How to talk to your children about money

Talk to your children about money

Money is a complicated, intimidating topic for most people, and that includes children. If they need financial help, it can be a tricky subject to approach. I asked a few money experts for their opinion on how to talk about the topic delicately.

Lead by Example

Michelle Lockhart, a financial lawyer and co-founder of the Cashram Finance Retreat, says her own get-out-of-debt journey inspired her family to take control of their finances.

“My children were inspired by my own debt repayment journey and learned a few things along the way,” she said. “Share with your children what you are working on and hope it rubs off.”

If your financial habits improve, chances are, your children will take notice. Ideally, that would inspire them to take action on their own. Even if it doesn’t, it’s easier to have a money conversation when they see you’re already walking the walk.

Wait for Them to Approach You

No one likes unsolicited advice, but it might be necessary. It’s fairly common for parents to support children in some way, way past the time they live at home, so their finances can certainly affect your own down the road. Of course, this only makes the conversation more awkward. So wait for them to open the conversation – that way, the advice isn’t even unsolicited.

Chances are, the topic of money will come up at some point. If it does, that’s a good time to talk about their bigger financial picture. If it doesn’t, though, there are other options.

Find a Liaison

The main reason it’s tough to have these conversations with children is you don’t want to come across as judgmental. It’s easy to get defensive. If you’re worried your children will get so defensive that they’ll shut down the conversation entirely, consider a liaison, suggests Antoinette Joseph author of Family Business Basics

This may sound strange, but consider tapping your significant other or your brother’s or sister’s partners to start an open dialogue with your children. Sometimes it’s easier for them to open up to a close loved one that’s a father-in-law or step-mother and not their actual parent.

Point Them in the Right Direction

Instead of giving the advice, you could just show them where to find it. Personal finance guru John Peroni told me he implemented this strategy with his own children by gifting them a personal finance book. It’s a passive strategy, but it can come in handy, especially if you haven’t really talked about money before.

And it’s a good way to break the ice.