One of the family stories that is often retold in my family occurred shortly after my younger sister (the youngest of three) started school and my mother went to work for a safety planning company. One night my mother brought home some documents to read and was working her way through them when my sister went by. Being a curious soul my sister asked “What are you doing mommy?” Instead of my mother cutting the answer short with something simple such as “reading,” my mom took the time to explain about her job, that she was being paid to do this reading, and that she was paid by the hour. At the end of the conversation my sister looked at my mother solemnly and said “well mommy, if you read slower then you’ll get paid more!”
The point of this anecdote is not my sister’s mercenary mindset at such a tender age, but rather the family climate that we were exposed to as children. Unlike many families, the subject of money was not taboo in our household. I believe that neglecting to talk to children about money severely cripples our society. Without open dialogue on the subject of finances how can children be expected to become financially sound adults? There is a great example of this on Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s show “Princess” where an 18 year old with a maxed out credit card was not aware that she was paying interest on the balance. She was under the impression that the nice people at the credit card company were giving her money that she could repay at her leisure.
Contrary to the taboo, my parents were open to talking about finances. We knew how much our parents earned, where the money for the house came from, and that it was important to invest in the future. My Grandparents were also a part of this process, reinforcing the difference between needs and wants, and how you should never put something on a credit card that you haven’t already got the cash to pay for. Talking with your children about money will allow them to think about the subject and ask questions. Though the conclusions that children draw about money are ultimately their own, empowering them to think about money will help to prevent them from using it thoughtlessly.