Wisdom from the AC Guy

Sally Pony Ride

Sally on her first pony ride this weekend

Summer in Utah is here to stay. And with the increasing temperatures outside, our AC has been giving us some trouble. And also another reason to shout “hallelujah” that we’re still renting. So last week, an AC repair guy arrived at our door with some tools and a cheerful demeanor. His name was Edward, and he spoke with a thick Spanish accent. After he finished his work, he and I got to talking for a few minutes. He told me that he had three kids, ages 18, 20, and 22.

I said, “So you and your wife have the house to yourselves again!”

He replied proudly, “Actually, no, all of my kids live with us. They are in college.”

And, being the clueless born-and-bred American that I am, I said, “Oh! How nice that they can get free rent while they’re in school!”

But he corrected me yet again saying, “Well, recently, they said, ‘Dad, we think the rent should be split from here on out. We want to pay our share.’ They said this on their own! I said nothing to them. And sometimes I do not have enough money to pay the bills for the apartment we all live in, and so they help to pay those, too.”

After I picked my jaw up from the ground, I said, “It sounds like you’ve got very hard-working kids.”

And he said, “Yes, I do!” with another proud smile.

Edward’s children are not like the majority of young adults I know in this country. Our culture is an entitled one. Teenagers expect a car when they turn 16, free rent indefinitely from their parents, free health insurance until they’re 26, schooling that’s paid for, etc., etc. Not all of it’s a bad thing. Johnny and I are planning on helping our own children with their schooling costs. And if they want to live with us while they’re in college, we’d never expect rent from them. But how many young adults would go so far as to offering to split the rent with their parents, or offering to help pay their bills? It’s just unheard of in our country.

Hearing Edward’s story was a good reminder of the kind of work ethic I’d like to instill in my own kids. Rather than “Poor me! My parents aren’t helping me with school!” they say, “Dad, we’d like to split the rent!” He also showed me how subjective it is to live a rich life. I haven’t encountered a happier man since moving to the state of Utah.

How do we cultivate that hardworking attitude in our kids, while also helping them out where we can? What do you plan to do?

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  • Reply Halsy June 2, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Wow! Is all I can say. I hope my children are like that when they are older. I know one of the biggest challenges as a parent that I will face is warding off that sense of entitlement. We by no means spoil our children. We actually barely buy them any toys. However, they have a ton because of very generous grandparents who feel they should bring gifts every time they visit (once a month). We live in a very affluent community where teenagers where designer clothing and 16 year olds drive way nicer cars than I can even dream of owning (talking $50,000+ vehicles). We plan to instill good work ethic by requiring family chores (chores that are just expected as being part of family) optional extra chores that are paid and teenagers required to get summer jobs once old enough. We will also require them to use most of this money to contribute to their 529, some for a car fund and even a giving component. Money/budgeting will be discussed but not to the point to make children worry etc. Our children are young so we are still working through how we will try to combat this.

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 8:50 am

      It sounds like you’ve got some pretty good ideas in place, Halsy! I love your idea of having them contribute to their 529 and car fund. Way to combat that sense of entitlement!

  • Reply Eric Williams June 2, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Entitlement got us into trouble in our early twenties and it’s my goal to shield my children from learning this the hard way. But as a parent, the hard part for me is the tension between teaching them about working hard for things they want, and just wanting to provide for them in ways my parents couldn’t.

    I think teaching them while they are young through chores and other house work is a great place to start. It takes a lot just to keep a house running, not to mention actually earning money for a living takes up a lot of time.

    Parenting it tough stuff.

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 8:52 am

      Agreed… instilling that work ethic is key. We’re also gonna try to find that balance between having our kids work hard while also helping them!

    • Reply Roo // NEON FRESH June 4, 2014 at 9:14 am

      I love this post, Joanna. I was ready to write my own comment, but I’m going to go ahead and ditto Eric’s word for word.

      • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 10:00 am

        Thanks, Roo! 🙂

  • Reply Little House June 2, 2014 at 9:34 am

    It sounds like Edward did something right! I work with pre-teens and many of them feel very entitled. It’s a bit discouraging. But there are always a few gems that are helpful, respectful at that age (a rarity), and delightful. I always try to remember them when I had a bad day with the “others”! 🙂

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 8:54 am

      Hard-working teens and young adults are hard to come by these days! I’m just hoping we can help the problem with our own kids, rather than adding to it!

  • Reply Cate M. June 2, 2014 at 9:47 am

    We are guilty of spoiling our toddler more than we should and we are cutting back. We have discussed the car issue for when our kids turn 16 and my husband and I have decided that if they want a car- they will need to work and save money for it. Whatever money they are able to save for a car- we will match. The more money they save, the more we will help them. They will be responsible for the car insurance and the gas.
    We haven’t decided on a college plan yet but we are throwing some ideas in the air. I had a job BEFORE I turned 14 and have had one ever since. It kind of drives me crazy when I hear people say “Oh we don’t want our kids to work while they are in college; we want them to focus on their school work”…That is NOT the real world and I plan to do my best to raise hard working men. I want them to enjoy their youth but also understand what it means to have responsibility and work hard. So often I see people my age (25-30) with a terrible work ethic and act like they “deserve” more money. They don’t want to put in any extra effort unless they get a raise, yet it takes working harder to GET a raise.

    I could go on for hours but I’ll stop now 🙂

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 8:59 am

      I really like your idea to match the money your kid saves up for a car! That seems like the perfect balance between helping out while also teaching work ethic.

      And I agree… having a job early on is key. Graduating from college having never held a job would be a terrible start!

      • Reply Michael June 4, 2014 at 12:46 pm

        If you’re going to match what your kids save for a car be sure to put a cap on it!

        Dave Ramsey was talking a few days ago about how his youngest saved $12k to put toward a car, w/ Dave’s match that would be $24k. Too much for a 16 year old! Needless to say, he didn’t match the full amount.

        • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 1:43 pm

          Totally! I couldn’t agree more!

  • Reply zoe @ my unhoardED life June 2, 2014 at 10:03 am

    That’s a pretty incredible story. I left home ASAP becasue I was desperate to get out (family has mental health problems) but my sister stayed around forever. Didn’t move out until age 28. Why? Because my mother was so attached to her that she was willing to give my sister free food, free lodging, free gas, free access to a car. I’ll take my independence, thank you.

    One interesting thing about the hispanic community, at least the way it was when I lived in Spain: leaving before age 30 (if you weren’t married) was taken as a sign that you couldn’t get along with your family and people I knew didn’t want to be seen that way. It was perfectly acceptable to hang around at home for years and years after graduation until you got married. I think that made it a little easier for kids to be willing to help out with the rent.

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 9:01 am

      I”m sure you’re right that it is partly cultural. It’s funny how much different we are in this country… at age 18, I was counting down the days until I moved out! 🙂

  • Reply Megyn June 2, 2014 at 10:10 am

    His kids sound amazing! My parents paid for very, very little growing up. We were some of the few kids we knew who HAD to have a job if we wanted to get our driver’s licenses. We had to prove to our parents we could make enough to cover the added car insurance cost. For me, that meant getting a second job. At 15, I had a job as a dog washer, but that was only on Saturdays, so I got another job at Ulta. If we wanted cars, we had to pay for them. If we wanted anything above the staples of food, clothing ($100 budget for the school year), and shelter, we were in charge of finding a way to pay for it. We did get a meager allowance (I think the highest was $15/week), which ended when we got jobs. When we went to college, all our parents offered us was $500/semester. We were expected to find scholarships or find a way to pay for it all. My siblings and I all did living at home for short periods of time, rent free, but that’s about the major extent our parents helped us. The biggest help we received was after our first was born. We lived with them for 6 months, rent free, so that my husband could get his EMT certification in order to get a better job and I could stay home with the baby. I appreciate their help so much, but I appreciate them teaching us money and life skills more. I know so many people my age ( mid-late 20’s) who are struggling to manage money. Having had to pay for everything from such a young age, we had that figured out pretty quickly. My parents even made me pay for my cat’s super expensive surgeries at 14. And I still have that pay-off sheet as a reminder 🙂

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 9:10 am

      Wow! Your parents did a great job of instilling work ethic. Early on you learned that nothing in life is free. What an amazing lesson you learned by paying for your cat’s surgeries at 14!

  • Reply Laura June 2, 2014 at 11:08 am

    When I read this post this morning, I immediately felt identified. Similar to Edward’s kids, I am a 26 year old that still lives at home (my mom and 2 aunts) from Colombia. While I was at university, I would have a part-time job and I wouldn’t necessarily pay rent but we had a convenient arrangement like paying for the monthly cable- internet bill (that was my contribution). Now that I have a job in my field, I still pay for the cable-internet bill but I also pay for my part of rent and food. It is a way of helping out my family with the house, while at the same time saving some money ( a rent split in four is wayyy cheaper than if I would have my own place). I will be soon moving out (with my boyfriend) and therefore the expenses will change. I think I will still help them a bit if my budged allows it.

    I really think this is a cultural issue. In our countries, our parent’s do not mind the kids staying with them until they are quite old. Very rarely would we leave the house to go to university in another city/town/state or country (which is quite a common thing to do here) and therefore that moving out urgency doesn’t really come into place until we are adults with secure jobs and committed relationships.

    I’ve always thought that children that pitch with stuff at home makes more responsible adults in the future. As a parent, its understandable that you want to provide the best kind of life for your kid but at the same time I think that contributing at home makes better individuals. they will appreciate much more what they have and they will realize the value of the things they have. It will also make the transition easier for when they will have all of these responsibilities by themselves because they have done it for a while. I am sure that you will do a great job with Sally! Cheers from Montreal!


    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 9:16 am

      I love hearing about your own experience with living at home and helping out, Laura! It’s not part of our culture in the US, but I kind of wish it was :).

      And you’re so right. Helping out at home is *huge* for teaching work ethic. I really hope Johnny and I can teach our own kids the importance of hard work!

  • Reply Melinda June 2, 2014 at 11:34 am

    So here’s my “old lady” perspective on how to raise a responsible “unentitled” child–Teach Sally that chores are just part of being “team family.” Pay only for major extras tasks and let her help figure out what they are worth. Teach her to do good deeds for others without expecting payment unless it’s work that deserves pay. Don’t be afraid of an appropriate “no” to things she wants and let her figure out how to pay. Encourage her to find her own job as soon as she’s old enough to do so (don’t get the job for her). By all means, have her give you a percentage of that money for room and board (what my parents called it). Encourage saving so she can at minimum pay for car insurance and gas for her use of a car and pay some of her own college expenses. A person at any age is much more invested in the use of a toy, a car, or attending college if she/he has paid something for it. We were welcome to stay at home as long as we wanted as long as we helped the “team family” by contributing to the expenses. Some of us stayed longer than others 🙂

    Praise Sally only when she really deserves it and not just for showing up. In the meantime, turn off the electronics and read books and play with her! My fondest childhood memories have nothing to do with money – croquet games on the lawn with my parents and siblings, walks in the woods to the creek on our farm, shelling peas on the lawn, picking and eating sun warmed strawberries, tomatoes and other vegetables straight from the garden and playing lots of board games with the entire family–including parents. Even if you don’t ever live on a farm, find time to go where you and the child(ren) can enjoy these experiences. This is how my parents raised us. People say they admire the way my brothers and sisters and I have “turned out.” Oh and by all means teach Sally your “freaking budget” !! You will do well I believe.

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 9:22 am

      Thanks for the incredible tips, Melinda! I love all the other stuff you touched on outside of just teaching work ethic. Teaching her to do good and serve others without expecting pay is such good advice. And in this tech-centered time we live in, I *really* hope we can teach her to look past the screen and be curious about the world!

  • Reply Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life June 2, 2014 at 11:35 am

    It’s hard to raise kids who will have that type of mindset because very few of their peers do. It’s definitely not about isolating them but about showing them in the beginning, like way beginning, that they aren’t going to be spoiled but have to work hard. My mom definitely spoiled me but showed me what it means to work hard. It was a great combination that worked for me, but won’t work for most.

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 9:23 am

      I hope we can find that balance. I think it’s easier to spoil than teach work ethic, so I hope we can do it!

  • Reply Karen Nazzy June 2, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Yes! I agree with the wise advice and the way of thinking to support your kids. I have a lot of friends who moved back in with their parents after graduate school, and said they would never, ever move back in with ‘mom,’ and some of their parents charged rent, and some of them didn’t. What surprises me the most is that it often goes from “we’ll help you out for a bit” and then they are 26 or 27 years old living at home rent free arguing about who ate the last of something out of the fridge! I hope to have some timeline plan for my kids to move out on their own, and prepare them for that as much as I can.

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 9:40 am

      Agreed. Setting some ground rules is important. When the day comes, I think Johnny and I will be more than ready to have the house to ourselves again!

  • Reply Dave Lalonde June 2, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I think that’s awesome! I see this a lot more in cultural families. I really respect the way they raise their children. There’s a thin line between wanting to give your kids everything and spoiling them. One thing I noticed from children like this is that they see their parents work so hard just to give them a good future that it make’s the children want to lift off that pressure from their parents. It’s very humbling.

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 9:41 am

      Agreed, Dave. When the parents themselves are working so hard, it’s more likely for that work ethic to rub off on the kids.

  • Reply Rob June 2, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    We were lucky that both our kids attended separate universities on scholarships from the companies where my wife and I were employed. Our daughter and son both elected to attend universities located at some distance from our home such that they each lived away from home during the 4 school years. This arrangement did mean however that they each had their own responsibilities:
    1 – they had to do very well in high school in order to qualify for those scholarships
    2 – as each scholarship was renewable each year, they both had to maintain their high grades in order to continue receiving this aid
    3 – as each of them lived away from home during the school year, they each had to earn money working at summer jobs in order to help pay for rent, clothing and food (not covered by their scholarships)
    4 – where we helped out was financially if they were short in meeting their basic living expenses, thereby avoiding the need for significant student loans
    5 – obviously they had to learn how to cook for themselves and manage their time properly in order to pass their demanding grades..

    That was how we handled things back in the day and the results show for both our kids (ie., well rounded, responsible young adults with families, both working in great careers today)

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 9:44 am

      It sounds like you and your wife struck a perfect balance with your kids. I really like the idea of having them do what they can and then helping out where they fall short.

      How rewarding it must be to see your kids doing so well as adults! Well done.

  • Reply Sarah June 2, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I was lucky that my parents paid for everything through high school & college–including my insane private university tuition. However, I was extremely frugal bc I didn’t want to spend their hard-earned money. My dad actually was worried in college that I wasn’t eating bc the credit card bills were so low. I am now 26 and have enough savings to buy an apt in Manhattan by myself, even though I don’t make an inflated NYC salary (and you’d be surprised how little my peers have saved despite also having no student loans). My parents were immigrants, and they are the definition of delayed gratification. I have been the first-hand beneficiary of their excellent saving skills as a form of wealth accumulation, so helping them to retire stress-free is one of my main motivations for doing well in life.

    I think some combo of them not being stingy with their money + the guilt complex they instilled in me makes me relatively un-entitled. 🙂 Strangely, some of my friends who had allowances or got paid for chores are the worst with money…maybe because they saw it as a means-to-an-end way to get the newest clothes, etc., and not as something to use in a measured, cost-benefit way after essential expenses?

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Really loved reading your perspective, Sarah! I think one huge part of instilling work ethic in kids is for them to see how hard their own parents work. Seeing that your parents had to work for every cent made you appreciate each and every thing they gave you.

      And I really liked your perspective on allowances… very interesting points I’d never considered before. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Tarynkay June 2, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Did you ask Edward the AC guy what his child-rearing strategy was?

    I have noticed that among my friends who are first generation Americans, there is much more of a strong family loyalty. This is a gross generalization, but it does seem to hold up in most cases.The parents help the kids with whatever they can, often sacrificing their own retirement savings to send kids to college or set then up in business, then the kids grow up and work hard and support their parents in their old age. There is an underlying feeling that the family holds all of the resources in common. This isn’t a perfect system of course, the problems are just different than the ones we are used to.

    Most American parents seem to either give their kids everything, creating entitled kids, or they go too far the other way (this was my parents) and draw up debt repayment schedules and contracts for everything,

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 9:51 am

      I should have asked him!

      And you’re totally right… finding that balance between helping while instilling work ethic seems to be almost impossible! But reading some other commenter’s perspectives gives me hope that it can be done — fingers crossed we can pull it off :).

  • Reply Rachel June 3, 2014 at 3:26 am

    I love this story.
    I think it’s also interesting how differently children even in the same family can experience things, and this anecdote is actually something that I’ve discussed with my Dad (I now work as his business/commercial manager, so we talk about money ALLLLLLL the time!).

    There is almost 10 years between my youngest sibling and myself (with a couple in between). While I was studying at University I worked part time (25-30hrs/week) during the year at the local supermarket (checkout chick) and during the summers (60-80hrs/week) at a gift basket business (not as glamorous as it sounds). At that time things were really tough for my Dad’s business, and there were some weeks (particularly during the summers) where I’m pretty sure that I was actually earning more than he was. My parents were fortunate in that they had paid off their house, and had a specific fund that covered the school fees, but there were still groceries to buy and other bills to pay.

    During my first year at uni I started contributing ‘board’, it was only $100 a week, which isn’t much really, but was for a student with a part time job. I continued paying board for the next 10 years until I bought my own house.
    That $100 a week often helped my mum make ends meet on the grocery bill, or covered part of the electricity bill.
    I paid my own way through uni, so I covered my own phone bill, public transport costs (didn’t have a car), clothing, text books, and uni fees. In those days if you paid the student contribution upfront you got an additional 25% discount, for my this made it about $1500/semester for a fulltime course load. I thought it would be better to work lots of hours and pony up the $3000 a year and finish uni without any debt, than to not. A wise decision :).
    By the time my younger siblings got to uni my Dad’s business had picked up a lot (a huge lot actually), and money wasn’t tight anymore. While my younger siblings worked during the summer (at the same company as me) they didn’t work during semesters, and they didn’t start contributing board until they finished uni and had jobs. I also know my parents covered some of their semesters of uni fees, particuarly in final year.

    I don’t feel hard done by in that my experience of uni was ao very different to theirs because I worked all the time and money was tight at home. It’s just interesting how much difference even a few years can make in the life and situation of a family. 🙂

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Wow, I love hearing your family’s story! It seems that you and your younger siblings both learned work ethic, just in different ways. It sounds like you’ve worked hard from the beginning… and based on what you said about retirement in your other comment, it sounds like it’s going to pay off! 🙂

  • Reply Tabitha June 3, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    What a great exampe! My parents handled post secondary education for us kids by stating they would pay for any college classes we took while in highschool (local community colleges and transferable credits are da bomb!) and then once we graduated HS we had to pay for our college education ourselves by working and applying for scholarships. Also my parents policy for staying at home was room and board was free as long as we were in school, if we didn’t do college and still wanted to live at home than rent was expected. My dad lamented the other day he never got to charge us rent since we all either moved out or went to college 🙂

    • Reply Joanna June 4, 2014 at 12:36 am

      It sounds like your parents had a pretty good system down! I especially like their policy for living at home :). And go you kids for never having to pay rent!

  • Reply Anonymous E July 18, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    I run into a lot of “kids” and “parents” in my line of work and I have to say that they seem to be a very entitled bunch. I often receive calls from parents looking to find a place to rent for their kid. The places they are calling about have some of the highest rents in town. I am amazed at how much they are doing for their kids – not even making them do the leg work.

    This is not okay and our society will pay. Way to go, AC man, for raising better people! You rock!

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