If you are like me, you weren’t taught about family finances when you were young. If you were, congratulations to you! For the rest of us, it made finances a bit more difficult. For me, I guess my parents thought they would teach me to budget in school and then expect that to walk me through life. Sure, I had a class on budgeting when I had to carry that sack of flour that was representing a baby. That lasted a week. I was 15. I didn’t start working until 17 so we can see how likely it was that I would remember that week and all the lessons it taught me at that time. I have had to take classes in my adult life to learn how to best handle my finances.
Be Age Appropriate
First and foremost, make sure the discussions you have with your kids are age appropriate. You don’t want to discuss saving for retirement with your four-year-old, but you do want to make sure they understand that money is not coming from a tree in the backyard. Keep it simple and allow your child to ask questions. Answer them honestly but don’t go too deep until they get older. Remember, all questions can be revisited later and in more detail as your kids gain an understanding.
Don’t Hide The Hard Stuff
When a financial crisis happens, don’t hide it. Take a bit of time to go through your own emotions around it and come up with the game plan to bounce back. Then let your kids know. It is okay for them to learn that someone lost a job or a credit card debt is creating financial issues. Include them in discussions on the plan to get back on steady feet.
Share With Them Financial Values
When I was young, I just assumed you walk into a bank and get money and it could be as often as you wanted. I never realized there were limits. Kids now see us swiping cards all the time and don’t realize that it’s not an endless cash flow. Sharing the budget with them allows them to see how debts are paid off, how you save for vacations, and how you make all the money work in a healthy way. It’s less about the money figures and more about setting goals and meeting them.
Money Is Not Hush-Hush – But It Is
Money shouldn’t be taught as a hush-hush thing in the household but there is that inevitable concern that a child will tell everyone about your money. This is a good lesson in boundaries. Firstly, save number amounts in the budget until your child is close to working age (even if they don’t work right away). Secondly, setting the boundary that these discussions are only between those who live in the home is a healthy way of teaching kids respect for those they love. It is not being secretive, it is a balance of teaching them how to handle life.
Overall, discussions around the budget should happen as early as possible. If you have older children who are close to working or are working, now is just as good as a time to start. Check with non-profit financial organizations in your area to see if they offer money classes that you and your child can take together. If they see this as normal, it will make for a healthy financial foundation as they age.