5 important money lessons from a celebrity dad
by Kathryn Flynn
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Steines, host of the Hallmark Channel’s Home and Family, about how he teaches his kids about money. While his two sons, Kai, 13 and Avery, 12, are still too young to fully understand fiscal responsibility, Mark is able to incorporate some of his core beliefs into their daily lives. Kids are constantly growing and changing, which is why, according to Steines, “as parents we’re all on a journey for the first time.”
Here are five lessons he’s focusing on right now that he was eager to share with us:
1. Save money
One of the most important things Mark wants his boys to understand is that while money can sometimes fix problems, it rarely cures them. He repeatedly tells them to save for a rainy day, and that when they do come into money, they’re careful not to glorify the moment and go on a spending spree. He makes sure a percentage of their income automatically gets put into savings and doesn’t get touched.
“That money is for the Kai down the road who deserves and education and needs and requires transportation. We can’t do things like drive a car if we don’t have the resources,” Mark tells his son.
Each year Kai and Avery get a specific budget for Christmas presents. This year, Kai asked for a laptop that exceeded his limit. He asked his Dad if he could pay the difference with his allowance, but he’d have to use all of it. Mark reminded him that if he spends all his money at once, he’ll be left with a laptop that doesn’t have the games he wants and he wouldn’t be able to afford those games. They eventually decided that Kai contribute some of his allowance to the cost of the laptop, leaving some leftover for games.
2. Live within your means
Mark feels that too many young adults leave college wanting to make big purchases like cars, stereos and gaming systems. But instead of saving for them, they run out and put it on a credit card. What happens next? These recent college graduates need a second job just to cover their debt. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary of a 2014 college graduate was $45,327 – not nearly enough to buy everything you’ve ever wanted.
“Not living within our means really limits our potential of what we want to become,” says Mark. “I’m very conscious of teaching my kids that when they want something they don’t just run out and get it.”
3. Understand taxes and insurance
Not surprisingly, conversations about things like taxes and insurance can come as across pretty boring to 12 and 3 year-old. But Mark wants them to know that these are the types of responsibilities that come along with earning a salary. His own parents never talked to him about taxes, and when he bought his first home his supplemental property tax bill caught him completely off guard since he had no idea what it was. He feels it’s important for his sons to be aware of these expenses as they approach adulthood so they can plan and budget accordingly.
Mark educates his sons about taxes by pointing out real life examples of what they pay for, such as telephone polls and paved roads.
“I told the boys about when I was in Sierra Leone doing a documentary. It was very difficult to get around because they didn’t have any roads,” says Mark. “We talk about our own roads, and how they are painted, who puts them there and how much it costs.”
He also wants to instill the importance of having health and life insurance – for a very personal reason. One of his family members recently passed away at a very young age. She couldn’t afford health insurance and therefore couldn’t see a doctor when she needed one. This unfortunately led to a series of health issues that eventually ended up taking her life. While Mark hasn’t shared this entire story with his sons just yet, it does help him remember the importance of teaching its lesson.
4. Research before you buy
Just like fellow celebrities Sarah Jessica Parker and Leo DiCaprio, Mark prides himself on being frugal.
“My friends laugh at me because I’ll spend three weeks researching the flat screen T.V. I want to buy,” he says. “I want to get the best bang for the buck”.
And he wants his kids to do the same. In fact, when he was helping Kai shop for his laptop, he told him to come up with five different options. Together, they researched each one, looking at RAM, screen sizes and other features. The original product Kai wanted cost $1,800, but he soon realized that he doesn’t really need the best of the best. In fact, after learning more about each feature the laptops have to offer, he settled for a model that was about half the price.
Mark also reminds his sons how easy it is to research something these days. If Kai and Avery want information, they don’t have to go to the library to the card catalog to try to find a resource.
“You guys can sit in your bedroom in your underwear and type something in a computer to get information,” he says to his sons.
5. Planning for college
Kai and Avery are still a ways off from starting college, but that doesn’t mean Mark hasn’t started thinking about it. The boys each have a 529 plan, and although they don’t know exactly what those are, they do know there is money being set aside for college. And when it comes time to select a school, Mark plans on using his same research strategy to ensure his sons make the best choice.
While he doesn’t yet know what his sons will want to study, Mark does pay close attention to their interests. Kai recently told his Dad he wanted to build a doghouse for their dog, Fred. Mark told him everything we have in this world started in someone’s imagination; an idea becomes a real thing. Together, they discussed how big of a doghouse they would need for Fred, where it should be built and how they can get the most out of it. Kai is focused on building more than just the traditional type of doghouse you’d see in a cartoon. Future architect, perhaps?