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Family Finances

It's All Right to Ask Your Kids to Chip In

When money is tight, family members can pool their earnings to make ends meet -- even the children.

Q. Is it fair of my husband and me to insist that our teenage children contribute some of their after-school and summer earnings to our family budget? We're a family of modest means.

Yes. Throughout history, especially in lower-income families, it was expected that the earnings of all family members would be pooled for the family's benefit, even if children were allowed to keep a small part for themselves. The concept that children may use all of their earnings for their personal consumption is a relatively new phenomenon born of affluence -- and it's a privilege not often enjoyed by their moms and dads.

You can help train your children for their future obligations as parents by discussing with them a reasonable division of their earnings among current family needs, their discretionary spending and a savings account for their future needs.

Thoughts on tenure

Q: I am a young assistant professor, and I feel that professional advancement and higher earnings for myself and my peers are blocked by the refusal of aging, tenured professors to retire -- even those everyone thinks have lost their passion for teaching and research. Do you think that lifetime tenure is morally defensible?

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No, I don't. Tenure was invented to protect professors from being fired for politically or intellectually unpopular views. But today there are other ways besides tenure to prevent this. I don't believe in lifetime employment rights (with the possible exception of federal judges). Everyone should be subject to periodic performance reviews. Professors should be judged on their teaching skills and scholarship.

Age should be irrelevant, as it became when mandatory retirement ages were banned years ago. Some very senior professors have more vitality and originality than much younger teachers, while others -- after fair evaluation -- should be required to step aside.