In today’s society financial literacy could not be more important. Money, investing, and debt affect almost every aspect of our life, but ironically, and unfortunately, our financial literacy is as low as it has ever been. Only about 50% of adults can pass a basic financial literacy quiz and only 17% of those under the age of 34 can pass the same quiz.
The best way to combat this troubling situation is to start with our children. We must start educating them early and often so they can enter adulthood with a solid grasp of finances and money. I think all parents, myself included, desire to talk with our children about money, but we rarely know how to start.
Over the next few weeks, we will be writing a series of blog articles that we hope will give parents a practical guide on talking to their kids about money. But first we want to answer the question: “How do we start?”
Understand your relationship with money and what impressions were made on you as a child:
Before we can speak to our children about money, we need to understand our relationship with money. Even if you are doing all the right things, like savings, investing, and managing debt, we may not truly understand our relationship with money. Take some time to quietly reflect on these questions and maybe discuss them with an adult you are close to, like a spouse or best friend:
- What are your family stories? What hardship and/or financial successes did you experience?
- What money stories did you hear from or about your parents or grandparents?
- What advice, warning or rules did you absorb from listening to family stories about money?
- What did your parents’ actions show you about money?
- What money-oriented advice did your parents give you?
After reading through these questions and the answers, consider what themes emerge and how your family’s money history may be affecting you now. Write down your current personal feelings about money, your aspirational feelings about money, and what values you want to instill in your family.
Talk with your kids about money:
Once you understand your own experiences and feelings towards money it is time to start talking. The single most important thing you can do is to start talking. Do not get caught up on exactly what topics to cover or when the right age is, just open the conversation. And do not stress about whether you are covering the right topics or explaining things correctly, you will probably find you will learn and grow through this process as well. You just have to start talking, whatever that looks like for you and your children. An easy acronym you can use to help you start the conversation is TALKS:
Talk to your kids about money as early as possible.
Act casually. Money is just another conversational topic.
Leave money in its proper place. Don’t let it dominate your value system.
Know your audience. Direct your conversation toward each child’s age and interest.
Sprinkle in questions throughout your conversation. Getting feedback from your children is crucial to understanding how they are processing your talks and what area you might want to focus on.
Use these concepts to guide your conversation, but, remember, the most important thing to do is just start. The only way you can fail is by not trying at all.