 mornings a week, 2 hours, for 3 weeks, for super-cheap, from the red cross as a kid.

The pool was a 20 minute walk from my house... by the time I got ready, walked there, had my lesson, toweled off, walked back, it was lunch time. Almost as good as half-day camp for much less money.

Of course, my parents didn't mind mixed swimming...

I didn't actually enjoy it that much, but I did get my advanced beginner card that summer.

LeahGG said...

for high school boys - a much cheaper alternative to camp - even when you add in airfare and spending money.
http://www.nahariya.co.il/Eng/Index.asp?CategoryID=74

Anonymous said...

Leah: It's pretty hard to find non-mixed swimming for kids other than at a camp. If that's not an issue, lots of town recreation departments as well as YMCA's still have very reasonably priced swimming lessons.

Orthonomics said...

Tamirir-I completely disagree with the CPA/almost CFP. I happen to be friends with a CFP and she takes a much more chilled position on debt also. There are plenty of CPAs who live beyond their means. There are plenty of CPAs that give nonsensical advice, and this is an example. I might make a post about it because I think she is completely off base.

I really don't care how this family got into 10K debt. They have a large family and they obviously don't have little to no liquid savings to cover the "life happens" expenses. And, boy, does life happen. It really happened to us and thank G-d for being debt free and having savings! Keep fighting the good fight. You are right on the money.

Tamiri said...

SL I pray to G-d your screen name isn't Tova LOL

Orthonomics said...

It most certainly isn't!