What’s the best gift you can give your kids this year? Start talking with them about money. Start actually asking them what they think. You’ll probably be amazed. Start giving them practice at noticing and handling it. For many kids the first time they are actually faced with handling money is when they go off to college and are greeted with someone wanting to give them a credit card. Talk about diving into the deep end of the pool! I had some visitors from Poland a couple of years ago. They said that in Poland young people can’t get a credit card until they have successfully managed a checking account. Novel idea, eh?
We could all do that though, couldn’t we? We could start our kids out early talking about money and handling money in ways that are appropriate for their age. Frankly, one of the reasons I ended up so engaged with money was the way my dad started me out. I guess I was maybe eight or so when I started getting an allowance. I had to keep a ledger. Nothing fancy, it had two columns which I titled “Income” and “Outgo”. In order to get the next week’s allowance the ledger had to balance. I had to do the math. The brilliant thing my dad did was that he had no judgment or opinion about what I spent the money for. I could buy candy, toys, clothes or save it. It didn’t matter. His point was that I knew what I was doing with it and it balanced. That part of money remains easy for me to this day. I’m aware of where it’s going and what it’s costing.
If you don’t talk about money the message you reinforce is that it’s both taboo and somehow scary. That idea gets ingrained so that most people never talk about money unless forced to. If you think about it, that’s pretty odd. We actually spend more time dealing with money than we do having sex and yet we’ll talk about sex more than money. Most parents even talk to their kids more about sex than they do money. Personally, I advocate that we talk about both topics!
It is important to both talk to your kids about money and keep whatever “training” you are trying to implement age appropriate. You have to judge how the information is landing. If it’s too confusing or too sophisticated for where they are, it just won’t work. Find out what they think about money, including where they are on track and where they aren’t. Banish the taboo about talking about it.
I know it takes courage. It may even prove humbling. You might choose to explain that you are trying to do this differently than your parents did with you. You might try and help your kids do it differently. Change the idea that money is this weird, creepy thing that you deal with but never talk about.
Oh and one more thing: Even as you talk to your kids about money and change the taboo they may still have some money issues to work out later in life and wouldn’t it be great if talking about it wasn’t one of the issues? Wouldn’t it be great if they already had some skills with money to help them?
Want some more support helping your kids understand money? Give me a call at 503-258-1630
Shell Tain, The Untangler