​Let’s Talk: Talking to Kids About Money

Most of us were taught never to talk about politics, religion, or money. As a culture, this old-school mentality hasn’t been serving us very well (see modern social/political discourse). We need to talk about these things because they ARE complicated topics. Ideally, we are the ones role modeling for our children how to have these difficult conversations. I’ll leave politics and religion to someone else; today, however, let’s talk about money.

Finances do not need to be shrouded in mystery. I asked a recent group of workshop participants what they were explicitly taught about money growing up and over half said “nothing”. Our kids will get plenty of messages about finances from everyone else, so we need to focus and be intentional with our lessons. As parents and caregivers, we must start early, do it often, be intentional and make it relevant and applicable to our children’s everyday lives.

Start Early:

Remember the old Fisher Price cash register? Well, now there are plenty of versions for our toddlers to start learning about the ins and outs of money. Obviously, we want to keep it age appropriate, but including them early on opens the door to future financial acumen – and as a bonus it helps with their math skills!

Do it Often:

Money lessons are everywhere from the grocery store line to buying gifts for grandma. Find “money moments” to include your children in the conversation or decision.

Be Intentional:

We tend to be explicit with personal and family values. We may hope to pass on honesty, hard work, or kindness to our children. We need to be just as explicit with the money values that will help our children thrive. Instilling a strong ethic of paying yourself first (saving) is crucial for their future success. What messages are you currently sending? I come from a long line of generational poverty and was taught only that “there isn’t enough money, so enjoy what you can.” As an adult, I had to unlearn that mentality and change my relationship with money. If I continued to enjoy going to every concert I wanted and didn’t save for my security deposit, I couldn’t move into my new apartment. These were important money lessons I had to learn the hard way.

Each of us has different money values and priorities. No one else should tell you how to spend your money, yet ideally how we do spend our money will reflect our values. Remember, kids are watching for hypocrisy and contradictions all the time!

Make it Relevant:

Discuss as a family what your most important financial goals are. These goals can be short-term (saving for a family trip or saving for a ping pong table) or long-term (saving for college or saving to move to a bigger apartment or house). Whatever the goal, get everyone on board for increased cooperation, especially if it requires a little family sacrifice. What about your next family trip? Get the kids involved in the research, planning and budgeting.

It’s never too late to start the money conversation with your kids – even if they’re now adults. Offer to take a financial wellness workshop with them (we offer them at Save First), give the gift of a financial planner, make a savings goal together, or simply acknowledge you didn’t know how to talk about it, but are willing to learn. You continue to be their biggest role model – so go have those conversations and happy saving!

Samantha Shaub is a financial educator at Save First Financial Wellness, mother of two, a recovering poverty-mindset haver, and a self-professed cheap skate who also loves expensive coffee and cheese.

The Save First Blog

This is a financial blog designed to help you meet your financial goals. Our team of financial educators, counselors, and coaches discuss relevant topics for everyday financial matters.