Are you talking with your children about money as often as once a week or more? That seems to be a new trend, according to the “13th Annual Parents, Kids and Money Survey” released last week by T. Rowe Price (tinyurl.com/9xj2k4v4). Close to 50% of parents surveyed had money conversations with their children once a week or more, up from 22% in 2020.
The survey, which focused on how the pandemic affected the financial well-being of families, asked questions of parents and their children.
Being an advocate of financial literacy for all age levels, I find this to be a promising trend. After all, few schools offer financial programs.
As a 2020 “Survey of the States” by the Council for Economic Education (tinyurl.com/yj88bhrx) reported, only 21 states required high school students to take a course in personal finance, and just 25 states required high school students to take a course in economics. That’s an improvement over years past, but hardly enough.
Financial experts who study financial literacy agree that parents (and grandparents) have an impact.
“Our research shows that kids who have had frequent money conversations with their parents are better positioned for financial responsibility in adulthood,” said Jerome Clark, strategic program manager in T. Rowe Price’s Multi-Asset Division.
That’s enough of a reason to seriously consider initiating talks about finances with children of all ages. However, based on decades of experience working with families, I wouldn’t recommend money discussions at mealtime.
In the survey of more than 2,000 parents and their 8- to 14-year-olds, it turned out that COVID-19 was a factor in driving the frequency of conversations about money — and the subject matter.
The pandemic impacted most of those surveyed (80%), mostly in a negative way (67%). For example, about one out of three families were saving less for retirement, and 35% were dipping into retirement savings to pay for living expenses.
Almost one of three families decreased savings for college, and 35% were saving less for other goals. One of two (57%) families reported they had credit card debt, up from 43% in 2020.
Meanwhile, you can assume that the kids are observing their parents and learning. What are they picking up?
In my personal experience of working with families, I can share that kids are sponges. They can be learning lessons about credit or household finances. Or those lessons can be about how to solve money problems. Or both.
From my perspective, it is important for parents to keep in mind that children also pick up on their parents’ emotional state. One out of two kids reported that their parents were more stressed. Some kids had their allowances reduced.
As Clark noted, “Kids often pick up on unspoken cues, and stressful situations can be turned into powerful teaching tools.”
The important thing in this case is to deliberately teach these monetary lessons rather than run the risk of children picking up on financial stress and coming to their own conclusions.
To help with the dialogue, check out T. Rowe Price’s “Money Confident Kids” website (tinyurl.com/esxrz4y5), which features a number of learning tools, including a section on conversation starters.
Also see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s “Money as You Grow” page (tinyurl.com/66w9ntvk), and the “Youth & Money” section (tinyurl.com/cdjxvc25) on the website of the American Bankers Association.
It’s important to be involved in helping your children (and grandchildren) learn about financial literacy and handling money, and hopefully guide them toward sound financial habits that will last them a lifetime.