Your Teens Need to Have Skin in the Game to Buy a Car

I learned the principle of “skin in the game” the hard way as a teenager. My wonderful dad was a hardworking man and he provided well for our family. However, there wasn’t enough money to buy me a car or to pay for my college tuition. So I bought my own car, and worked to put myself through college. As a result I took good care of that car and studied hard to get good grades—because now I had a significant stake in my investment, or “skin in the game.” Yes, it was difficult for me, but it was also character building.

Sometimes if you give your children too much, you enable them to be irresponsible. It’s better for them to have “skin in the game” and have a personal stake in the matter. If they’re interested in something, they’re going to perform better.

When his friends received new cars for their sixteenth birthday, my son, Randy Jr. figured it would be the same for him. What a disappointment when his birthday came, despite the fact that we told him he would be required to earn at least half of the money toward the purchase of his car. I don’t know who suffered more over the decision, Randy Jr. or his mom and me. It’s not like we didn’t have the money to completely pay for his car, it was the principle of the matter.

Randy was undaunted though. He got skin in the game by bussing tables at a local Italian restaurant and another one on the weekends teaching snowboarding. Not long after, we bought that first car together—and yes he took very good care of it.


  • Don’t give your children too much, even if you can afford it, or you enable them to be irresponsible. If they are really interested in acquiring something they are going to be willing to work for it. And by working for it they will learn how to value and care for what they’ve worked for.
  • Teach your children how to earn money for something they want to buy at an early age by paying them for extra chores and getting good report cards from school. Not all chores should be for money. Each family member should pick up after themselves and be willing to carry their share of other work around the household. That said, there are certain extra chores deserving of financial compensation, especially if the work produces some value or reduces some expense.
  • Brainstorm other fund raising opportunities with your child that will help them achieve their financial goal—mowing lawns, shoveling snow, dog walking, helping another child with homework, weeding, be creative!
  • Stick to your guns and remember the principle you are teaching. Bailing your kids out financially and preventing them from having “skin in the game” because of pressure from the child or what other people think, fails to teach the child the value of hard work and prized ownership.


Adapted from Wisdom Before Wealth: Principles of Wealth Creation and Financial independence for the Next Generation

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