Talking to Your Kids About Money
“I can’t talk to my kids about money!”
We’ve heard this statement from parents more times than we can count (and since we work in finance, we can count pretty high.) Many people feel uncomfortable or awkward letting their kids know what things cost or what the family’s financial standing is. We even had a counseling session where a father to two children told us that he would rather talk to his kids about his drug use during college than tell them what the family’s income was.
Although it may feel unnecessary and even inappropriate to share your financial details with your kids, this is the time in their lives when they learn how money works: where it comes from, how it gets spent and what happens if it’s used unwisely. Talking to your kids about money is the best way to prepare them for the financial responsibilities they will face as adults. They aren’t learning much (if anything) about money in school. This is your responsibility and your opportunity to help shape the kind of person they become. A spender? A saver? Someone who stresses about money? Perhaps someone who is comfortable speaking with their future spouse about finances and working constantly to improve. You are a big part of determining this-right now.
The key to talking to your kids about money is just that- to start talking. Start off small and build to bigger topics. We’ve created a few tips to bring conversation about money and spending into your families everyday life. Use this as a stepping stone and keep going:
While grocery shopping, let them know the individual cost of items your family uses on a regular basis.
Start putting everyday spending into perspective. “Buying this item will cost us the amount I makes for two hours of work. Do you think it’s worth that?”
When dining out, tell your child that they can either have a drink off the menu or they can have water and you will give them a dollar (or the cost of the other beverage.) This is a great way to teach opportunity cost. This trick can be applied to many different situations.
As you get more comfortable, start bringing your kids into decision making conversations and friendly debates about how money should be spent.
To help you get started on the right path, we offer our children’s book, Kathryn and Elizabeth Go Shopping to any consumer who would like it. It tells the story of two sisters: one who loves to spend money as soon as she gets it and one who likes to think about spending choices more mindfully. Read it to your children and ask what choices they would make in Kathryn and Elizabeth’s shoes.
Get started now and you’ll raise children who are conscious of how important money is and not afraid to talk about it. This is set them on a path for better relationships and stress management where finances are involved.