Question - My college-student daughter just told me she's managed to run up $70 in school fines for things like overdue books and parking tickets. Until she pays up, she won't get her grades and transcript.
She has a part-time job, but she can't come up with $70 right away. Should I pay the fines for her just this once?
Answer - Paying for your daughter to get her grades would earn you a big "F" for teaching financial responsibility - and you'd almost certainly end up paying more than "just this once."
If your daughter is curious but doesn't actually need to know her grades immediately, keep her in suspense until she can raise the cash to pay off the fines herself.
If she does need the transcript, perhaps for a summer-school class, you can advance her the money. But don't give her the same generous payback period you might offer if she were coming to you as a responsible borrower asking for money to buy a car, for example.
In this case, you're bailing out your daughter, who behaved irresponsibly. Even if she doesn't make much money, start docking her earnings immediately and on a regular schedule - and don't be afraid to make it hurt. She needs to feel some consequences so that she, and you, aren't in the same position at the end of next semester.
Question - A few weeks ago I gave my 16-year-old son my credit card to buy a pair of jeans. Instead, he spent several hundred dollars on clothes and CDs, which I wasn't aware of until I got the bill.
Do I have to pay the charges even though I didn't authorize them?
Answer - You sure do. In the eyes of the law, the fact that your son had your credit card was authorization enough.
"If your child has your card, a store has the reasonable belief that it can approve almost any charges," says David Medine, associate director for credit practices at the Federal Trade Commission.
If your child were to take your card without your knowledge, you could take advantage of federal regulations to limit your liability to no more than $50 in charges. But to qualify, you would have to notify the issuer that the card had been stolen, which could lead to a criminal investigation of your child.
Pay the charges, but make your son reimburse you. And next time, make him pay cash.
Dear Readers - If you're a grandparent who is raising your grandchildren, or if you know of someone who is, you'll want to know about an intriguing contest being sponsored by the Grandparent Information Center (GIC) of the American Association of Retired Persons.
GIC is soliciting drawings from grandchildren on family-oriented themes reflecting what it's like to live with Grandma and Grandpa.
The winning entry will be used on the cover of a book GIC is planning, in which children will express their feelings about growing up with grandparents. Other contest entries will be used to illustrate the book.
Drawings should be done in two colors with crayons or markers on an 81/2-by-11-inch sheet of white paper. You'll also need to enclose a separate piece of paper with the child's name and age, and a release form giving the grandchild permission to enter the contest.
You can get the release form by writing to the AARP Grandparent Information Center Art Contest, 601 E St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20049 or by calling (202) 434-2296. The deadline for entries is June 15.