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If there’s a point where children are particularly susceptible to becoming overly fixated on buying things, it’s the middle-school years. This is a marketing professor’s conclusion after years of research on materialism.

Marsha Richins says the social dynamics of middle school can cause children to put more emphasis on buying and owning things. Think back to your own middle-school years. As Ms. Richins says in an interview with The Atlantic, seventh grade is the worst age of a person’s life. You’re desperate to fit in, and one way to do that is to wear the right clothes, have the right electronics and so on.

Parents, you have a big role in determining how materialistic your kids will be. Ms. Richins said parents who put a big value on things and who get a lot of joy from shopping and buying stuff tend to have children who act similarly. One way to address this would be to refrain from using money or gifts to reward success, or deal with an unhappy or disappointed child.

As a parent herself, Ms. Richins has some thoughts on trying to reason with a seventh grader about rewards and punishments. “I played the research card with my daughter all the time – not necessarily with my research, but as in, ‘Research shows that blah blah blah.’ She just got tired of hearing that. It carried no weight whatsoever.”

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Out of the workforce and into the F.I.R.E.

The New York Times writes about the “financial independence, retire early” movement in personal finance. Astutely, this article dwells on how this trend is being driven by the unhappiness people are feeling in their jobs.

Attention, members of procrasti-nation

How to break your habit of putting off the things you need to get done. Included here because there are so many financial tasks that people delay.

Office supplies that are handy in your kitchen

How white boards, masking tape, binder clips and more can simplify things in the kitchen. As I write this, I am looking at a container of binder clips sitting on desk at work, unused. Binder clips, btw, are those clamps you use to hold a thick sheaf of paper together.

Homeownership horror story

A first-time buyer in Edmonton runs into ants, black mold and asbestos in her home. A lesson in the surprise costs that can occur when you own.

Today’s financial tool

If you’re in the market for GICs or a mortgage, the Bank of Canada’s data on bond yields is a useful tool. Five-year bond yields play a big role in the setting of rates for five-year GICs and mortgages.

Ask Rob

Q: “I am 63 years old and recently separated. I have no debts and own my house. Is it better for me to sell my house and rent?”

A: Financially, renting offers cost-certainty on a month-by-month basis. You pay your rent and never have to worry about property taxes or the cost of upkeep and improvements. On average, home maintenance can cost the equivalent of 1 to 2 per cent of the value of your home on an annual basis. But you have to make sure you can comfortably afford your rent over the long term, including annual increases. In some cities, rents can be quite expensive. One possibility would be to invest the proceeds of your home sale and use the income to offset your rent.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Featured Video

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