As parents, we’re often looking for that magic formula. What can we do to make sure our kids are successful? Now, the term “successful” can mean all sorts of different things to different people. But your expectations likely include that when your children become adults, they’ll be able to get along just fine with the money they have/earn. Unfortunately, you keep hearing these tales of woe about adult children being completely unable to pay their bills on their own. Wild questions are probably running through your parental mind: “What’s the deal with that?” “What went wrong?” “Should I be doing something I’m not?” “Should I not be doing something I am?”!
It’s very important to understand there are multiple factors at play here. Issues like sky high student loan debt, lower wages, automation, and increasing housing prices are making it harder and harder for adult children to become financially free from their parents. There are always mitigating factors with any family as well. The reality is there’s no magical parenting roadmap to follow to ensure your kids will be able to take on their adult lives with gusto.
The good news? Parents have plenty of methods to use to start preparing their kids for adulthood someday. Here are your financial parenting to-do’s:
Talk about money early and often: Gone are the days when money wasn’t discussed around the family dinner table. The sooner you start having those conversations with your youngsters, the better. A good place to begin? The grocery store! As soon as your kids are able to tag along and help choose what you buy, start teaching them the ins and outs of money. Discuss how much things cost and how much money you’re able to spend. When kids are small, they have no real concept of what a dollar is worth. Better to start that learning process when they’re still sitting in the shopping cart than delay it till they head off to college.
Teach how to save and spend: We all know as adults that things cost money and you can’t buy everything, right? Well, that’s something that’s learned, often the hard way. Kids haven’t obtained that knowledge until you start teaching it. If you think about it, your kids watch you swipe your plastic credit card and items are handed over to you. How easy is that?? They very rarely see adults actually pay for stuff with bills and coins or see when there is no more money to spend. How do you solve that problem? Give kids ownership of their own money to buy things with. The next time they want the latest and greatest toy all their friends are talking about, have them do the saving and spending. You may be surprised at how the conversation will change when they’re the ones paying.
Be the example: Show your children what it takes to be financially stable in your own life. Pay your bills on time, avoid overspending, keep the credit card debt under control, create a household budget, save up for vacations, weigh the pros and cons of buying big ticket items. Don’t be afraid to tell your kids you simply can’t afford things sometimes. As embarrassing as you may think that is, it’s important for kids to understand that money does not grow on trees and there is a finite amount we each have to spend. Be the responsible adult you’d like your kids to be one day.
Focus on the little things: Schools are still way behind in teaching kids how day-to-day finances work. That means it’s on you to do your part. Show your children your monthly bills as they come in. Watch the shock on their faces when they see how much it costs to have water come out of the faucet and heat come out of the vents! Set up a savings account in their name and show them how interest accrues each month. Explain why and how you donate to causes that are important to you. Talk to them about saving their money to do things they’d like to do in the future and saving for when things don’t go as planned. Being open and up front with your children now will help them avoid simple money mishaps in the future.
If this to-do list seems overwhelming, don’t get down on yourself. Take it a little at a time and see what happens. Know that so long as you make a solid effort to financially educate your kids, you’re giving them a big leg up in the life ahead of them. If you’d like any guidance on how to start the conversation in your family, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’d be happy to help in any way that we can.