My Irish Up: Teen expenses drive economy

Mike Corrigan

Mike Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

Far from pauperizing children, the lapsed tradition of paying out weekly allowances has enriched teenagers as a social group, or in the case of teenage boys, as an antisocial group. Now, parents just hand the kids all the money straightaway.

Most teens have no time to do chores anymore, of course, since so many not only go to school most of the day, but also hold good-paying jobs out of the home, and these duties can take up more hours than the parents are putting in on their jobs. In fact, it has been determined that the diligent American teenager, on average, stands two socioeconomic classes above his own parents. It is only after leaving the nest that the post-teen quickly falls into poverty, and thus lobbies to come back. Since teens, as ever, play their music at full volume, their parents can hear them coming and are able to padlock the doors and burn the combinations.

The spending power of American teens long ago surpassed $200 billion a year, more than the gross domestic product of some countries. Figures I just made up show that 67% of this money goes to electronics and related apps and 15% to junk food, with the other 18% spent on items everyone is afraid to inquire about too closely.

“One option,” offers one expert — but an expert on what, exactly? — “is to start your teen on a prepaid debit card instead of a cash allowance; or to co-sign on a traditional debit account. Setting up a joint account at a bank lets you both see what he/she is spending money on and transfer a monthly allowance automatically. I also like the idea of a ‘spending contract’ signed by you and your teen, agreeing to financial responsibility…”

I can see several problems here that this “expert” apparently cannot. The whole “he/she” issue, for one thing. Well, which is it, he or she? Parents who cannot even tell whether their child is a girl or a boy are crazy to hand over a single dime; heck, for all they know, “he/she” could be somebody else’s kid!

Also, the debit card idea, is that for real? Everyone knows that when a debit card runs out, no one — teen, adult or Baby First-Timer — has ever said, “Oh-oh, I’d better stop spending!” Instead it’s: “Golly, I’ve just got to transfer some more money onto this card!” And the joint account? Why bother? The kids will get the money anyway, so why go through the charade of pretending some of it’s yours?

Note that no one debating the options here has referred to teen spending power as a problem. This makes teen spending one of the few issues in the entire country, which has not been branded a “crisis” by Congress, though even Congressmen fret about the phenomenon in their own homes. In fact, many economists believe that we should elect the teens to Congress, and then let them spend our way out of the financial straits the country and the world now find themselves in. There aren’t enough Kindles and Blackberries and iPods, God knows, to go around now. (Eighty-four percent of America’s household pets, for example, do not have access their own iPaws. O, the humanity!)

Besides, there’s a good reason why so much spending power has been transferred to the young. Teenagers know what’s cool! Might it not be refreshing to find the county courthouse painted in hot pink stripes, or to see the U.S. Army outfitted in pre-ripped jeans, with the topside of each soldier's pants sagging down to knee-level? It certainly might! Time for a younger, hipper crowd to take over, one that knows you've got to spend money to build up your credit. After all, we’ve been debting it forward for years. It’s time the teenagers got in on the important work of destroying their own futures, instead of sitting back and letting us to do it for them.

Mike Corrigan claims he once had enough money on him to break a twenty, but he’s given to exaggeration.

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