The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for . The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
It’s generally understood that Americans aren’t very comfortable discussing money matters, but a recent Chime survey really puts it into perspective. According to the poll, four out of every five Gen Zers and millennials would rather talk about sex, religion and politics than money. Further, 72 percent of millennials and 63 percent of Gen Zers would rather share their full camera rolls, their direct messages and their dating app profiles with their family members, as opposed to disclosing financial details.
Interestingly, Gen Zers and millennials are still more likely to turn to their parents for financial guidance than any other resource. Roughly 30 percent said a parent or guardian is their top source of financial advice or knowledge, ahead of their significant other (22 percent), their friends (13 percent) and social media platforms (also 13 percent).
However, even though mom and dad are a go-to resource for young adults’ financial questions, few Gen Zers and millennials believe their folks adequately prepared them to manage their finances. Just 18 percent say their parents/guardians “absolutely” passed along solid lessons about money. A similar proportion (17 percent) feel some reverse psychology was at work — they learned money lessons from their family, but in terms of what not to do.
Communication is key
I’m a big proponent of financial literacy, and I think it starts with communication. From an early age, I’d advise parents to look for opportunities to teach their kids about money. At first, this might involve sorting bills and coins, or even just explaining what you’re doing when you shop at a store. For example, make sure your elementary schooler knows that a credit card isn’t magic. It represents real money that you need to pay back.
Comparison shopping is another useful subject that will serve your children well throughout their lives. We’re all consumers, after all. Introduce ideas such as how to identify the best deals. This might include evaluating multiple products, discussing quality versus quantity and calculating unit pricing. As in, a five-pound bag of apples that costs $5 is a better deal (on a per-pound basis) than buying two pounds for $4.
Equating work with money is another important lesson
Begin by explaining why you go to work. A key reason, obviously, is to earn money and support the family. I remember my older daughter complaining, once upon a time, that I had to go to work. I quipped, “Well, one good thing about going to work is that I get more money to buy toys for you and your sister.” She completely reversed course and literally pushed me out the door, telling me to make more money because she needed more toys.
An allowance can be an age-appropriate way to give your kids an opportunity to earn their own money and to also make some mistakes along the way. Working toward a goal can be really empowering. What a great lesson: If you want something, work for it! That can instill pride and a strong work ethic.
The other side of the equation is powerful as well. As in, how will your child spend their earnings? There are tons of opportunities to practice spending, saving and giving this money. You might see that a child who is quick to spend your money is much more thoughtful when it comes to parting with their own hard-earned dough. Sometimes, they might waste it on something silly, but it’s better to make mistakes early on when the stakes are small. These are all important teaching tools.
Over time, find ways to layer in increasingly complex financial concepts
Adding your teenager as an authorized user on one of your credit cards can help them establish a strong credit score and learn how to use this spending tool responsibly. Credit cards are also a natural introduction into discussions about debt. That’s even more critical as college approaches, along with the big question of how to pay for it. Far too many young adults sign up for tens of thousands of dollars in student debt without a clear understanding of their future career path and how they will repay these loans.
If all of this sounds intimidating, remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Lean on support from your own network: your spouse, friends, relatives, professional connections and so on. There are tons of helpful websites, books and other materials, too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The bottom line
You don’t need to be a financial wizard to teach your kids about money. Be approachable, honest and communicative. Even if you’re not entirely comfortable with your own financial situation or knowledge, be authentic and learn together. Avoiding the subject isn’t the right answer. Instead, look for teachable moments at all ages. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you’re moving in the right direction.
Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to help.