Talking To Your Kids About Money: How Much Is Too Much?

Talking to your kids about money is good. It’s important. If you’ve taught them enough so that they feel comfortable saving, investing and spending their money wisely, you’ve done an awesome job as a parent. Good for you.

But there’s a limit, and kids are still kids. They should never be included in the family finances as far as stress and worry over paying the bills. Knowing that Mom and Dad don’t know how they’ll pay the mortgage next month is only going to cause undue anxiety in your ten-year-old.

Growing up, my parents were very frugal. They were planners and savers, and because of this we were always able to meet our needs. But I still remember times as a kid when I was scared we weren’t going to be able to afford things. Or that I needed to do something to help keep the family afloat, because my parents were worried about money.

As an adult, I realized the reason they were re-heating leftovers and getting my shoes at Payless was because they wanted to help pay for our college educations someday and potentially weddings. (I’m one of three sisters – they knew what was coming!)

I also realized a lot of my anxiety about money as a child had to do with the way my parents presented the information.

Words matter.

My parents often abbreviated their explanations of why I couldn’t have certain things to “We don’t have the money. We can’t afford it right now.” Some crucial words like “We have a budget for items like this, and it’s not in our budget this month. We are saving for X instead” are things I really want to incorporate into my parenting.

For example, instead of saying, “We have no money for a new car,” I want to tell my son that we have to plan carefully so we’ll be able to buy a new car. Hopefully conveying responsible planning for the future without worrying him needlessly about the present.

(To my parents’ credit, there were many times in my teen years my dad tried to sit down with me with spreadsheet and graphs and attempt to explain the power of compound interest. But the message that “money was tight” was always integrated. Perhaps in the interest of keeping me away from the mall. Lol.)

Fast forward a zillion years and umpteen credit cards later, and my husband and I had a little sit down the other day to talk about this subject, because Teddy is getting to the age where he picks up on things like this. (Yes, gulp, at only three years old.)

Case in point – We have a coin jar in our kitchen where we keep loose change and random cash from selling household items online. We jokingly call it the Sonic Blast fund. But once Teddy asked about it, my husband and I took the opportunity to talk to him about saving for things we want, and mentioned wanting to save for a future trip to Disney World.

I was ever-so proud of this parenting moment until one day I went to grab a couple of bucks so I could buy him a donut on the way to school. Teddy saw this go down and burst in to tears, wailing about Disney World and the dashed dreams I had suddenly inflicted.

He had taken my lesson to heart, and I was breaking his.

Mom’s lesson was learned that day – separate, special, Spiderman piggy bank for Teddy’s Disney fund. (And a savings account for ours.)

I never want him to worry about money as kid. I want him to understand how money works, and be a part of working as a family towards our goals for the future. My parents were amazing parents, but I want to try something a little different, and hope for a better outcome – that Teddy will have a healthier relationship with money. And I’m sure I’ll misstep in a thousand different ways (not including the thousand I already have), but for now, that’s my basic plan, and goal.

How do YOU talk to your kids about money? How do you go about trying to instill healthy budgeting/stewardship without scaring them about the financial security of your family?

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