How to talk about finances with your children

It’s important to talk openly with your family about your financial goals, values, and situation on a regular basis. However, that’s easier said than done. As early as preschool, you can start talking to children about money and building their financial skills in age-appropriate ways. For preschoolers, you might focus on the skill of waiting (delayed gratification) or counting. For high schoolers, you might discuss healthy habits and help them open a bank account.

When you work together as a family to set financial priorities and follow a plan, you’re more likely to stick to it. Collaborative planning helps everyone make day-to-day financial choices that are in line with your goals, values, and financial reality.

If you don’t already talk about your finances as a family, there is no time like the present to start. Whether money is tight or not, here are some tips to consider:

Start with goals, values, and essentials.

To help you make financial decisions, what is vital to the family? What does your family need to survive and thrive? Gather your family and talk about what is important to you collectively. Try to agree on the top priorities that you all intend to focus on together.

Establish a schedule to talk about your finances as a family.

Think about how often you want and are able to check in. Weekly, monthly, or some other interval? Use these meetings to check in on how things are going and troubleshoot any issues.

When changes arise, meet as soon as possible.

Such changes could include an economic recession, job loss, or a health situation. Be proactive and transparent about what this means for your financial situation to help your family manage their expectations.

Practice clear communication.

Practice communicating your financial concerns ahead of time. That way, you can deliver them calmly and clearly. This will increase the chances that your family will hear them and respond in ways that address the concern. Talking about financial challenges can be emotional and create conflict. It’s no guarantee, but practice will help you deliver your message in ways that bring people in to resolve the situation.

Work together to make tough decisions.

When money is tight, it can be hard to balance the essentials and what everyone wants. If you’re struggling to make ends meet or want to build up your emergency fund to weather a recession, your family decisions become about trade-offs in priorities and trying to spend less than what you are bringing in.

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