How Much Should Your Children Know About Your Family Finances?

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One of the ways that kids learn to handle themselves as adults is by watching their parents, and learning from their parents’ example. Letting your children participate in discussions about family finances can show them how to be responsible with money. At the same time, children are not always ready for the stark reality of financial management. Sometimes it’s hard to strike a balance between not enough information and too much information. If you’re a parent struggling to find this balance, these tips can help you feel comfortable talking money with your children.

Build Healthy Money Habits Early

Talk to your children about your budget. If you’re a gig worker, your budget might be very fluid, with some months being easier than others. Talking to your children about your income and how it relates to your budget can help your children understand the relationship between work, income, and bills.

You don’t have to talk to your kids about how much you make each month, but you may choose to tell them about your goals, and the extra creature comforts you’re able to afford when you exceed your goals, versus the months when those extra expenses are not affordable. It can also be an opportunity to explain to them future money topics that will involve them, like college savings.

Tell Them The Good Stuff and the Bad Stuff

If your family is in a financially tight spot, find the right way to let your kids know. Keeping secrets can hurt your relationship and may also hurt the trust between you and your child. Letting them in on the conversation can also help explain the ebb and flow of your shopping behaviors. If you’re not interested in buying new socks this month, they’re more likely to understand if you’ve told them that your family is on a tight budget right now.

…But Don’t Overload Them With Your Family Finances

They’re part of the family but not necessarily part of the solution. You can say, “We need to save right now” or “We won’t be ordering takeout food for a while,” but don’t overshare. Sensitive children can suffer from anxiety if they think their parents are having a hard time paying essential bills.

If you’re in a tight enough space with your finances that you feel like your children need to hear a hard reality, practice the talk before you give it. You should also be ready to discuss any potential solutions to your problems, to give your kids a feeling of hope even as you discuss the challenges that you’re facing.


About the Author: Kathryn Elwell grew up in the Midwest. She has experience in management and human resources, and has been writing on these topics and more for 12 years.

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