When did you start learning about money? Many people didn’t learn the basics until their adult years, and most agree this is too late. Every child should know how to manage a bank account, follow a budget and even invest before they leave home.
This know-how usually falls to parents to teach, and it’s very common for parents to be apprehensive about this. But talking about money to your kids doesn’t have to be difficult! It can be a great chance to grow and learn while spending some quality time together.
Let us help with our top tips for having productive money conversations with your kids.
When is the right time to talk with your kids about money? How about now?
The sooner you can begin these conversations, the sooner your children will become curious and confident with their own learning. This gives them the best chance to develop the skills required to manage their financial future.
Start with small money topics to build the foundation for more complex topics later. For example, if your child received birthday money, discuss the value of saving for a future reward. Together you could research what your child would like to buy and work out how much they’ll need to save. You could also discuss ways they could reach their saving targets faster by doing small jobs for the family or trusted friends.
Begin with financial basics
Developing true financial capability is a journey. So, your first steps should be on the basics. For primary aged children, you could explore how bank accounts work and perhaps even open one with your child. From there, create a savings target and discuss how their money can grow with interest. When you talk about spending money, it’s great to explain the difference between needs and wants.
Secondary school children might want to hear about different types of investments, from property to the share market. Don’t worry if you don’t know much about these, you can learn together. You could build a household budget together and identify all of your everyday expenses. This will give you the opportunity to explain spending priorities and the importance of living within your means and what happens if you don’t.
Use visual aids
Consider showing your kids one of your monthly bills - for example, your electricity or streaming services - and discuss how you prioritise these expenses. You could brainstorm ways to lower the bill by, say, turning off lights when you leave a room or cancelling a streaming service that your family rarely watches. Review the bill next month with your kids to see how your family’s choices have helped cut expenses. You could even turn it into a game to see how much you can save as a team, with a set reward at the end, like a family picnic!
Give them a chance to earn (and spend)
Whether it’s helping around the house or getting an after-school job, encourage your kids to make some money of their own. This is a great chance to discuss responsibility and goal setting. How do they want to spend their money? Will they save for something in the future or buy something today? What happens if they don’t turn up for their job?
Help them decide if they are ready for the responsibility of a job, and the rewards that come with it! When it comes to spending their earnings, help them decide whether short or long term goals are more important to them. After you’ve discussed all of this, it’s important to step back and let them have the final say in the process.
Be transparent about your money situation
It’s only natural to shy away from conversations about your financial past, especially if there are decisions you wished were made differently. However, by not sharing your story, your kids miss out on learning from you. So, if you regret going into debt or not saving enough for an important college, tell them about it.
Let’s say you accumulated a large amount of debt on a credit card or personal loan. Share this experience with your children and discuss the impact it had on you. Did you have to make any sacrifices? Would you do the same again? What other decisions could you have made? Your transparency will encourage them to ask questions and help them learn important lessons.
Focus on values
Talking about money should include your family’s views on the best ways to use money. Is it important for your family to save for holidays, make charitable contributions, or protect your things with insurance? You could talk about how, without careful saving, you couldn’t buy your family home. Or you could discuss why it’s meaningful for your family to support a particular cause or charity.
By grounding your decisions with this context, your children can better understand the ‘why’ behind your financial decisions. This will empower them with a way to think about financial choices in their future.
Set family goals
Get the whole family together to build your budget and decide on short, mid, or long-term goals. First, ask your children to contribute by identifying as many essential expenses as possible. This will create buy-in and a sense of responsibility. After an adult has completed the budget, create some goals together on how to spend or save what’s left.
Make your goal setting fun and create a space where everyone can contribute. It might help to grab some craft paper, post-it notes or coloured markers and put ideas on a wall. Once everyone’s ideas are up, work together to agree on what’s most important. As you set goals, remind your kids that goals require sacrifice. That might mean skipping your weekly takeaways to afford a holiday you want. But they’ll catch on—especially if they understand these sacrifices will affect their future as well!
As you explore money with your kids, you’ll eventually get to topics that you may not be completely comfortable with yourself. That’s ok! Financial literacy is a journey for everyone. In fact, being honest about what you don’t know - and your willingness to learn - is a wonderful lesson for your children. You could do some research with your children and together find ways of better securing your future. Plus it’s a great excuse to spend some time together!
Make it happen
So go ahead and make money conversations a common and everyday thing. Start early, start small and be honest. As you and your family grow in financial confidence, explore more complex topics and encourage your children to contribute to budgets and goal setting. Your example will help set your children up to be money-smart kids.
If you want to explore more financial concepts with your children, sign up for our free at-home financial literacy activities. These activities are fun ways to learn about budgeting, insurance, needs versus wants and ways to save money at home.