Do you ever catch yourself falling into negative financial habits that you learned from your parents? The truth is that the “money scripts” you use to make financial decisions as an adult are almost completely formed by age 7. So, some of the good and not-so-good habits you find yourself dealing with as an adult have likely been part of how you view money from the time you were a kid. 

Even though it’s not possible to go back in time and reverse the financial habits you learned from parents and mentors, it is possible to focus on raising your daughters and sons to be financially empowered and to focus on positive money habits. There’s no “perfect” way to teach your kids about money, but there are a few things you can start implementing today to make financial conversations easier, and even exciting, for your kids.  

Be Open

The first and most important piece of advice I give my clients who are parents is to be – and stay – open when you talk about money. This means having honest conversations about financial “wins” and mistakes with your kids, your partner, and the other people in your life. The more you can focus on taking the negative stigma away from money, the more you’re showing your kids that financial conversations aren’t something to be ashamed of, or shy away from. 

An easy way to start this is by having family meetings about spending, or how you can align your spending with your family values. Giving your kids some say in where funds that have been earmarked for charity go, or discussing how some “extra” expenses will have to be carved out of the family budget if you all want to spend the time and resources to have a fun family vacation, can help them to start understanding the importance of open communication. 

Of course, make sure the conversations you’re having are age-appropriate. Talking to your four-year-old about the fear you feel about retirement savings or your student loans may not be the best move, but walking them through budgeting basics and values-based spending absolutely makes sense. 

Address Gender Stereotypes

You can also help your kids to understand gender stereotypes, and how they may or may not be helpful. Talking to both your daughters and sons about how generalizing that “women are bad at math” or “men go to work and make money for the family” can hurt others and themselves is important. 

Daughters need to understand their worth and earning potential, while sons need to understand to respect women and that they don’t need to carry the full weight of “providing” on their shoulders. If these conversations are uncomfortable, that’s okay. Talking about stereotypes and discrimination is never comfortable, but it’s critical that we as parents can show our kids that these stereotypes are real and may impact how they interact with the world someday. 

Model and Celebrate Equality Whenever Possible

In your family, it’s important to model and celebrate equality. The more your kids can see you and your spouse or partner treating each other with mutual respect in finances and in life, and treating others in the same way, the more they’ll be likely to model that behavior. This might look like:

  • Talking openly about finances being a shared resource
  • Discussing opinions about money honestly with one another and with your kids
  • Treating members of a minority community financially equally
  • Focusing on avoiding gender-based assumptions that your kids may pick up on
  • Showing your kids that both you and your spouse or partner contribute to the family – financially and otherwise
  • Having equal money rewards or rules for each of your kids

It’s tough to address our own biases, but thinking about how you can intentionally model equality in your day-to-day helps you to raise kids who view financial equality as the norm. Taking it to the next level by celebrating equality in your home or workplace, and letting your kids see that, reinforces equality and inclusion as a positive behavior for them to emulate.

Ask Questions

Let’s get real – as a kid, money can be super fun. They don’t have bills, debt, or the stress of whether or not a trip home to visit family for the holidays is a more important budget line-item than a much-needed getaway with your spouse in January. Nope, kids get all of the fun parts of personal finances without a lot of the extra anxiety that adulthood brings to the table. 

So, during this season where money is still exciting and fun, focus on making it a learning experience for your kids. The easiest way to do this is to ask questions about money often. You don’t have to force the conversation, but working financial questions into your regular conversation with your kids can be a huge help. A few questions you might want to ask them are:

  • Why is that purchase (new toy, gumball, etc.) important to you?
  • Where would you like to give your “donate” funds?
  • What’s more exciting for you (when presented with two spending options)?
  • What are you saving for? Why?
  • What would you do with $100?
  • How do you want to budget your money?
  • Where does money come from?
  • How do you want to earn money? 
  • What chores do you think are worth more in your allowance? Why?

Pushing them to think more deeply about their finances can open up a lot of fun conversations about money, work, and life. You might be surprised by some of their answers!

Empower Them to Make Financial Decisions

Making all of the financial decisions your kids will face for them robs them of the chance to learn, or to have the exciting feeling of making a choice about their own money. Focus on big and small ways that you can empower them to make their own financial decisions. The more they practice this now, the more likely they’ll continue to make positive, values-based decisions in the future as adults.

Some decisions you might let them make on their own are:

  • What they want to use their allowance for
  • How they want to budget between spending, saving, and giving
  • Where they want to give their money (if that’s part of their budget)
  • What they’d like to ask for birthday or holiday gifts
  • What type of gifts they’d like to purchase for others

As your kids get older, they can be given more and more decision-making power. As they keep growing, you’re going to run into situations where they make mistakes – or where their decision doesn’t match the same one you’d make as their parent. 

In these situations, it’s important to approach your kids with curiosity – no matter how old they are. Work to get a deeper understanding of what’s motivating their decisions, and talk to them about balancing immediate wants (like impulse purchases) with long-term benefits (like saving for the toy they actually want that’s a little more expensive). 

Celebrate Their Wins and Guide Them Through Learning Experiences

Do you ever wish someone was there to celebrate you every time you hit a savings goal (besides your financial planner, of course)? How about when you knock out a big chunk of your debt? Positive reinforcement and affirmation that we’re having financial success is a really empowering and motivating thing. If you want your kids to continue making exceptional decisions with their money, celebrate their wins! Talk to them about how proud you are of them, or how excited you are about the recent success they’ve had.

On the other side of the coin, don’t hesitate to address any money mistakes they may make. Talk about these mistakes as learning experiences, not moments to feel shame or hide from others. The more you can empower your kids to view financial mistakes on a small scale as something to learn from, the more likely they are to move on from big financial mistakes in their adult lives feeling stronger and better equipped to avoid similar pitfalls in the future. 

Teaching your kids about money is incredibly challenging, but so worth it. If you ever have questions about how to have age-appropriate and empowering conversations with both your daughters and your sons, our team is happy to share our own experiences and what’s worked for our families. Reach out by clicking here! We’d love to hear from you.