In a previous post, I touched on the idea that you do not need to be an expert to talk to your children about personal finance. In this post, I want to focus on some common refrains you may have heard in your childhood- “We don’t talk about money.” or “Don’t worry about it” or “My parents didn’t talk to me about money, and I turned out fine.”
I consider myself very fortunate growing up because I did not hear any of those phrases in my house. My parents were very open about the topic of finances. However, I recognize that this was not typically the case in many homes. For many of you, the topic of money, especially with your parents, may have been a forbidden topic. Money is not something you could talk about. It would have been just as inappropriate to talk to your parents about money as it would have been to ask them how many times they had sex.
If this resonates with you, I can understand why you may be hesitant to talk to your child about money. Our environments shape how we relate to our world, and thus, you may feel paralyzed around this topic. Many parents have admitted that this resonates with them, and they are regretful that they never broached the topic with their children.
What Are You Passing On?
Why is it that money can be so taboo? Is it related to feelings of shame or embarrassment about the finances, what our parents had, or didn’t have? Or perhaps it was their lack of knowledge on the topic?
How might this affect a child, the lack of transparency? If your parents didn’t talk to you about money did it result in feelings of shame or embarrassment? Some report that it made them feel as if they were not a trusted confidant to whom their parents could share that personal information.
We often inherit our parents’ values around subjects as personal as these. So how have your experiences shaped the way you feel about money now? Does the thought of talking to your child about money, raise those same feelings? Do you still feel embarrassed or shame? More importantly, do you want to pass those values and feelings on to your kids?
I have a feeling the answer is no.
Be Conscious and Deliberate
A lot of feelings we have towards money, and even actions we take with our money, are irrational. I love the study of behavioural economics because it confronts the fact that people are not rational beings. We may know that we should save, but instead, we spend. We know that retail therapy will leave us feeling worse in the long run, yet we continue to do it anyway. Yet, if we want to have a strong grasp on personal finance, we do need to act rationally and be aware of our feelings and actions regarding money. To truly be reflective and self-aware, we need to go back and revisit some of our early experiences with money.
If the subject of money was “off-limits” with your parents, this likely created some confusion, anxiety or both for you. If you are willing to reflect honestly, take some time to think about how those early experiences shaped your beliefs about money and how you spend, save and give now. We will likely want to be much more conscious and deliberate with what we teach our children.
We want our children to be comfortable coming to us when they have questions about the world, whether that be about relationships, academics, money or otherwise. To forge that trusted relationship with them, we need to reciprocate and show them that we trust them as well.
You don’t need to whip out a pay stub on day one, but start the dialogue and stay open to answering their questions honestly. A stronger relationship with your child will be your reward.
Keep Learning, Together
I would also want to encourage all of us to brush up on our knowledge of personal finance. Also, as we know, our children will do what we do, and not what we say. So if your finances are messy (as can happen to all of us, myself included), take the time to get them in order. If your child is old enough to understand what you are doing, add them in some of those discussions. If you commit to paying down some debt, include your child in those discussions. Let them see that you are not perfect, but model how to set goals and work towards them. They will act as your accountability partner. And it is powerful for them to see their role models (you) working towards your goals.