The list of things my husband and I want to teach our teens before they leave the nest is long. It includes things like:
- How to put clean clothes in drawers to avoid those same clean clothes being intermingled with dirty clothes (that are on the floor just feet away from the laundry basket).
- How to open the refrigerator and see the possibilities for a meal besides cereal and milk.
- How to clean the bathroom before the grime elicits a gag reflex.
The list is even longer in the midst of a global pandemic with new items like:
- How to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds to prevent the spread of germs.
- How to avoid touching your face every 20 seconds.
- How to make your own personal protective equipment out of a bandana and ponytail holders.
At the risk of overwhelming you more, may I add one more item to your list? It’s time to get comfortable talking to your teens about money. I could have said, “teach your kids proper financial management,” but doesn’t “get comfortable talking to your teen about money” seem more manageable? Just think of it in terms of a conversation over take-out at the kitchen table and not a PowerPoint presentation complete with handouts.
Here are three tips to help you get started:
- Discuss your family bills. To be clear, I’m not recommending you pull a Murray Goldberg and tape off the thermostat in an effort to reduce your power bill. Instead, have conversations that will give your teens perspective on what it costs for your family to live. For example, you could take a few minutes when you’re paying monthly bills to go over the cell phone statement with your teen. You might even ask them to research plans available from competing companies to determine if you’re getting a favorable rate. Your teen might be more interested in taking on this research project if you offer to pay them a bonus for reducing your monthly bill!
- Share the why behind your spending decisions. Maybe you explain that you chose to spend $400 on a suit for work because you can break down the cost per wear to less than $10. You might then share that you chose to rent a cocktail party dress for $75 because it is unlikely that you will ever wear it again. The idea is to give your teen a “behind the scenes” view of how you choose to spend money on discretionary purchases. This conversation does not have to be lengthy; keep it short and sweet. Otherwise, your teen will likely pop in their earbuds before you’re even finished.
- Tell them the ‘why’ behind your giving. Does your teen know what charities you support and why you support them? Does your teen know that you give money to charities? Or even what a charity is? I once had a client tell me that he supported the Salvation Army because Christmas presents from the Salvation Army were the only ones he received as a child. I encouraged him to share this story with his teens, as I encourage you to share your own giving stories with your teens. You could also show your teen how to use a web site like .org to check out a charity’s effectiveness. You might even give them money to donate on their own after doing some research. Studies show that giving makes us feel better, and wouldn’t we all like to feel better?
Don’t exasperate them by trying to cover all these topics in one sitting; it will take more than one conversation to address finances. And, if you keep the discussion going, you may eventually pique their interest in saving for retirement by sharing why Albert Einstein called compound interest the eighth wonder of the world. I make no promises on whether that lesson or the one on putting clean clothes in the closet will connect first!