Financial Lessons Courtesy of Jon and Kate

A lot can be learned from watching reality TV. Case in point: Jon and Kate from TLC’s Jon and Kate Plus 8 and the financial mess that now exists as part of their very public split.

The young couple was once a united front in managing their complicated household filled with multiple children. Now they’re separated and giving the tabloids plenty of fodder.

They have both made proclamations stating that their children are their number one priority, but this split is getting messier by the minute. Instead of just watching this car wreck of a relationship, we can all benefit from their financial mistakes and take measures toward protecting our own assets and those of our children.

Some of the most important financial lessons learned from the couple are:

  1. Keep separate banking accounts. Recently, Jon seized $180,000 from the couple’s account while Kate cried poverty and how she was unable to pay her bills. Although married couples can benefit from having a joint account, it is imperative to maintain your own independent financial identity just in case of emergencies like this. (Don’t worry, the courts ordered that Jon pay Kate back.)
  2. Spend less than you earn. As television personalities, many of the goodies and events that the family experienced were paid for by sponsors, giving them the appearance of wealth. The reality is the couple lived way beyond their means and are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. This debt is bringing out the worst in both parties. By living within your means, you will have less fuel for the fire in case of divorce.
  3. Get college funds for your children. From the moment they are born, if you want the best for your child, saving for the education is a must. This money needs to bear your child’s name and be placed in trust so if the parents do split, lawyer fees will leave this money untouched and the children will get their rightful share of the wealth. If all their kids get a public education, and become doctors, the Gosselin family will be paying roughly $800,000 for secondary education. We’re guessing that won’t hurt so much though, because  the couple got somewhere around $75,000 per episode of the TLC show.
  4. Save up for your child’s health expenses. Once again, if the children did come first, the two would’ve stopped their bickering and put money aside to care for their kid’s medical well being until they turn age 18.
  5. Don’t use your family for profit.  Although Jon and Kate started their family out of love, the brood eventually became the source of their livelihood. Now,  aside from the childrens’ worlds being turned upside down by a restructured family,  Jon  got a court order preventing the children from being filmed. Both parents are struggling to find a new source of income for themselves. People should have families for love and  support, not for tax deductions or income. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t get the child tax deductions they deserve.
  6. Stay true to your word — financial or otherwise. Recently, Jon was sued by TLC for not fulfilling his contract with the cable television channel. Although it didn’t have to do with his personal money management, it’s about setting an example. If you say you’re going to save this month, then don’t let your kids catch you buying a new handbag or tech toy. If you sign a contract, fulfill it, even if you don’t feel like it. It’s part of being responsible.

Because of both the financial and media blunders made by these bubble-heads, the children will suffer most of all. If you are looking for a case study on how not to raise a family and handle your financial affairs, there is no better example than Jon and Kate.

(image from kjarrett at flickr.)