How should you talk to your children about money? As a first-time father to a daughter who is turning one very soon, this question has been top of mind for me lately as I watch how quickly she is growing. And I’m sure it’s a concern that weighs heavily on the minds of many parents, and with good reason: The way you communicate with your children about wealth today will shape their financial experiences in the future. Will they enter adulthood confident and prepared to manage the family wealth? Or will they find it a confusing and burdensome process? Much depends upon on much effort you put into family communication and how you relay information to them about money matters, great and small.

You convey your financial values to your children through your interactions with them, and the financial planning steps you take on their behalf. For example, you may fear that an outright gift or trust fund may negatively impact your child’s work ethic or career choices. By setting up a trust that matches a child’s income, you can articulate the value you place on work. In this way, your child receives the benefit of the family wealth, as well as an understanding of your feelings about the relationship between work and money.

Sharing your philanthropic values

If you wish to communicate philanthropic values, involving your children in the life of your private family foundation may be an effective approach. When you encourage your children to research recipient organizations and become involved in grantmaking decisions, they can witness your enthusiasm about giving and may even develop a philanthropic conscience of their own. Other options include doing volunteer work with your children or simply explaining to them how a charitable donation fits into the broader family plan.

Making spending decisions

There are also many less structured ways to share financial values with your children. “Can I have another video game?” “Can I drive the new SUV to school?” “Can I have my own credit card?” These types of questions provide an opportunity to share your feelings about displays of wealth and spending decisions. When you provide more than a yes or no answer, your child will begin to understand your feelings about money matters. Certainly not every trip to the store should end with a finance lecture, but these moments do provide an opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked. Of course, the clearer you are about your feelings regarding money, the clearer your message to your child will be.

Finally, consider the way money is discussed in your family. In previous generations, it was taboo to discuss financial matters such as stock market holdings or salaries or inheritances. Today, children are growing up in a world where money is discussed frequently. If there’s silence surrounding money matters in your home, it can create confusion. A child who grows up discussing age-appropriate financial matters may be more comfortable with money issues and will be more likely to discuss wealth issues with you in adulthood.

The best way to share your financial values with your children is to communicate early and often, using words as well as financial structures. This will allow your children to better understand your feelings about the relationship between wealth, spending, saving, and giving. An added bonus: your children are more likely to become effective stewards of your family’s wealth.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the sale of any financial product or service. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, investment, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. If professional advice is needed, the services of a professional advisor should be sought. 

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