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What I Learned from The Real Housewives of New Jersey

I have a confession: I can't stop reading about Teresa Giudice from The Real Housewives of New Jersey. It isn't that I'm a reality show junkie. I'm fascinated because she lives in my hometown and has shattered any illusions I had about growing up in Montville Township.

Anyone who regularly reads my blog knows that I'm very conservative when it comes to finances. I've often credited my relationship with money, in part, with where I'm from. But after watching Teresa live way beyond her means and then have to file for bankruptcy, I now realize my parents deserve all the credit. And I probably would have ended up with the same values no matter where they raised me. (Bravo has reminded me that every town in America has families who, sadly, can't manage their money.)

It turns out that my realization is backed up by research. Last year a survey out of The University of Arizona asked college students who or what taught them the most about finances. Hands down, the kids replied that they learned everything they know -- or don't know-- from mom and dad.

Teresa isn't the only mom out there who isn't a great financial role model for her kids. According to the survey, nearly 73% of participants had engaged in some highly risky financial behavior, including maxing out a credit card or not paying a bill on time. On average, these students scored just a 59% on a financial literacy test.

So where does this leave me? The good news is that I now worry less about where I bring up my kids and I can focus my attention on how I raise them. I also realize that I had better make sure that I'm always setting a good example for my children since my actions surrounding money will speak much louder than any lessons I try to convey at the dinner table.

Will I keep tuning into The Real New Jersey Housewives? You betcha. I'm curious to see if Teresa learns to live within a budget. Of course, if she does start balancing her checkbook, I'm not sure too many people will continue to tune in.

Do you think your children are influenced more by their peers when it comes to spending? Or, do you think they will end up sharing your money habits?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal. Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
NJ Turnpike image by The Truth About, courtesy of CC 2.0.
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