When it comes to money and sex, if you wait until your children are “ready” to “have the talk,” you’ll be too late.
Here are a few age appropriate milestones for your consideration:
1. Young children need a lot of love, a little work and very little information. No child should ever have to wonder if they are loved and valued, or whether they will have food to eat or a secure place to sleep. Beyond those essentials, most everything else is a privilege to be earned. My own view is that children old enough to have an allowance should have it tied to chores (even easy ones). Chore charts are great teaching tools for elementary kids. Keep in mind the “work” young children do is for their benefit, not yours. It’s OK to give them a bit of information about your financial situation, but frankly, their concrete minds are not going to process much of the abstract nature of your complex (to them!) financial life just yet.
2. Middle school children need more work, more consequences and more information. Young teens need to experience the fact that good behavior and hard work bring desirable things into their lives, like dollars, smart phone time, computer time or whatever “currency” is meaningful to your child. This is the way the adult world works, is it not? Don’t be afraid to tell this age child what you paid for your house, your car or other significant items. Many will not be interested, but introducing them to these figures is helpful. It’s OK to tell them how much money you earn. When they repeat it to their friends, their friends will either not believe them or say, “My mom makes more!”
3. High school students need life practice and the full story. It’s time to experience more of the consequences of both good and bad choices. Older teens need to learn to manage themselves. They ought to be buying their own clothes and some of their own food (even if it is with money you “pay” them for school work, chores or a wage paying job). Such self-management builds the confidence necessary to step out into the work world, the college world or wherever their next steps may take them.
Also, it’s time to give them the full story of your financial life as a family: your income, how you spend your money, how much you pay in taxes…everything. Since you’ve been telling them more and more along the way, such information won’t seem a total surprise.
Mostly your children are watching you and taking their cues (good or bad) from what you do, not what you say. But if you are responsible with your money, then telling them what you are showing them gives them the tools to leave the nest and do likewise.