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A teachable money moment with my son

My 14-year-old had just tossed me the equivalent of a personal-finance fastball -- right down the middle of the plate -- and I was going to hit it out of the park.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 9, 2011 12:46PM

This post comes from Len Penzo at partner blog Len Penzo dot Com.


Len Penzo dot Com on MSN MoneyThe other day my 14-year-old son, Matthew, was really trying to sell me on his wish for a PlayStation 3 video game console this Christmas. Never mind that he owns an Xbox system that is in perfect working order, mainly because he got that as a gift from us last Christmas. I know.


The thing is, after paying almost $300 for an Xbox last year, I struggled to see the logic in his request for a brand-new PlayStation 3.


"OK, son, help me out here. How much are PlayStations going for these days?"


"About $250."


"Two-fifty, eh? And why should we shell out all that money for a new PlayStation 3 this Christmas when you already have a perfectly good Xbox?"


"Because with a PlayStation I can play games online with my friends for free!"


"So how much does it cost to play online with your Xbox?"


"About $50 per year."




Talk about a teachable moment, folks! And this was one of those money lessons for kids that couldn't have been served up any better. My son had just tossed me the equivalent of a personal-finance fastball -- right down the middle of the plate -- and I was going to hit it out of the park, boy howdy!


"So, tell me again, son. Why should I spend $250 on a new PlayStation?"


"Because online gaming is free with the PlayStation, but it costs $50 per year for an Xbox."


"But why would I pay $250 just to get free online gaming with a PlayStation, when I can pay $50 for the same service with the Xbox?"


"But, Dad, it's $50 per year." Post continues below.

"So? Assuming the price stays $50 per year, the Xbox is still the smart choice here, son. Think about it. It would take me five years to recoup my 'investment' if I bought a PlayStation."


I thought about explaining to Matthew how it would take even longer than that if we also consider the time value of money, but after having already smacked the pitch deep into the left-field bleachers, I was on the last leg of my home run trot and didn't want to risk stumbling around third base.


The funny thing is, as I crossed the plate and stepped into the dugout I didn't quite get the greeting I had hoped for. No cheers or high-fives for dear old Dad. Nope. Not even a friendly pat on the bum.


Instead, I felt like I was in Mudville -- and yours truly had just struck out.


In fact, my son seemed rather annoyed that I was even able to make my point. "I guess you're right" is all he mumbled. And none too convincingly, I might add.


Then he went back into his bedroom. Presumably to play his Xbox.


More on Len Penzo dot Com and MSN Money:

Dec 12, 2011 2:50PM
His argument may be weak for buying a PS3 in addition to an existing xbox, but he makes a great case why to buy a PS3 instead of an xbox.  This was the primary reason I opted for a PS3 instead of an xbox (the processor of the PS3 is also more advanced)...
Dec 12, 2011 2:40PM
You DID strike out.  Usually, the reason for desiring multiple platforms is that certain game titles are only available on a single platform (Halo for XBox, for example).  The reason you didn't get the reaction you expected is that your son didn't want to admit this was the real reason (or even the possibility that PS3 is the flavor of the month with his friends and he doesn't want to feel left out), so he resorted to what he thought was a logical argument: cost savings.  While you're ultimately correct, you basically crushed his hopes into smithereens.  Congrats, dad.
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