Financial Lies Parents Tell Their Kids
May 18th, 2012 - Category: Financial Literacy
According to a recent T. Rowe price study, more than 77 percent of parents say they are not always honest with their children about money, and 15 percent don’t tell the truth at least on a weekly basis. This lack of financial honesty can hinder children’s financial education.
Are you communicating untruths about money to your children? For example:
- “We can’t afford it.” In some cases, of course, you really may not be able to afford the item in question, but according to T. Rowe Price’s study, many parents tell their children they can’t afford an item the child wants and then buy something equally or more expensive for themselves. In many cases, the truth may be that you can afford the item, but according to your budget or values, it isn’t the best use of your money at the moment. “When you say you can’t afford something when you really can, you’re missing the opportunity to talk about priorities or trade-offs,” Stuart Ritter, a vice president at T. Rowe Price and a father of three, told Reuters. “Kids are perceptive, and I think we underestimate their readiness to learn this stuff, and their ability to pick up on what you and I are doing.”
“This is the perfect opportunity to introduce a lesson to kids about saving money for a goal, or perhaps scaling back to something that is more affordable,” says Teresa Dentino, CEO and founder of The Financial 411, a financial education platform focused on serving women. “Depending on the age, getting your child involved in setting a goal, planning how to achieve it, and also rewarding for the achievement can provide benefits on many levels. If kids are younger, you can make it a ‘project-like’ experience where you track the progress on a poster. Including some ’matching’ funds from the parents can make the experience even more engaging for kids. Age appropriate considerations will of course determine the better approach, but involvement in the process and decision-making gives young adults the ‘behind-the-wheel’ experience that will serve them later on when the stakes are higher.”
- Refusal to talk about money. Rather than telling an outright untruth, some parents simply refuse to talk about money around their children at all. But that silence can convey to children that money is something “dirty” or completely unattainable.
“The important thing is to open the dialogue and quit shrouding the money topic in secrecy, as that can lead to feelings of shame about spending and the “there’s-never-enough” mentality later on,” Dentino says.
- “To earn money, you just have to go to work.” While parents may not make this statement outright, it’s often implied because they don’t take the time to educate children about what “work” really entails and how it can be challenging to obtain and keep a job. “I’ve found many children have little concept of how money is earned other than ‘work,’” says Jennifer Little, Ph.D., of Parents Teach Kids. “They don’t understand rules governing behavior on the workplace relate to income earned; study and effort relate to income earned; and [they assume] that they will earn enough money in the future, but education doesn’t always guarantee a job now.
Give your kids the whole story about work and income by taking time to discuss with them how you earn money, how different jobs pay differently, and how what they’re doing now can influence their future income.
- “They have a lot of stuff, so they must have a lot of money.” While many in our society equate a person’s value with the value of his or her home, cars, clothes and gadgets, children need to be taught that frequently, the “owners” of those items simply have good credit and may be deeply indebted to banks and credit card companies. In addition, it’s important for children to realize that many of the smartest money managers choose not to spend their funds on all that stuff, ensuring that they will continue to have fatter bank accounts throughout their lives. “[Teach kids that] responsibility involves money and money management,” Little says. “Our culture views and values people according to how much money or buying power they have, so the more stuff means the better the adults are. Responsible adults must delay gratification and deprive themselves and their children of the goods they feel they are entitled to have.”