Parents Dish on How They Talk Money With Their Kids

Cheryl Lock

1. Remember That Kids Are Smart

Children learn to talk, read and write by the age of five. “They’re sponges!” says Mackey. “When they’re young, if they see you doing something with your money, they’ll be apt to do it, too, so use this to your advantage.”

Don’t assume that what you’re saying is above their heads—as long as you keep the conversation going as they get older, there’s no such thing as starting too young.

(You can use our money milestones for kids timeline for suggestions on different topics to cover at different ages, as well as activities to further explain those topics.)

2. Refrain From Lecturing

If you find that your kids’ eyes are glazing over while you’re talking about saving and spending, try a different approach. (Here’s a list of our favorite tools to help teach kids about money.)

“Grab a money game, book or play games online,” says Mackey. “Create an experience instead, and they’ll be just as likely to learn from it.”

3. Make It a Two-Way Street

Inspire your kids to want to learn about money by asking questions that apply to them. Ask about jobs and careers that interest them, as well as subjects that they’re interested in learning about when it comes to money. And before ending any financial conversation, always ask if your child has any additional questions.

4. Don’t Ignore Your Mistakes

Everyone makes financial errors from time to time—we’ve certainly learned some of our greatest money lessons from ours. So don’t shy away from using financial mistakes (yours and your child’s) as an opportunity to teach a lesson.

“Kids have to learn that it’s not the end of the world when we make financial mistakes,” explains Mackey, adding that the more mistakes you can teach kids before they leave home, the less likely they are to make the same ones once out on their own.

Tell us: How did your parents talk to you about money? Do you talk to your own kids in the same way? 

  • Bret Shroyer

    Kids aren’t learning the important money lessons in school – it’s important to have these (sometimes difficult) conversations be a big part of how you raise kids at home.

  • Shazzer4400

    Kids don’t learn about it at school because our society benefits from having a huge population of financially illiterate people! 

    I don’t have kids, but if I did, I would most definitely NOT do what my parents did to me. Long story short, throughout my whole childhood, I was sure we were only a week or 2 away from going into a homeless shelter. The reason is because my parents never discussed money and were extremely frugal, so if I ever wanted anything, it was always NO! My parents retired early as millionaires, so obviously, my fears about being homeless were unfounded.

    I have extreme stress around money – I make a lot of it and never spend it (seriously – the last time I bought clothing was during the Clinton administration and my husband cuts my hair! When I was single, I would go days without eating because I had run out of food and would only spend what was in the food budget – $30 per week). I guess the positive is that I will be retiring this year at age 39, but I absolutely HATE having such an ingrained fear of spending money! 

  • nkdeck07

    Mine didn’t talk about money beyond nebulous vague statements about how screwed we were. As a result my brother and I are both fanatical. I have a conversation daily about finances with my boyfriend and my brother is frugal as hell and is actively scared of credit cards to the point of refusing to ever get one. Thankfully we are both great at math so it’s working out but I don’t ever want to be like my parents regarding finances.

  • Cheryl Cuddeback

    I like Shazzer4400′s comment about how our society benefits from having a huge population of financially illiterate people. But it sure would be nice if society believed all would benefit if everyone was financially literate.

    I find it interesting that people can talk more easily about sex then money. We never know what each of us make in the workforce. It’s the biggest kept secret.

    Talking about money with your children is one thing. But what about talking with your spouse? Are there any therapists our counselors who can help couples talk about money without it turning into a shouting match?