Of the many life experiences that parents try to teach to the next generation, conversations about wealth and money is one of the most dreaded. Some reasons for this include insecurity about our own financial decisions, or the taboo our society has placed on not openly talking about wealth, which can make the topic uncomfortable and difficult to address. This continues to be very true for families with visible financial success. Family wealth, like most things in life, comes with both positive and negative elements. It can open the door for opportunity and flexibility but on the other hand, can also create difficult hurdles in raising children. Living in a society that places emphasis on not conversing about personal finances, we must learn to fight against our own human nature in not wanting to talk openly to our kids about it. Difficult conversations with our kids sum up the parenting experience!
While humility can be a wonderful trait, avoiding discussions around money and waiting too long to empower financial literacy in the next generation can have unintended consequences. There is no perfect blueprint to ensuring your kids will be financially literate, but as with most successful relationships, we know open dialogue is a great starting point. In this blog, I have outlined four key areas to get the conversation started.
1. Honesty and your family values:
Take the opportunity to invite your kid(s) “to the table”. By asking for their trust to discuss family finances, you have created a situation with mutual respect and empowerment, knowing they have a shared responsibility in this knowledge. This does not mean you have to immediately share specific dollars and cents, but the conversation should be around how family values directly impacts financial decisions. Additionally, sharing your personal journey in building wealth, both success and failures, can provide perspective and curiosity. This will hopefully lead to questions and topics that are both relevant and important to your children all while viewing finances through the lens of your family values.
2. Keep it simple and understand their interests:
Skip the Excel and PowerPoint! Depending on age, try to include kids in the short and long-term financial decisions of life. If they are in their teens, they likely don’t need to know the specifics of your investment assets, but introducing them to the idea that the family has resources, and including them in discussions around how you budget, save, or who and where you donate can provide incremental lasting impacts on their financial literacy. For young adults, introducing more intricate topics like savings goals, investment accounts, taxes, financial and family planning makes sense. Set family goals together, celebrate in the success of achieving a goal, and gently critique and course-correct when one is missed.
3. Emulating you:
As parents, we often learn the hard way that our kids are constantly listening to our words and observing our actions and reactions. The same holds true for how we discuss and treat personal wealth. For most of us, our kids were not yet in the picture to see many of the sacrifices made to get where you are today. Because of this, one critical opportunity that is often overlooked is sharing the “why” behind family financial decisions. When parents explain and enforce why they have a retirement account, why they save and invest, and why they are generous in giving – kids often follow suit. The opposite is also true for families that are casual about how they spend. Don’t you remember how much you observed as a teen and young adult? Our kids are always watching whether we know it or not!
4. You are not alone:
Talking to your children about finances is difficult. Raising the subject of your personal story – both successes and failures can make the conversation even harder. Setting the next generation up for financial success is a life-long process, but please know that you do not have to do this on your own. Utilize your team of financial professionals to assist in providing resources and expertise. Don’t be afraid to request a meeting with your advisory team where the next generation can be included. The impact and reinforcement of ideas when coming from the mouth of a neutral party and not just mom and dad, can have a strong positive influence. Whether you need to facilitate a complex family meeting or to speak about the ins-and-outs of a Roth IRA, we at Becker are here to help equip the next generation for financial success.