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Consumerism: Girls gone wild

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Monday, January 20, 2014
Posted: 6 am ET

It's never easy being a teen, especially in an increasingly image-conscious world. With the rise of a luxury-obsessed, consumer culture and reality shows that are light on plot and heavy on designer clothing, many young women are primed to believe they can spend their way out of low self-esteem.

young-woman-windowshopping-at-night-busy-city-purple_282x150This dark side of consumerism was highlighted in the book and subsequent movie, "The Bling Ring." In this true tale, a group of teenagers in California burgled the closets of young, trend-setting actors, just because they wanted their designer duds. Read more about the Bling Ring.

Inside every teenage girl is an old lady

Experts say that while teenage girls absorb a lot from their peers and the media, the best way for them to learn fiscal responsibility and self-esteem is through education and example. "Inside every one of them is an old lady waiting to do the right thing," says Elisabeth Donati, owner of Creative Wealth International.

Donati, who teaches financial literacy, says most teens can't think beyond the present, but they can be taught to recognize they have a future and, in fact, are hungry for financial information. "Every time currency changes hands, I tell them they have an opportunity to capture money," she says. "This is a really powerful idea."

It's increasingly important to teach girls fiscal responsibility, Donati adds, because women are more prone to spend than men. "And what they're spending on is not necessarily what they want, but what they've been conditioned to think they need," she says.

Money isn't the root of the problem

Parents who are having difficulties with profligate teens don't always understand that they're setting an example, says Madeline Levine, psychologist and author of, "The Price of Privilege" and, "Teach Your Children Well."

"I've had wealthy mothers bring in their daughters because they are concerned about their spending," she says. "One 16-year-old, with her Balenciaga purse and Prada shoes, didn't say a word to me when she came for her consultation. Instead, she went online and brought up the Hermes website to show me that her mother owned about $90,000 worth of bags. She said to me, 'You're talking to the wrong woman.'"

Girls need opportunity to learn from adults, says Levine, so they won't go on buying sprees in search of an identity. But beyond setting a good example of fiscal responsibility, parents need to dig deeper and address the related issues of peer pressure and self-esteem.

"Make sure they understand the principle that money is simply a tool. Money doesn't mean anything about them," says Donati.

Beyond setting a positive example, she says parents should encourage kids to think for themselves, as a way to improve self-esteem. "Get teens to tap into their natural inclination to question everything by asking themselves, 'Is this the way it should be for me? Am I responding to peer pressure, or to wants instead of needs?'"

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5 Comments
Mike Males
January 24, 2014 at 2:13 pm

This is just silly stuff. Girls today aren't doing anything fashion-wise than their parents and grandparents are, and complaining that the rich spoil their debutante, social-register, upscale kids appears in every generation. I bet the moralizing commentators and experts for this article dress plenty well themselves--like ultra-fashionista and wealthy filmmaker Silvia Coppola. "The Bling Ring" is no more an example of "teenagers today" than the greedy, narcissistic, layabout parents and grandparents in many sitcoms and movies represent older generations. Seriously, let's recognize that children and teenagers are, in reality, our poorest demographic, 20% of whom live in poverty and 40% in low-income families. The real materialists are middle-agers, our richest and most consuming generation ever.

G. Weiss
January 21, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Give your kids either a reasonable cash allowance or a debit card. No child should have a credit card & be able to run up a large balance.

They either learn how to plan and budget their money against what they need (and/or want), or they'll simply morph from infantile, irresponsible children into infantile, irresponsible adults.

Chloe
January 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Too many parents try to buy their child's love or respect/willingness to obey with expensive things. Yes I think it's okay to bribe a child once in a while, but that's with things such as pushing back a bedtime, treating them to a dessert restaurant or letting them have a sleepover. Most of today's parents have become either helicopter smotherers, tryhards that think that their child is a protégé because they were able to put them into all kinds of expensive lessons and exclusive teams, or spoilers that don't teach their children the value of humility and working/earning things through hard work.

Lalo Diaz
January 21, 2014 at 1:27 pm

My grandmother use to preach: Know the value of the dollar. She meant, if you work for the dollar you will appreciate spending it. don't give your kids credit cards or some outrages allowance. Teach them to work for the money, including house /yard work or washing the cars. I needed to shine my dad's shoes before we could ask for anything.

George
January 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Parents have become poor examples on how to handle money.

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