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Raising the Topic of Money

Talk with Your Teens About Money. Like, now.

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Articles and research studies are popping up on many major publications highlighting the lack of financial literacy among today’s youth. While schools are attempting to add financial literacy courses and exercises to their curricula, it falls on those closest to our future consumers and savers to teach them what it takes to make it in this world. Yup, that means you, Mom and Dad.  

It’s hard to engage the teenagers in your life for more than a few moments in between sports practices, homework assignments, crucial social engagements and their beloved text messages. Here are five ideas to help the dialogue move forward.

  • Ask questions. A dialogue is distinguished from the oft-dreaded parental monologue because it involves two people, two minds, two voices. Ask your teen what they think about money in various scenarios: “What do you think a good salary would be?” “How much do you think you’d need to save to retire?” “What do you think about that price?” Encourage an open dialogue and take care not to blow off what your child is saying – their opinions are real, and it’s the starting point for your discussion.
  • Work together. Ask your teen where they’d like to go on vacation, or inquire about another purchase that might require budgeting or saving. Set savings goals, and track your progress together. Check in periodically to see how the project is coming along. If they’re up to it, ask your teen to chair the project – planning, researching costs, tracking savings.
  • Empower them through involvement. Announce the yearly clothing budget and when “payments” will be made to your teen. Let them know whether special purchases (prom attire, sports uniforms) will be included in this amount. Let your teen make their own decisions about how much, where and when to spend the money. This may be the hardest part: if they go off track, stay firm to the budget. Sure, don’t let them go to school in December with only shorts, but try to hold a hard line if they’ve gone overboard. Even the Bank of Mom and Dad has limits.
  • Share your experiences, good and bad. Tell them about the lessons you learned and how you overcame any obstacles (self-created or otherwise) in order to become financially stable. Multi-generational wealth is preserved through good stewardship. Talking about how you went about earning, growing and preserving your money may be more interesting to your children than you think. As fun as embellishing might be, take care not to alienate your child or come across as unbelievable. You probably didn’t really walk uphill to school both ways…
  • Learn about what matters. Quick, what does your teen want to be when she grows up? Who does he idolize? Understanding your child’s dreams can help you guide them through their financial beginnings. Peace Corps volunteers and human rights lawyers might make less money than investment bankers and partners in large accounting firms. Once you know the answer to what, learn how: “What do you think that lifestyle would be like?” If your conversation reveals large disconnects, gently try to understand what’s most important to your child. Shape your conversation as you go, avoiding lectures or judgments. 

Hopefully these ideas will lead you down a fruitful path free of eye rolls. When the conversation flows, take notes; this will be fun to revisit with your children ten or twenty years from now.

Emily Boothroyd, J.D. CFP® is a financial planning specialist for Westport Resources, a leading independent investment management and financial planning firm headquartered in Westport. Her expertise is in financial planning, estate planning, and trust administration. Ms. Boothroyd may be reached at eboothroyd@westportresources.com or 203-226-0222.

Westport Resources is an independent investment and financial planning firm headquartered in Westport and founded in 1986 by current CEO John Adams Vaccaro, CFP®, CLU. The firm consistently earns top industry rankings for its portfolio management, including recognition by Barron’s for the last four years as one of the “Top 100 Independent Financial Advisors in the U.S.” For more information contact Mary Roland at mroland@westportresources.com or 203-226-0222.