In a lot of American households, money and credit simply aren’t things we discuss at the kitchen table. The discussion usually comes up when our kids ask for something they want but can’t afford or wait until after Christmas; it’s time to change that narrative! Let’s talk about how parents can break the ice by starting an open conversation about what financial responsibilities should look like in your family–and teach teens early on what to do and what not to do.
Before we start talking strategy, take a deep breath and read the statements below out loud.
I CAN raise money-smart children.
I CAN start the money conversation early with my children.
I CAN guide my children to make good money choices.
I CAN help my children avoid money pitfalls and the same mistakes that I made.
Now breathe out…See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Now we can begin changing our mindset and understanding that having this discussion will empower us as well as our children to think about the very thing we have been running from.
First things first. Now, this is a big one! Yes, we love our children and want to give them the world, but what does that look like? The topic of Wants vs Needs must be addressed. I’m not saying no to everything your child is asking for. I’m simply saying that we must 1) evaluate what they are asking for and why and 2) teach them at a young age by talking through different scenarios. Helping your child understand their priorities with money is important so that they grow up to become a financially savvy individual who will not get in over their heads in debt or other bad money decisions because they don’t understand how things work.
Because of my own childhood experiences, I have tried to make sure that my 13-year-old son doesn’t want for anything. But I also realize that I have to be careful. It is important that he appreciates all of the things we do for him and does not become spoiled or entitled. I have to be the example I want him to follow which means displaying a high level of respect for the money I have been blessed with and modeling how to become a responsible money manager. I have found that the best way to do this is to involve him in the money conversation.
I involve my son in the money conversation by:
Showing him the monthly household bills, the usage, and allowing him to help track due dates.
Asking him about some of the things that he likes to spend money on so I can gauge his interests to use as a speaking point later when needed.
Adding him as a family member on Amazon Prime and connecting his Cash App so he can shop freely for purchases using his allowance or birthday money.
Teaching my son about the value of hard work by showing him how our money is made.
Encouraging him to earn money outside the house.
Opening a savings account in his name.
Extending allowance to twice a month on a card.
Teaching him the difference between cash versus credit.
How you handle money is a powerful message for your teens. Your children are watching you and are more likely to do what they see, not what you say. This has been true for thousands of years so it’s important that you set an example by modeling the attitudes that you want your children to have toward money. Demonstrate the “value” of money and teach them the habit of giving, and speak openly about money in general with your children.
Next, ensure that your children have money of their own.
Allowance for household chores or a set amount per week. Other money from gifts/birthdays provides extra funds.
Periodic jobs for older children to earn cash (mowing lawns, babysitting, etc.)
Ask your child if they have an idea for a part-time business. If so, map out a business plan to show your child that you really care about their vision. Help them advertise, develop good business habits, work ethic, personal appearance, and bookkeeping.
Here’s how you can create the perfect system for your family:
Pick a “payday” and stick to it.
Give younger children a weekly allowance; teach teens budgeting with a monthly payout.
Decide what the money will cover — lunch, clothes, or spending money?
Use small denominations for younger kids to teach saving, giving, and spending.
Offer guidance, but, ultimately, let children decide how to handle their money.
Use money mistakes as learning opportunities.
Now that you have the tools to talk with your kids about money, it’s time for some of these conversations. It is important to take the time now, when our children are still young and impressionable, to have open conversations with them about their future. If you want your kids to grow up feeling capable of handling money or any other adult topic that comes along down the line, it’s best not to wait. Instead, start incorporating financial literacy lessons as early as possible so this information becomes a natural extension of what they know later on in life. Do you agree? What types of questions do you think would be helpful at different stages in your child’s development? Please share them below so we can all learn from each other.
Tamra T. Bush is a woman of God, wife, and mother who takes great pride in being an instrument of change for others. Her deep knowledge and over two decades of experience in the financial industry have made her an invaluable asset to families that want a better life. She's passionate about empowering families so they can have the economic foundation necessary to look towards their future with confidence and build a legacy. Tamra understands that this isn't just a matter of money, but also resources, strategy, communication, and support systems for when things get tough. That’s why she strives to make a difference on both sides by providing education while helping families communicate more openly with one another. Connect with Tamra on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.