children's finances

Getting Personal With Your Children’s Finances

Here’s what you call a generation gap: “48 percent think their parents will help pay for college but only 16 percent of parents (of teens) report planning to.”

That’s from the highlight (or lowlight, if we’re being accurate) from the 2015 Teens & Personal Finance Survey conducted jointly by the Allstate Foundation and one of my favorite nonprofits, Junior Achievement.

Cheating our children

I’ll revisit the value of Junior Achievement in a moment. First, let’s review some other key findings in this survey, conducted by the noted Harris Poll among 801 parents of teenagers and 800 teens themselves…

  • 84 percent of teens are “looking to their parents for information on how to manage money.”
  • Sadly, 34 percent of parents say their family’s approach “is to not discuss finances with their children” and “let kids be kids.”
  • Teens who think “their parents don’t spend enough time talking to them about managing money” jumped from 21 percent last year to 32 percent this year.

What parent doesn’t know the importance of having “the talk” with their children about sex? We understand the consequences of not doing so, from sexually transmitted diseases to teen pregnancy to a simple lack of understanding about the seriousness of intimacy.

It doesn’t matter what your politics are, what your values are, what your family traditions are, every parent has that conversation. What they say will vary according to their own values, but the conversation will happen.

We equally cheat and damage our children by not having “the talk” about money.

Why money matters

“Talking with our kids about money management at an early age prepares them to more confidently handle financial decisions in the future,” says Jim Haskins, an Allstate executive vice president and board member of Junior Achievement of Chicago. “This year’s survey clearly shows parents play a critical role in helping their kids understand how to manage money and become financially savvy.”

If you want your children to thrive and raise your grandchildren in a healthy environment, they need to understand how to save money and how to spend it properly.

“Based on this year’s findings, it is obvious that parents and teens need to have honest conversations about money management, including paying for college,” says Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “Together as a family, it is important to develop a plan for life after high school – whatever that looks like for your family.”

Junior Achievement is a major success

Kosakowski adds, “As an organization that strives to empower all young people to own their economic success, JA will continue to help open these channels.” I’ve witnessed that first-hand as a JA donor and volunteer.

You’ve heard the expression, “Show, don’t tell”? That’s what I love about JA. It’s a huge proponent of “experiential learning,” which is the fancy way of saying JA doesn’t just talk to students, it offers them hands-on projects. Among my favorites are JA Biztown (which lets elementary school students visit a simulated town and operate the banks and restaurants) and JA Be Entrepreneurial (which encourages high school students to create an actual business plan).

April is Financial Literacy Month, so this is the perfect time to talk with your children about how you handle your own finances. I’d also suggest seeking out a JA near you, which you can do here.

You owe this to your children.

Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of Debt.com, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.

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