- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2011

Even the tooth fairy is feeling the bite of the recession.

Children across the country are getting short-changed for their teeth, according to a new study from Visa Inc. They’re waking up to find less money under their pillows.

“The money kids get from the tooth fairy is just so powerful,” said Jason Alderman, senior director for financial education at Visa. “It’s magical, it’s absolutely magical.”

Visa hopes the study will teach youngsters responsible money habits. Mr. Alderman said he has a 7-year-old daughter who is “fascinated” with the tooth fairy, and gives him “hourly updates on every twist and turn of the tooth.”

“We want parents to use this as a teachable moment,” he said. “We know the tooth fairy connects with kids.”

Mr. Alderman believes this could be a signal that families are cutting back on all sorts of entertainment spending, including funding the tooth fairy.

“As parents are looking for ways to tighten their belts, this is one small cut they’re making, as well,” Mr. Alderman said. “It reflects a mind-set: We are cutting back overall.”

The study found that the average price per tooth dropped to $2.60 this year from $3 in 2010.

On the East Coast, last year’s highest-paid children are now the lowest paid ones. The price of a tooth dropped 38 percent to $2.10. In the South, children also took a big hit to their piggy banks as the price was cut 21 percent to $2.60.

The price for teeth in the Midwest and West Coast remained stable. Children in the Midwest noticed a decline of 3 percent, or 10 cents, to $2.80. While West Coast youngsters actually saw the price edge up to $2.80 from last year’s $2.70.

The number of parents who can’t afford to fund the tooth fairy is also growing. It’s at 10 percent this year, up from 6 percent last year. “There’s probably some people who just cut out the tooth fairy altogether,” Mr. Alderman said.

Another 7 percent of children get less than a dollar.

Meanwhile, there are fewer big spending tooth fairies out there. The number of children who receive $5 or more fell to 18 percent from 22 percent last year.

Ann Khan of Fairfax, Calif., is one of those big spenders. When she was a child more than 30 years ago, she only got a quarter for each tooth. Today, her three children — ages 3, 7 and 9 — wake up to find a $5 bill under their pillows.

Still, a $1 bill remains quite popular with 29 percent of children. Joel Narloch and his wife, Destiny, from Clarkston, Mich., started out with $1 for their 5-year-old daughter, Elanya, so they would have something to build up to. They might mix it up between toys and money in the future.

“She did wonder why the tooth fairy wants the teeth,” he recalled. “She asked, ‘What does the tooth fairy do with my teeth?’ “

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