Did you feel attacked at your last family get-together from the mere mention of your intent to pay or not pay for your child’s first car?

Maybe you feel obligated to buy because you don’t want them driving around in an unsafe beater. Maybe you feel resistant because you bought your first car, so why shouldn’t they?

Because there are handfuls of variables related to the decision, there is no one right answer, which also means no shortage of opinions. Here are some financial questions I’d consider prior to moving forward.

  • How does the initial purchase impact our goals?
    • Can we realistically absorb the necessary adjustments without depleting cash reserve or living paycheck to paycheck?
  • Have I empowered my child to seek out opportunities to self-fund the purchase and/or ongoing expenses?
    • Does the income match up with the expenses?
    • Will my child make work a consistent priority?
  • Has the child’s input on the decision thus far been mature, entitled, or indifferent?
    • ie) Are they more focused on the productive opportunities a car offers or the fact that it’s a red convertible?
  • How will I capitalize on the time saved from delegating errands and driving children around?
  • Whatever the outcome, are we comfortable with the expectations we’re setting for younger children?
  • Does the decision to purchase or not purchase the car affect boundaries related to its use and maintenance?
  • Knowing my child’s level of responsibility, am I putting them in a position to build or destroy their credit?
  • Is there an opportunity to car swap within the extended family, making this a more affordable and mutually convenient decision?

Once you have a gut feeling on how to move forward, its time to turn this into a teachable moment for your child. After communicating expectations, boundaries, and responsibilities (financially or otherwise) its time for the fun part – car shopping! You should also feel that you’ve made a good decision for not just your child, but the family as a whole.

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