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Your kid’s first car is a good time to teach them to ‘act their wage’

Think back to your memory about your first set of wheels — the excitement, the anxiety, and the freedom! Getting those keys in your hand is such a fun rite of passage.

However, when it comes to cars, there is quite a spectrum of choices. On one end, you have the shiny new luxury vehicles, and on the other, the rusty clunker/jalopy.

If you were like me, your first car was closer to the latter.

The year was 1997. My driving excitement screeched to a halt when I saw that beater in the driveway. A dual-colored 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (keep in mind that I was born in 1982 and horrified by the idea that my car was older than I was).

My dreams of driving a sporty turquoise Neon or a candy pink Tacoma (which my father assured me does not exist) were shattered.

It came with an 8-track tape player, manual windows and a horn that sounded like an elderly lion’s final roar. The nose of that beast seemed to be at least 20 feet from the driver’s seat and it took everything I had to pull those 80-pound doors shut.

It took me a while to warm up to that car, but after a few months, we became one.

I affectionately referred to the Cutlass as my “Hoopty,” “G-Ride,” or “The Bucket.”

We got into all sorts of mischief together — running into mailboxes, knocking siding off my parents’ house and wrapping around poles in the grocery store parking lot. We caused some damage here and there, but The Bucket never showed signs of even a scratch. I even made a few upgrades like installing a cassette player and having it painted one color.

The truth is, the Cutlass was the perfect car for that time in my life. I was a teenager with limited income from babysitting gigs and working as a grocery store carryout. I clearly was prone to minor fender benders.

Your car should match your lifestyle and place in life. If my first car would have been an Audi, I wouldn’t have been able to afford the premium gas those things require, let alone any repairs or ongoing maintenance.

You should start near the bottom of the spectrum and work your way up as your income and overall wealth increases.

When I went to college and upgraded to a 1992 used Pontiac, you would have thought I owned a Rolls Royce, the way I talked about that bright blue Grand Am. I was beaming with pride about my “sporty” new ride! (It’s all about perspective.) Until last year, my 2008 Toyota was the first vehicle I owned with Bluetooth capabilities and heated seats.

In 2017, at the age of 35, I purchased my first new car — a minivan. Most people don’t get excited about owning a minivan, but this thing was like the Batmobile compared to what I was used to driving. It has heated steering wheels, back-up cameras and posh leather automatic seats.

Every “new” car I have acquired has been a step up from the previous one and something that makes me proud. Help your kids “Act their Wage” by starting with an affordable used car and let them work their way up the spectrum as their income allows.

Here are the reasons that every kid’s first car should be a clunker:

▪ They will destroy it. There is a high probability that their first vehicle will be in numerous accidents (maybe even totaled) and will be the victim of neglect.

▪ They learn to appreciate what they have and what they can afford. Remember, you want them to “Act their Wage.”

▪ Humility and pride. Driving that Cutlass was humbling to say the least, but every time I see that picture, I am reminded of how far I’ve come.

Jamie Bosse, CFP, RFC is a Certified Financial Planning professional and member of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City. She is a financial planner at Aspyre Wealth Partners, where she strives to help clients live the life they want by helping them identify their goals, create a plan and take action. Jamie loves to write, travel, enjoy BBQ, watch the Kansas State Wildcats win football games and spend time with her husband, sons and pet corgi.