Everyone has opinions on how kids should be raised. And there really are no perfect answers. However, I never thought there’d be a day when my own parents would tell me to stop talking to my kid about money.
But that’s exactly what happened.
If you’re not familiar with my daughter, she’s a stellar writer on the Route to Retire blog. Her post Like Father, Like Daughter… got some pretty good attention – including making it onto Rockstar Finance.
She’s seven and an extremely bright kid (I think most parents say that about their kids). She’s kind to everyone and has a great sense of humor. She’s artistic and loves gymnastics.
But one thing that makes her a little unique is she’s gained an interest in money… and I like that.
She’s always been a great saver for sure. As soon as she was old enough to understand what money was, I made sure to instill the idea of saving half of whatever she gets. If she gets money for a birthday, chores, or whatever, half goes into the bank.
I take that money and put it in Ally Bank. I’ve also instituted the “Daddy Match” to encourage her to save. Basically, for every dollar she gives me to put into savings, I throw in another dollar.
Because of that, sometimes she’ll give me a little extra (above and beyond our 50% rule) that she wants me to put into her account. Every time she hands me money to deposit, I show her where her account stands. She enjoys seeing her money grow… and that’s a good thing!
Soon, we’ll look at moving onto an investment account at Vanguard, but we’re not quite there yet. When we do get there though, that’ll be another perfect lead-in to talk about money some more and introduce her to the basics of the stock market.
Talking about money
I’m guessing that a lot of my daughter’s interest in money comes from me.
I think it’s important to be able to talk about subjects that are sometimes a little more taboo. That’s especially the case with money and personal finance as it has the potential to make or break a lot of your future.
However, I will add that I was always fascinated with money when I was a kid – and that wasn’t through any push from anyone. So it’s possible that a lot of her intrigue is her own.
Because we talk pretty freely in our house about money and the different aspects of it (earning, saving, and investing), my daughter doesn’t treat it as taboo either.
She’ll ask questions if we’re talking about bills or income, but she’ll also periodically start conversations with us on the subject. She doesn’t understand all the nuances, but I’d say she probably has a better grasp on it than a lot of kids.
Talking about money as a problem
My daughter hangs onto her money in her wallet and has a hard time parting with it.
Recently, she bought a few things at the store and was mad at herself for spending her money. I’m talking about her “spending” money and not the 50% she had already saved.
This became a great opportunity to explain to her that money’s important, but it’s not everything. I let her know that she should keep saving half of her money, but the rest is for life today.
I made it clear that she needs to remember to enjoy things today because you never know what could happen tomorrow. Then I morbidly told her that you never know – a bus could hit you when you’re at the bottom of the driveway getting the mail from the mailbox… such a wonderful dad, aren’t I?!
Regardless of my horrible way of putting it, she gets it and this made sense to her.
The point was to make sure that she understands that money is a tool, but you need to make sure it doesn’t overtake your life. I actually struggled with that for years – and still do a little bit. Paula Pant gave me the wake-up call I needed on that one though.
Learning about assets
Recently, I introduced her to Rich Kid Smart Kid. It’s a free site by Robert Kiyosaki’s company and is obviously a spin on his Rich Dad Poor Dad fame.
I told her it had some online games to learn more about money, but that’s all I knew. She took it from there, played some of the games herself, and seemed to enjoy it.
The next morning, my parents were going to watch her since she was off school. While we were in the car on the way there, she started up a discussion and was telling me what assets are and why they’re important. She used an example from the site of buying a gumball machine that then earns money from other kids.
I was impressed – it took me until a lot later in life to get this and she’s already starting to comprehend such an important concept. We talked a little more about that and then moved on to some other non-money-related topics.
I dropped her off at my parents’ house and headed to work.
The jaw dropper
So here’s where it gets a little fun.
I swung by my parents’ house at lunchtime – they live about a mile from my office so I have lunch there almost daily.
As I was getting ready to head back to the office after lunch, my darling daughter said something about assets to all of us.
My parents were in shock as if she had blasted off a bunch of swear words. They asked her a bunch of questions about it then turned to me and said…
“You need to stop talking to her about money!” and then my favorite, “Let her be a kid!”
I was in awe… my jaw dropped. Wait, what??? Did they just say what I thought they said?!
Let her be a kid?
Believe it or not, I think the “let her be a kid” part raised my eyebrow more than the “stop talking about money” comment.
My long-time readers here know that my daughter and I have a fantastic relationship. We play a lot and do “kid” stuff all the time.
Maybe it’s family fun things like going on bike rides, feeding the fish in a nearby creek, and going to the playground. Or maybe it’s playing Mario Kart on the Wii – yeah, I still rock the Nintendo Wii and love it!
Sometimes we have family game night or movie night. Most of our school nights end with watching a little bit of kids TV shows together before going up and reading a book before bedtime.
We go camping, roast marshmallows, chase lightning bugs, and go to the drive-in… I’m out of breath, but I could go on and on.
And even with all that time together, the biggest reason I’m working toward FI is so I can quit my job to have even MORE time with her to do even MORE kid things.
On top of that, she’s finally at an age where she’s starting to hang out more with other friends. As I’m typing this, she’s currently at her first non-family sleepover at a friend’s house.
My point is she’s not sitting in “Dad’s Personal Finance Class” every day. That fraction of time when we’re talking about anything in the personal finance realm is really just a drop in the bucket compared to all the kid-fun we have going on.
Feed their interests
That said, money is an important tool in everyone’s life. And I believe that learning about money is especially important for kids.
I wished I had learned more about the nuances of how to make it work for me when I was young. It probably would have kept me from going almost $30k into credit card debt for no real reason. I likely also would have been buying up more rental properties when I was younger like Scott Trench, Guy on FIRE, or Coach Carson.
So every month or so, I’ll ask, “Are you ready for a money lesson?”
If the answer is yes, I teach her one thing to let her ponder… usually a 5 or 10-minute conversation.
My goal is to open up her mind to understanding different options. I want her to know that she doesn’t have to follow the “normal” path of life like getting a regular W2 job if she doesn’t want to.
She’s intrigued and enjoys it.
My parents know she enjoys money and they also know how much time we spend together having fun and playing.
So why would they say what they did? I don’t have an answer.
If my daughter had said, “I like pretending I’m a doctor”, would they have freaked out about it? Probably not. They likely would have bought her a stethoscope and a reflex hammer and told her to keep at it.
If a child is interested in something – anything – and wants to learn more about it, there’s no reason not to nourish them so they can learn and grow from it. And that should go double if a seven-year-old kid wants to understand money or personal finance better.
I’ll let you be the judge… should I stop talking to my daughter about money and “let her be a kid”?
Thanks for reading!!
36 thoughts on “Um, I Was Told to Stop Talking to My Kid About Money…”
She is a kid. She’s curious and wants to learn more and that’s a good thing.
Just because they’re parents doesn’t mean they know. If you look at the data, I’d argue that the previous generation has done a lot of things wrong. 🙂
Haha, so true, Jim, yet so sad. Hopefully, my daughter will have enough knowledge to be able to FIRE in her mid-twenties if she wants! 😉
I don’t think it ever too soon to start teaching a kid about money because they don’t teach personal finance stuff in school.
When we were raising out two sons, I tried to find teachable money moments. They’re both adults now and very financially responsible.
I love to hear that about your sons, Mr. FF! It’s all about educating without turning them off on the subject. Sounds like you pulled it off well!
I still love talking with my parents about money, and I’m glad we talked about it some growing up. I think it’s especially important she’s learning not just to save but that it’s OK to spend sometimes too. Obviously, anyone can overdo anything, but it sounds like these money conversations are exactly what she wants and needs! Props 🙂
I love that you’re able to talk with your parents about money, Penny! And, yeah, I’m hoping she grows up understanding how to use money as a tool in her life and not let it run her life.
NO – Keep it up!
Your daughter seems to be having a great “kid” life, and it amazes me that she has an interest in money at such an early age.
You are teaching her things that will put her decades ahead of the average person. She will understand how money truly works, and she will put herself in a position to thrive financially. As long as she wants to learn, why not keep teaching her!?
Absolutely agree with you Sean! Understanding how money works now will hopefully pay off huge as she gets older. As long as she doesn’t let it takeover her mind, she’ll be just fine. 🙂
No of course not!
Money and personal finance aren’t taught in school and is a taboo subject for most of society. I hear more people talking about religion and politics than personal finance…how crazy is that!? The time to learn about finance is BEFORE you start working and making money. As the saying goes “The best time to invest was yesterday, but the next best time is today.”
Ain’t that the truth?! People seem to be so afraid to talk about money when, like it or not, you need it to live. Amen on the best time to invest!
Do not stop. What a great way for her to learn good habits at a young age. When it’s time for her to make the big decisions, she’ll be ready. Most are not.
Thanks, Jason – she’s a learner and enjoys it, so why not have fun learning more? So true that most kids aren’t ready – I think reading all those articles showing how Americans have barely anything saved for retirement show that most people in general aren’t ready! 🙂
That’s interesting about your parents. I wonder why they said that.
I think it’s good to talk about money too. So many people don’t know how to run their personal finance. It’s way better to know about money than not.
Your daughter is pretty advanced. My son knows less than that. I’ll check out the rich kid smart kid site. That sounds interesting. Keep talking about money to your daughter.
Thanks, Joe – that site is definitely old-school (Flash-based), but she seemed to like it. I’m waiting for your son to put out the RetireBy20 blog! 😉
Whenever the student is eager, Teach away! Just quit giving her nightmares about being hit by a bus!
Great post. Everything in life is about balance. It seems you’ve got it “about right”. When’s that killer daughter of yours doing another post? You know we all prefer her writing (and your wife’s!) to yours!! She should write on the same topic as this post, but from her perspective (cut me a commission when that one goes viral, deal?)
I like that idea, Fritz! I’ll pass that along to her along with your pay scale and see what she thinks. 🙂
I don’t think you’re going to find someone who disagrees that you should be teaching her basic money lessons when she’s interested 😀
We’ve started with our little one ourselves and it’s just little things each day to reinforce very basic ideas about money being a tool. I hope our kid(s) will always be interested!
Haha, that’s probably true, Revanche! 🙂
I’m sure your little one will be good to go with you starting so early on. Keep on teaching and have fun with it!
My parents actually did freak out when I said I wanted to be a doctor – NOT appropriate for a girl!! How will I ever get a husband?? Thankfully times have changed.
Excellent article, all kids need to understand money long before they sign those student loan applications.
I have shared!
Parents don’t always know what’s best! 😉 Thanks so much, Dr. Lovlie!
My parents had a similar attitude when I was a kid. Why talk about money until your 18, just be a kid. The problem in my parents case was they didn’t know. In retrospect I’m glad they didnt talk much about it as it probably would have been difficult to unlearn. As for talking about it with your kid, if it interests her I say why not. I wouldn’t sit her down and force her to sit through a lecture but nothing in this says that is what is happening.
Yeah, we’re casual in our conversations – making it too formal would probably turn her off to the idea pretty quickly.
That makes sense with your parents. Having to learn from scratch is probably better than learning the wrong content to begin with.
Ironic that they want you to “let her be a kid” when they’re not willing to let you be a parent.
Haha, I didn’t say it, PoF!! 😉
Well, I love the lessons you are providing for your daughter. I hope to do the same for our children when/if they come to us. Keep up the great work.
I look forward to having that relationship with my son. I could try now, but his responses are normally pretty off topic. “puppy, kitty cat, jet, apple, robot papa” He is only 2 though so I still have faith it will happen 😉
Haha, yeah, 2 might be a little young to try to mold a personal finance expert… you might have to be patient for a couple more years! 😉
Knowing you the little I do Jim, I can’t even possibly imagine you not letting her be a kid 😉 I’m sure you are doing great and should keep it up!
Are you saying that a guy who shaves his head into a Mohawk on a whim might be someone that allows his child to have fun and be a kid? Hmmm… maybe! 😉
You’re empowered to raise your daughter the way you want. I think it’s nice to share your interests with children. If they pick up on something, teach them what they want to know. It could also be a fad (I went through many as a child) so her interests could naturally change.
Hmm, never thought about the possibility of it being a fad – I better find a way to keep her interested in the subject! 😉
You sound like an awesome Dad. I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to start learning about money. If she’s interested, definitely don’t stop! It sounds like you’re keeping the lessons kid friendly so she’s definitely still getting to be a kid. Just one who will be prepared for adult life!
Thanks, Cody! I think you nailed it on just wanting her to be prepared and ahead of the eight ball. I want her to be able to make smart money decisions that I didn’t always know enough to make.
I hear ya on looking forward to your daughter to be old enough to start learning about money. I’m already looking forward to my daughter getting older so we can go a little deeper into the money talks! 😉
What a treat to come across your article! We share a similar situation. My 11 year old son has been talking a lot about money. He can’t help it. He had has own small business since he was 5. As a result of that, I designed and created a piggy bank for him. We decided to share this next level piggy bank with everyone – it is our family’s small business now (in case you’re interested, it’s called The Piggy Box). So we talk about money all the time! We’ve graduated from just saving in the piggy bank exclusively and opened an Ally account as well. Recently he started investing in stocks on Stockpile. Now he checks his stocks daily. My husband says we’ve got an Alex P. Keaton on our hands. I’m OK with that. It tickles me that he’s interested in the topic. I think the important thing is that we are giving our kids a healthy look on the good and bad things money can do. We instill the values of frugality, hard work, and charity. And trust me, he’s plenty kid – can’t get him off his video games! From what I can tell, you are maintaining balance and fun for your daughter. Great job – keep going!
Awesome comment, Esther – sounds like you’ve instilled a great balance with your son! As a side note, it’s funny you bring up Alex Keaton – I’m actually currently reading one of Michael J. Fox’s books which I’m really loving!