Most parents see it as part of their role to have the birds and the bees talk with their children. They expect that at some point in time it is a conversation (or in most cases, several conversations) that that they will have to have. It is seen as an integral part of the parent job description, crucial to bringing up a well rounded child.
But why is it not the same with money? We talk openly with our children about sex but shy away from something that will be just as an integral part of their adult lives. Think of how many money related things you do every day – go to work, buy the groceries, pay bills, use a credit card, pay the mortgage or the rent. Whether we like it or not money is an integral part of our daily lives. I don’t mean this in a “money is the be all and end all” kind of way because it most certainly is not. But you have to admit understanding your finances is pretty important and the consequence of poor financial decisions can be dire. So why isn’t it up there with sex when it comes to talking to our children?
I think part of it is that our own parents never spoke to us about money. When I was a kid I owned the 70s classic book “Where did I come from?” but my parents never spoke to me about money. I didn’t know about the benefits of saving or how a credit card worked, let alone how much it costs to live away from home. In my household, all of these things were unspoken. Maybe they thought they were shielding me from their adult concerns, but all that happened was that when I left home was that I was totally unprepared for the financial realities of the real world. As a consequence I spent everything I earned and then some! The result was that I had a mountain of credit card debt, a zero bank balance and little to show for my hard work. However, my first money lesson was learnt. Don’t spend more than you earn.
Parents need to educate their children about money and most importantly instill a positive attitude towards money. It is something that they, like us, will have to deal with almost every day of their adult lives. Teenagers today have far more financial decisions to make than we ever did, from which phone plan to choose to how to manage their credit cards. In fact, in the United States they have Justin Bieber and Hello Kitty credit cards aimed at tweens! It will be only a matter of time before we see them here.
I want my daughter to have a positive relationship with Money. So with her third birthday we have decided to start now. Of course it will be at a level appropriate for her age, much like the way I explain to her differences between boys and girls and why she has to sit down when she goes to the toilet! However, it will also be an ongoing conversation for the rest of her childhood, right alongside the conversation about the birds and the bees.
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