For settlers of the American West, communication and planning made the difference between a new life on the frontier or death in the wilderness. Many brave Americans left their homes back East and set off to unknown lands in wagon trains.
Imagine a party of five families; each family has their own wagon that’s packed up with food, ammunition, and clothing. They leave Missouri to head into the wild prairies that would become Nebraska. If the person who loaded up the supplies didn’t tell the other settlers how to use the various supplies, or if they didn’t discuss together how they would ration out their supplies, their journey would almost surely end up in disaster.
The same principles of open communication that led to a success for these settlers can also lead to success for you.
This is especially true if you plan on leaving a legacy for your family. If you want your benefactors to succeed with what you left them, it is important to communicate with them. For many Americans, this means talking to their kids about money.
In the past, I have discussed a TD Ameritrade study that found Americans are often less comfortable discussing money with their family than religion, politics, or health issues.
Many parents find that talking to their kids about money can be almost as awkward of a discussion as “the birds and the bees.” For some parents, it can even be a more unbearable conversation.
The kids themselves probably don’t want to talk about these issues either. What 12-year-old is interested in retirement planning? Who wouldn’t rather play video games than discuss the finer points of budgeting with Mom and Pop?
However, this hurdle must be overcome.
For many the question becomes “When do I talk about this?” It’s true that a five-year-old may not be able to understand or remember a lot of financial concerns. The idea to put off talking to you kids about finances until they are full-grown adults may sound appealing, but this could backfire. Waiting too long could be similar to sending the kids off into the frontier with a plan to send them a letter that tells them how to survive after they’ve already been in the thick of the wilderness.
The best bet may be to make financial discussions a regular part of talking while growing up. If money becomes a taboo issue, a long lecture that is uncomfortable for both parties becomes a last resort. Instead, mix discussing money in with everyday conversation. As your kids grow older, gradually become more open about how you plan with your money and discuss financial issues at a more complex level. This approach will provide a smoother and easier transition for all parties involved than trying to force occasional financial discussions.
I know that some things don’t come up easily in average conversations, and important sit-downs are still inevitable. Even when you approach talking to your children about a complex financial topic that requires a longer conversation, beginning these discussions becomes easier if talking about money is a regular occurrence in your family.
I have seven kids, so these issues are especially important to me.
It may sound cliché, but I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I had to work hard to get where I am today. I want to make sure that my kids have the same work ethic. I also want to make sure that they are wise about how they spend what money they do have. So, I make sure to talk with them regularly about these issues.
By keeping clear communication about money issues and how to responsibly use money a regular part of household communication, you will lift some of the stress about money discussions. Then venturing forth into the bold new frontiers of the future becomes easier.