The number one concern we hear from our clients is the worry that their wealth will negatively impact their children and grandchildren, causing them to be spoiled, entitled, and to lack motivation.
Questions like these are keeping thoughtful parents up at night:
- "Living in a wealthy community, how do I protect my kids from entitlement, and the peer pressure to consume that they encounter?"
- "How can I respond when I don't want to buy something my kids ask for, but they know we can afford it? What else can I say or do if I don't want them to have it and all their friends have it?"
- "My children are still young and I see how they already expect gifts when their grandparents visit and I am worried they are becoming entitled and spoiled."
- "How do I appropriately express and share my values in regards to our money and giving?"
- "How do I teach my kids to be smart with money, to understand the value of money, and to be responsible with their money?
Here are five keys to teaching your children financial literacy and responsibility:
- THE ART OF CONVERSATION
Start early. Many of our clients say that "I don't want my kids to know that we are wealthy," I usually ask them "'How do you fly? What does your house look like compared to others?" and "Have you ever looked up your "zestimate" on Zillow to learn what your house is worth?" Kids are pretty intuitive and they can see the differences. And they, and their friends, are internet savvy and can find out all kinds of information about your net-worth online. If you don't start talking early to your children, in honest and developmentally appropriate ways, they will be unprepared for potentially awkward situations with peers, as well as for the responsibilities and roles they will have as they get older.
2. C ISN'T JUST FOR COOKIE
Start approaching and talking about money for what it really is -- a form of barter and a tool. Children need an active practice with money as a tool. With young children, we use an exercise with three jars—one is for spending, one is for saving, and one is for sharing. We have the parents engage their children in a dialogue about the kinds of things they each want to use their money for in these 3 categories. It makes for a great discussion and the kids get a hands on experience of how to divide money. The children begin to make their own decisions about what is important to them. In our workshops where children are included, we have them build their jars using images that mean something to them in each of the three categories. And a great resource we recommend if you want to easily put this into practice are the share, save and spend boxes from Moonjar.
3. MAKE IT REAL
Let children make mistakes. For example, just because you are fluent in French, that doesn't mean that your children will inherit this knowledge from you. In order for them to become fluent themselves, you will have to talk with them in French and they will have to make mistakes and practice the language. The same concept applies with teaching kids financial literacy. Your children need an opportunity to learn, to practice, and to make mistakes while the stakes are low. Give them an allowance, let them make their own purchases, and then talk to them about their choices. Growing up is a prime opportunity to let kids make mistakes and to learn how to be savvy about how they are spending their money. And practicing when young will likely save them from much more expensive (and more painful) financial mistakes in the future.
4. WALK THIS WAY
Walk your talk. If you talk to your children about the importance of saving money or helping others and you're not doing it yourself, your words will always fall on deaf ears. If you tell your children 'we can't afford this or that' and they are watching you purchasing everything you want—they'll notice your actions much more than what you say, and they will doubt that what you say is true. Developing a family philosophy about money and discussing that philosophy with your children is a great start...and intentionally applying it when making purchases, gifts, or investments will keep you all heading in the right direction together.
5. WHERE YOU DON'T WANT TO GET SURPRISED
Age appropriate dialogue and a level of transparency is essential. When working with inheritors, we hear a variation of the same story almost all of the time. "While away at college, I received a bank statement, at 21, that said I suddenly had a substantial amount of money in my account. No one ever talked to me about it and it came as a huge surprise. Who the hell could I possibly talk to about this? I feel overwhelmed and confused and don't know what to do. While I know it's meant to be a gift, and that I'm supposed to be appreciative of it, I am so confused and upset that it's really hard for me to receive it. I wasn't prepared and it's more upsetting than exciting and I feel awful about that. I know I should be grateful but it's like receiving a 'we've moved notice' in the mail from my parents without even knowing they were moving." This lack of preparation causes them to be squarely behind the eight ball. Our work focuses on freeing them from the debilitating emotions they experience such as shame, guilt, and overwhelm, so that they can become empowered as adults to feel more confident and competent with their finances.
How, when and what children learn about money and your family's affluence is up to you. We encourage you to be intentional and to facilitate their financial education by taking ongoing, consistent steps that are in keeping with your values and your goals. You get to choose how much of a positive impact you get to have on their overall well-being and resilience.
If you want more tools, resources and support for age-appropriate approaches for minimizing entitlement and maximizing the blessings of your good fortune, consider joining us in Austin in February 2017 for our Raising Empowered Rather than Entitled Children workshop.