I mean “trust fund” in a “public accounting” sense rather than “personal estate” sense… My husband and I have no personal wealth to put into a real trust fund…
My 15-year-old daughter was complaining to me last night about how her 16-year-old sister is making “like $150 per week” at Baskin Robbins, how she’s quite jealous of that and wants to find a job, too. I started to explain to her that besides the fact that she would not be able to drive herself to a job, I really needed her to help around the house (now that we no longer have an aupair), and that that’s why she’s getting a pretty nice allowance lately. She then correctly pointed out that she has not literally been “receiving” allowance lately because of my casual accounting system, where she typically gets NO cash at all each week, because I have been buying her photographic supplies and clothes each week and keep saying I consider it “a wash.”
She said she knows that it’s pretty much a wash, but that it’s a wishy-washy wash (my translation), so it doesn’t feel like she’s getting paid an allowance. I think there’s some analogy that I could make to the idea that tax expenditures (the government devoting resources to tax reductions) aren’t viewed the same as other forms of government spending (and in fact aren’t treated at all the same in the budget process), but my daughter then took my analogy-oriented mind in a whole different direction by suggesting: “why don’t we set up a fund?”…
I said ”do you mean literally set up a fund, or just set up a fund as an accounting device?”–and my 15-year-old knew exactly what I meant and immediately said she just wanted the latter–a way of keeping track of the weekly pluses and minuses to her “fund,” so she could see her credits for her weekly allowance and her debits for the goodies I was buying. She said she’d then feel as if the allowance system was more tangible and more fair (whether on my end of the transaction or hers), and that she’d also then have more incentive to do the work around the house. In fact, she suggested that I give her a specific list of chores and special cleaning and organization projects to do each day and each week, so she could check tasks off the list so that I (and she) would know she was deserving, and entitled, to her weekly allowance to be credited to her ”Fund.” And she could check the balance in her “Fund” each day or week and feel good about her contribution to the household economy and the benefits she was receiving in return.
Does this sound a little like the Social Security Trust Fund to you, too?
I then told my daughter that if we go ahead and set up this more explicit accounting mechanism for her allowance, and the more explicit conditions for her to be “entitled” to that allowance, that I would really need to monitor and enforce how this system was working, because if, for example, she wasn’t really cleaning the bathroom, then our family finances would require that we reduce her allowance so that we could afford to hire a housekeeper to come in every couple weeks or so. In other words, we’d need to revisit the terms of our allowance agreement (the structure of the flows into and out of her “Trust Fund”) in the context of the entire family budget–our full complement of needs and our full complement of means.
And she seemed totally fine with that idea.
Such wisdom from my 15-year-old… (and all my kids are very smart–have I mentioned?)
Now, I trust that readers don’t need me to spell out how this parallels the debate on the need (or not) to reform the Social Security system in the broader context of our longer-term fiscal challenge. I’ll be more directly explaining my perspective on the issue later, anyway.
So I think we’re actually going to implement this “Allowance Trust Fund.” I know, I know, I have the benefit of being able to start this Trust Fund from scratch, and that’s what makes it totally different from dealing with the Social Security Trust Fund. Not to mention the fact that this Trust Fund will be managed by more a (neat and easy) “benevolent dictatorship” rather than a (messy and complicated) “democracy.” Still, it’s kind of a groovy little personal experiment, don’t you think?