Ask yourself tough questions about what you are teaching your children
I grew up very poor. It’s not something many people talk openly about but I always want to be transparent and authentic with my readers/followers. When I was 5, my mom became a single mom to me and my brother. She had not worked and had to start over.
We went for many months with no phone, cable and, at times, no electricity.
My mom worked two jobs and went back to school to become an interior designer at 37 years old. As a young child seeing my friends have nicer things was hard for me.
As hard as it was watching my mom struggle, she became my hero as she completely reinvented herself. She taught me the value of a dollar. She taught me to work extra hard. She taught me to save money. She never wanted me to have to struggle like she did.
Times were so different; we could get a happy meal at McDonalds for $1.10. We would rake the neighbors’ leaves to save for candy money at the local 7-Eleven! I had to take a class in high school to teach me how to write and balance a checkbook. I don’t even think my kids would know what to do with a checkbook. Now our kids save for $150 sneakers and $999 cell phones. We have money apps and debit cards as a teen.
Times have really changed since I was a pre-teen. Social media, Cash App, Venmo, the list goes on. After the rise in interest rates, the cost of EVERYTHING going up, and the recent bank collapses, I think it’s important that teens are taught financial literacy more than ever. I have spent many hours passing my mom’s wisdom onto my two boys.
This month the following moms are asked all questions surrounding financial literacy with their teens.
Q: Does/Did your child’s high school teach financial literacy?
Jennifer Lomanno: No. Both of my daughters attended a local parochial school and while they offered wonderful college prep programming, there was little to no ‘real world’ instruction.
Shelly Griffin: The only thing close was government/economics where they did discuss stocks and investing. When my kids were in elementary school, I volunteered as part of a program called Junior Achievement and taught fifth-graders about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy but it was a basic introduction. When I was in high school, there was a class called consumer math that went over how to balance a bank account and prepare a basic tax return along with preparing a budget. Now the math classes in high school are more geared to prepare them for college.
Jennifer Metzger: There were business classes, but no courses on financial literacy. I remember being excited when in his junior year of high school, he brought home an assignment where you picked a career, researched the salary and then searched for housing, a vehicle and budgeted those and your other expenses. It was fun to hear him talk through the cost of renting and how much a loan payment was. The project created about two weeks of good discussion. but beyond that he didn’t have any other education on real-life finances.
Q: How are you teaching/did you teach your child about the value of money?
JL: When my girls were small and would receive money as gifts for birthdays or holidays and they wanted to buy something with their money, I would tell them to wait to see if it would go on sale. They learned to look for the little red tags on items at Target. I also taught them to save at least 30% of everything they received. It’s taking longer for one of my girls to adopt as a regular practice, but they do love to see their accounts growing.
SG: As soon as my oldest son was at the age to get a job, we had him start applying. He started working at a restaurant and since that day he has been paying for his own “fun” expenses like going out with his friends and gas. It was important he understood that we didn’t have a never-ending debit card, and he is always the first to tell me about the price of gas going up. He realized quickly how expensive everything is when it comes out of his own paycheck. We also encourage him to leave a cushion in his account for a rainy day and the importance of credit.
JM: My husband and I are both in the mortgage business, so watching your debt and having savings came up a lot around the dinner table. He has heard many sad stories about people not being able to get into a home because of small financial errors. In addition, we love the stock market and often had CNBC or other financial news channels running in the mornings as we got ready for the day. This prompted some great discussion around investing, the marketplace and the world.
We also made sure our son worked. He had to have a job in the summer and over winter break. When he got big paydays (for a lifeguard anyway) he would often talk about buying a new stereo for his car or this expensive item, and we would have him budget out if he had enough money to last till his next payday if he made that purchase. He quickly realized he would rather have money for fast food and hanging out with friends instead of a stereo for his old truck.
I feel like all these things added up to create someone who now manages his modest paychecks well. It is great to see someone who constantly has at least $500 in his checking account at all times while in college. We are so proud of how he has managed money and has pride in whatever job he works.
The conversations we have about investing still happen today with random phone calls asking how we feel about the latest stock news. I think with kiddos you have to show them so many different sides of finance to help them bring it all together and apply it in their own lives. Real-life experience makes all the difference.
Q: Do you use apps (lots out there these days) or invest (not your typical savings account) for your kids, if so which and why. If not, why not... ?
JL: Not really. I’ve only recently started to use apps for investment planning myself and I’m not well versed enough to recommend to them. Waiting for them to teach me.
JM: When my son got started asking more and more questions about stocks and investing (we would often talk about companies he liked such as Coca Cola or McDonalds) we started researching if there was an app that a minor could manage stocks in and found Stockpile. At that time it was one of the few custodial sites that our son and a parent could be involved in together. This again created great conversation and interest.
To this day, our son calls us and talks about stocks he is interested in. We also invested in the College Invest 529 since our son was 10 to ensure we were covered for the basics of college. Our son loved math and had grown interested in engineering in high school so we figured college would be a possibility. It has proven to be one of the best investments we made for his and our future.
Q: How do you discuss financial goals with your kids (i.e. saving for a car, etc.)?
JL: We talk often about saving and retirement goals. We talk less about short-term goals such as cars, home remodeling, travel, and I think it’s because I expect and have taught them to work hard, hustle, and make enough money to support those goals. I’m not a Plan B type person. Have goals and do anything within your means to attain them. Retirement goals are important to curb the spending on those short-term goals.
SG: My son is currently in trade school and has a full-time job at a local dealership. He wants to move out on his own someday, but the cost of renting is vastly different than when our generation took this next step. Lack of affordable housing and drastic increase in rent will have an impact on young adults. We help him by putting together a plan and budget to show what he will need in order to head out on his own. We also talk about the importance of friendships. The saying goes, “tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.” Surrounding yourself with friends that support you and are like-minded will help with your financial goals and your mental health.
JM: We have never been afraid to talk about financial goals with our kiddos around. If they asked why we were getting a new car, we would explain why and how we were doing it. We would often take them along to the dealership so they can see the whole process.
I always told them when they got bored or asked how long it would take, you have the power to change how the financial world works in the future. If you don’t think the car- buying process is quick enough, you should educate yourself and come up with a new way to do it. It’s not that it sinks in for a 12-year-old, but I think it sticks with them over time that the finance world is not untouchable, that engineers and entrepenuers change the way everyday finances work.
We have always talked about generation wealth and how that typically comes through homeownership. Our industry certainly rides the waves of highs and lows, but at the end of the day so much data shows that owning a home helps ensure a more financially stable future that rolls over into education and other avenues of life for a family.
Q: Do you discuss current events like the banks’ collapse with your kids?
JL: Yes, but while I share my perspective, I think it’s more important to expose them to a variety of opinions and to help them try to understand those. Varied perspectives offer our children great opportunities.
SG: We don’t talk too much about it outside of the headlines. Being in the mortgage business my entire career, they hear a lot about what’s going on at a higher level, but our family has been impacted by layoffs in the past. I don’t want to cause them to fear for my job or create unnecessary anxiety. Middle school and high school are stressful enough!
JM: We are always discussing current events, whether it is from a news story or just my husband and I talking about the latest happenings. We don’t pull them into the conversation, but they will ask questions or listen in on what we discuss.
I think kids are naturally curious and that provides the best space to discuss important things happening in the world and gives them the opportunity to weigh in with their feelings. Of course, we don’t discuss our salaries or bank balances with our kiddos, but we have always been an open book on what a budget is, what payments are, how you afford a house, and to avoid debt if possible.
I really hope that the financial responsibility we see now in our college-aged son continues his whole life. After all, as a parent I feel our job is to create kind independent people who manage life well.
According to the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, there are five key components of financial literacy: earn, spend, save and invest, borrow, and protect.
This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine May 2023 issue.