Talking to Kids about money

Six Tips for Success

As your children begin to launch careers and financial lives of their own, it doesn’t mean that your parenting job is over. In fact, your kids could probably use your guidance now more than ever as they navigate their own path toward independence. They just might not know how to ask. And as confident as they may appear, there’s a good chance they’re unsure about how to manage their finances independently — and may still look to you as a trusted resource.

Take the Lead

You’ve been through all of this before – they haven’t. Your experience and knowledge about how personal finances evolve over time can help your children manage expenses and plan for the future. If you’ve been avoiding the money talk with your kids because it makes you uncomfortable — or you’re uncertain on how to approach the topic — these six tips can help:

  1. Initiate the conversation.
Start by asking questions about what they hope to do, how they’re feeling and what they’re not sure about. Resist the temptation to tell them what to do and, instead, look for opportunities to share helpful information and impart your wisdom. Explain the benefits of creating a budget, setting goals and having a plan, especially if they’re starting out with debt, such as student loan, car or credit card debt. While your children may not follow all of your advice, talking candidly with them is the best way to keep the lines of communication open for future talks.
  2. Share your own experiences.
Help them learn from money mistakes you may have made earlier in life and how you handled it. Perhaps you regret waiting so long to start saving for retirement, for example. Sharing this lesson-learned can help reduce the chances your child will do the same. The conversation can also be an opportunity to discuss your own investments, retirement planning, and inheritance issues.
  3. Demonstrate the value of saving.
Make sure they understand how much they stand to gain by investing now. Encourage your kids to identify specific savings goals based on what they hope to achieve, like graduate school or traveling abroad. If their employer offers a retirement program, discuss the benefits of participating, especially if contributions are matched. As they start to earn more money, explain the benefits of working with a financial advisor who can help ensure they’re taking the most effective steps to manage their money.
  4. Embrace tech tools.
While the baby boomer generation had to learn the ins and outs of new technology, that same technology has been a part of this generation’s lives since birth. Encourage your kids to take advantage of technology, like their bank’s mobile app or websites like Mint.com that can help simplify budgeting, saving and investing.
  5. Emphasize the importance of 
 paying down debt.
Whether they have significant debt or various types to pay off, they’re probably wondering where to start. They may appreciate some help understanding the interest rates and payments terms of each. It’s important that they know high interest rates increase the amount they owe – and their financial commitment – at an increasing rate over the years. Encourage them to pay down high interest or variable rate debt as quickly as possible. That way they can focus on their other financial goals, like saving for a down payment.
  6. Emphasize good credit.
Encourage adult children to check their credit report at least annually and confirm that the information is accurate. Explain that establishing and maintaining good credit makes it easier to obtain a mortgage or auto loan.

Finally, Keep it Simple

To avoid the risk of your child tuning you out, remember to keep it simple, conversational and empathetic. Treat them like adults when discussing money. And don’t try to say it all at once. Plan to set aside time on a regular basis to talk about finances, offer praise for their good decision-making and encourage them to ask questions. The more they know about money management, the more empowered they’ll be to prepare for their future and make important financial decisions with confidence.