children's finances

Dvorkin On Debt: How To Teach Kids About Money

Exactly one year ago, I wrote about China vs. America: Who teaches money better?

Sadly, the answer was China. Also Latvia, Belgium, and New Zealand. Researchers quizzed 29,000 15-years-olds in 18 countries on all kinds of money-related questions, and the United States came in ninth.

Educating our children about money isn’t just a mission of mine. It’s a crusade. Unfortunately, too few other financial experts feel it’s as important as I do. Earlier this year, I defended financial literacy classes from skeptics who think it’s actually a waste of time.

Now comes a new study that backs up what I’ve been preaching since July 2014, when I became president of Debt.com and announced Our mission: Teach outside the classroom.

Talk more, spend less

It seems when parents simply talk with their children about money, valuable lessons are imparted. When parents give money to their children, excellent habits ensue.

Last month, investment firm T. Rowe Price released its annual Parents, Kids & Money Survey. While the survey covers 47 pages of charts and graphs, these are the findings that leaped out to me:

  • “Talking to kids about money empowers them.” The results are dramatic: 46 percent of those children will possess “knowledgeable about managing personal finances” — compared to only 14 percent who acquire this knowledge on their own.
  • “Even arguing can lead to kids feeling smarter.” Again, the results are huge: For parents who debate their children about money, those children “feel they are smart about money” by 61 percent to  33 percent.
  • “Parents who give kids an allowance are more likely to have kids who feel they are smart about money.” Those children grow up top “discuss saving for college with their parents.” If you know anything about student loan debt, you realize how crucial this is.
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The big surprise

It won’t shock a single parent that talking to your children teaches them. What’s surprising about the T. Rowe Price study was just how big the difference was. Listen to Judith Ward,  a T. Rowe Price senior financial planner:

It’s intuitive that talking to kids about money gives them financial knowledge. But we were surprised to see the extent to which letting kids experience money may have an impact. If parents talk about money but don’t let their kids experience it, it’s like telling them how to play the piano without letting them touch one and expecting that they’ll be able to play a sonata.

That compelling quote is exactly why I’m a big supporter of Junior Achievement, and why I believe our schools need to teach financial literacy.

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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