Survey Results: Moms on Debt, Teens and Spending

The good news is that moms are talking to their teens about being responsible with money. The bad news: some of those mothers may not be listening to their own words, as they report owing money on credit cards or struggling with bad debt. It’s taking years for some of them to get back in the black.

Those are some of the results of a new iVillage survey about teens, their moms and debt, which revealed the thoughtful, surprising and sometimes complicated relationship between families and finance.

Overall, moms are doing a good job of bringing up the topic of money with their teenagers, with 96 percent of poll respondents saying they have spoken to their kids about it. When asked what their kids were spending money on, top vote-getters were video games (47 percent), beauty and personal care products (46 percent), clothes (44 percent) and movies (37 percent). Just 19 percent of moms figured their teens were saving for college and a few (4 percent) suspected their little darlings were doling out the dollars for items they might want to keep a secret, such as beer or condoms. Many were shocked that their teens were still spending their money on candy.

And where does all that moola come from? Mom, mom and mom. A majority of mothers (57 percent) hand over an allowance, with the sum averaging $15.28 a week, which 58 percent say is more than they got when they were kids. Thirty-five percent of moms say their kids borrow money from them (good news: 57 percent of kids pay it back; bad news: 43 percent don't) and a small but disturbing 12 percent say their teens have stolen money from them.

But mom isn't the only source of income: 70 percent say they allow their teens to work, and 79 percent say that paycheck is money the kids get to spend on themselves. Just 12 percent of mothers have asked their kids to contribute to household expenses.

When it comes to their own finances, many moms are struggling: 17 percent are in bad debt right now, 36 percent say they owe money but it's manageable, and 20 percent say they've been in the red in the past but owe nothing now. (Kudos to the 27 percent of you who say you've never been in credit-card debt).

Of the 73 percent of mothers who have ever been in credit-card debt, 82 percent reported that it took up to five years or longer to dig themselves out and 33 percent have had to ask their families for money. Twenty-three percent had difficulty getting a credit card for big ticket purchases, 21 percent had their card declined and 17 percent suffered marital problems because of money woes. About 1 in 5 moms feel they cannot get out of debt and that it's getting worse rather than better.

Perhaps because of all that strife, 74 percent of moms said kids should never be given a credit card. Fifty-two percent hate the ubiquitous plastic, saying "I can trace most of my problems in life to credit cards," and 46 percent say their credit rating is still suffering today from past mistakes. Some 58 percent eschew plastic completely, saying cash is best. Still, some moms look favorably on credit cards, with 46 percent saying it's important to use them to build credit and 31 percent saying they love them. The results show moms' mixed feelings on the question of paper or plastic. But, whatever her preference, kids should remember that mother knows best!

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