Money lessons from Honey Boo Boo’s mom

Say what you will about the so-called redneck lifestyle of the Shannon-Thompson family on TLC’s reality show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, you can’t help but kind of admire the way the family gets by. Mama June Shannon professes to feed her family of seven on $80 a week, thanks to a combination of coupon clipping, Bingo playing, child support cheques from her exes and er, roadkill.

Despite TLC’s apparent motive to shock and appall viewers with an inside look at this overweight, junk food eating, ‘low class’ family from rural Georgia, Mrs. Shannon repeatedly proves that her family is not as dysfunctional as you might initially believe. In fact, not only are the family members loving and supportive of one another, they all seem quite comfortable and happy with their current lifestyle and the parents are proving to be downright fiscally responsible when it comes to planning for their daughters’ futures.

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The family is raking in anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 per episode (reports vary). Yet their only major purchase so far has been a 2005 Ford Expedition. More importantly, Mrs. Shannon has made arrangements with TLC that the bulk of the earnings from the show are paid directly into five separate trust funds, one for each daughter. She doesn’t even see the money, apart from an email once a month confirming that the deposits have been made. The girls have no access to the funds until they turn 21. Meanwhile, Papa Thompson, aka Sugar Bear, continues his job as a contractor in order to pay the household bills.

According to TMZ, Mrs. Shannon said, “I want my kids to look back and say, ‘Mama played it smart. Not like those other reality TV people.’”

Honey Boo Boo and her sisters are fortunate to have a mother with solid values and her eye on their futures. So how can you play it smart when it comes to saving for your kids?

Saving for school (RESP)

The first step, of course, is making sure your kids get a solid education. In Canada, you can contribute a lifetime maximum of $50,000 per child within a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). The money is tax-sheltered, so you can invest it in stocks, bonds or mutual funds and any dividends or interest earned within the RESP account will not be taxable as long as it’s held inside the RESP.

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If, however, your little darling becomes a star in Hollywood and never quite makes it to university, you can transfer the money you’ve contributed over to an RESP for one of your other kids, or into your own Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).

Free money (CESG)

The Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) will match your RESP contribution dollars by 20% to an annual maximum of $500 per year and a lifetime maximum of $7,200 per child. Some provinces also offer matching grants – so do not pass up the chance for free money! We can assure you, Honey Boo Boo’s mama would not miss this opportunity.

In order to get the matching money, you need to make annual contributions, rather than one lump sum. However the contributions can come from anyone, not just you. Grandparents, godparents or aunts and uncles might like to contribute too. So if you see too many toys stacking up, consider asking for RESP contribution money for Junior’s birthday instead of the latest Wii game.

The TFSA habit

Once your child turns 18, you can help her open a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) of her very own. This is an excellent vehicle for teaching young adults how to save, how to invest and how to build wealth for their future. Some parents offer to match their kid’s savings as an extra incentive.

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Currently, the government allows each person to invest a maximum of $5,500 per year into a TFSA. Within the account, you may save or invest the funds however you wish and the money will grow tax-free. It can also be withdrawn without penalty, making this the perfect way for your child to save up for a down payment, the purchase of a car, money to travel or any other short to medium term goals.

Teaching your child to save up for what they want and need in life, rather than paying for everything with credit, could be one of the most valuable lessons you give them.

Never gonna live above my means

In celebrity world, it is not unusual for parents and guardians of child stars to go a little cray-cray and end up in legal battles with their own kids over money - think Macaulay Culkin, Gary Coleman, Shirley Temple, Tiffany, LeAnn Rimes and Lindsay Lohan, just to name a few. The long list proves that June Shannon is an anomaly among Hollywood families.

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As Mrs. Shannon told TMZ, “You’re never gonna see me drive a Range Rover or a Mercedes. I’ll drive one if someone else pays for it. Never gonna live above my means.” We can all learn a lesson from that attitude. Respect Mrs. Shannon, respect!

GoldenGirlFinance.com is a free personal finance and education site for women.

Nothing contained herein is intended to provide personalized financial, legal or tax advice. Before implementing any financial strategy, you should obtain information and advice from your financial, legal and/or tax advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.

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